"Everything is possessed of personality, only differing in form. Knowledge is inherent in all things. The world is a library and its books are the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that share, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth."
Sioux Indian chief Standing Bear
Some people see horses as a possession, wanting them to ‘perform’ for them. Others might want a horse to achieve goals set by them. Some may see the horse as a mechanical ‘vehicle’ and order him/her to go faster, slower, turn left or right, requiring him/her to respond ‘correctly’ their commands. Horses become a status symbol, or be treated as a commodity to earn money from. This leads to an unequal and unnatural relationship between horse and (wo)man. One lacking in love. Hopefully this is not how you see or treat horses or see your relationship with them.
There are situations when you actually want the best for the other, when you want to give the best to your horse but you don't know how, or you don’t know what the other actually needs. Additionally your contact with the other may be ruled by emotional pattern and habits. This is often how we often treat our animals, other people even ourselves. The way in which we approach and relate to others is often affected by fear, uncertainty and other deeply embedded emotions in ourselves. This is also the case when we come into contact with horses.
If you’re completely honest with yourself you will I’m sure agree that this is not a good foundation for any relationship. Deep inside you know there is another way. A way based on mutual respect. On co-operation. On a love which comes natural.
'When I approach Kim’s horses for the first time, I have this overwhelming desire to cuddle them, to drown them in my love. So overwhelming. Such a strong desire. But they do not even know me. They have only met me the night before. Just brief. They probably have a first impression, or maybe not. I don’t know. But it is just too much. I am too much, full of emotion.
I can see that in retrospect. Kim also says on the second or third day: the contact is already more natural. Just a sharing of space, of being together. Enjoying each other’s company and quietness. Enjoying nature together, the sun on our skin, the wind, the warmth.
But in the beginning of the week I want something from them. I want… love. Perhaps. I want contact. I am not neutral at all. I want to give, but out of the wrong reasons. I want to give so that I can receive.'
This kind of reaction can also happen when feeding horses. There can be an agenda (i.e. unconscious conditions) while giving them food:
'Like one afternoon, I search for something I can give them. There are apple trees, so I pick some apples. And while giving them the apples I notice: hey, I am trying to ‘buy’ them with food, wanting them to like me.' How often does that happen with animals. giving them food while wanting something from them in return? Training them in this Pavlov way, rewarding them with food. Buying their friendship by feeding them.
In my opinion there isn't anything wrong with giving them something extra sometimes and of course they need good food and fresh water daily. But it's good to always check in to see if there is any alterior motive behind your action. I recommend you ask yourself honestly if there is an agenda before taking any action and if the answer is positive, see if you can let it go so that a relation builds on in an authentic way.
In todays society it is very common to 'train' horses. Maybe it is because this practice is so common that we don't even see what is strange or wrong about it. So it is at the very least a good idea to ask yourself if there is an equal relationship when one party trains the other and the other party has to undergo training without any say in the matter.
Try asking yourself each time to require your horse to do something, if your request is based on friendship. If you find that it isn’t, there is a risk that the horse becomes a subject that has to play a role that complies with your needs or desires.
If this is happening then The relationship is most likely based on a desire to change the other without his/her having any say in this process. Having an attitude like this not only impedes friendship but also slows down any improvement. The horse maybe appear to be obedient in
that moment but the reason might be fear of being scolded (even fear of being hurt physically)
or fear of losing your approval.
Of course it is fine to have goals together with your horse, but they need to be conceived and worked on TOGETHER. That creates a totally different atmosphere and working relationship compared to when you set your own goals which you then impose on the horse. The latter approach does not engender cooperation, the horse becomes a tool and the whole relationship is altered. So if you have a desire like 'wanting to gallop today', take a moment and check to see if it is in a joint desire between you and the horse in that moment. If not, then leave it for an other moment. There is nothing wrong when a desire like this arises but it doesn't happen immediately. It is better to leave it
than to force it because when you force the horse to do something by doing so you also force your relationship with the horse which invariably involves some (negative) emotions. Ideally we want to
ride together with a horse so there is no element of competition with each other.
There are two obstacles to establishing an equal relationship with a horse, one is to try to dominate
him/her, the other is to not be fully engaged in the relationship. Neither of these approaches work.
A horse wants you to feel worthy, inwardly strong, clear, calm and kind. He/she wants you to be
authentic. When you come in to the presence of a horse he wants to relate to you and to know that he can rely on you while you're sitting on his/ her back and giving him / her direction. Horses do not
respond well to the held belief 'I'm not worth anything' which may arise unconsciously. This kind of belief makes horses feel unsure.
They sense that you are unreliable and will start to challenge you by pulling you, stepping almost on your foot and by walking through your intimate space. She/he may even try to throw you on the ground while riding. All the while you have maybe no idea what you're doing to elicit this reaction.
The relationship between you and the horse will change when you start to connect with your sense of value and when you make your limits known. We often think that others do not like it when we
show them our limits. But if you do it clearly and in a friendly manner, the horse will actually enjoy that approach because it makes you a valuable partner.
If you communicate with the horse in a clear and friendly way, she / he will often respond with a snort. It is a release because she / he can now relate to you.
Sometimes this can be a whole process for someone to change her / his inner attitude so that she / he can begin to develop this kind of relationship.
“How you approach a horse, you approach yourself and the world around you.”
- Kim -