I have been in love with horses my entire life. As a youngster, I would draw them and ride imaginary black stallions everywhere. But, it wasn’t until I was in fourth grade, when my father purchased a Shetland pony for my birthday, that I was able to begin to experience the equine world first hand.
My sweet little pony, Sugar, was the first stepping stone to a lifelong journey with horses. Like many horse crazy girls, I was fearless and would hop on my "majestic steed" and gallop bareback through the field without a care in the world.
Horses were on my brain just about every minute of every day. I read books about them and did everything I could to be near them. If it had four hooves and whinnied, I had to ride it, no matter how unruly or scary the horse was at the time.
Once while visiting my great aunt in Kansas, I convinced my cousins that I could ride their horse even though she was labeled a “crazy” nag. So, while the adults were busy doing “adult” stuff, my cousins and I rounded up and put a bridle on the mare.
I then led her to the barnyard fence and climbed up to the top board. While I carefully leaned over her, I slid my leg over the bay mare’s warm back till I was sitting astride. She fussed a bit, but eventually we were walking around the barn yard like a well-trained duo.
My ride didn’t last long, but I didn’t care. I had spoken to that mare and she listened; that’s all that was important to me.
I didn’t understand at the time, but I owed my successful ride on the “old nag” to my child-like thinking. When I looked into her bright brown eyes, I didn’t have any expectations. I only wanted to formally meet her and hoped she would trust me enough to ride her.
Unintentionally, I had created a safe environment for her. The old mare let me into her world and I didn’t take it for granted.
I did not see her as a lesser species than myself; I saw her as an equal partner in my endeavor that day. It was only because I had given her that respect that I could ask her to follow my direction and happily go along with my suggestions.
We all have to eventually grow up. Once childhood is merely a painted memory, creating this ideal relationship with horses is more challenging. As adults, we inadvertently become tainted by the reality of individual responsibility.
Often we become very serious, spending a lot of energy focusing on past failures and worrying about the future. Through “grown up” eyes, we try to become more efficient at life to attain our goals. However, in our effort heal past wounds and get what we want tomorrow, we forget how to operate in the “now.”
As equestrians, it is imperative to think in the present like a horse does. We cannot remain anchored to past experiences or future expectations.
We must become like children who have not yet become bogged down by the details of yesterday and start each day, or experience, with a fresh curiosity of what is to come. We must liberate ourselves to be free to move forward, taking everything at face value along the way.
I believe in a natural or healthy domesticated environment horses will base their emotional reactions on what is going on at that particular moment. Although they can be conditioned to give a certain response to a specific stimulus, they do not spend time sitting around rationalizing how they should respond.
Instead, what horses do when dealing with a human or another horse is based solely on whether they feel safe—the value of what they are facing at that time, nothing more, nothing less. The “value” a horse gives to a situation can keep them relaxed and curious, or cause them to fight or run away.
Equestrians must check expectations based on the past and personal goals at the barn door and try not to be so serious and driven.
By cutting the tethers to yesterday and tomorrow, we can once again find the horse crazy child inside of us which is only concern with the now, and successfully develop a mutually respectful, “no strings attached” relationship with our equine partner.
Photo Credit: Flikr Creative Commons (Ziggysart2)
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