By Margaret Wood
A few years ago
I attended some workshops that changed my perception
completely about horses, definitely a
paradigm shift from where my journey with horses was leading, but then again maybe not, maybe I just went
full circle back to childhood and the magic with horses.
|Margaret with her friend Ribbleton Blue|
Horses are not who or what I’ve been told they are, they are much more. We have forgotten or never taken the time to know the path that horses travelled before us!
I think we have been blind sighted in the way we view horses because we have used them for transportation, work, war and sport, we see horses from a human perspective, an extension of our pleasure.
Deciphering the information wasn’t hard because truth resonates deeply, we know it when we hear or see it.
There is such strong emphasis on Alpha thinking these days, dominance/ leadership in so many horse disciplines, it is popular thinking about herd life and I suppose that is because we want to control these large powerful animals and feel safety doing so. However if you study horse herds you will soon realize what social animals they are, with systems, families, bands and that they form deep bonds and friendships with each other, their very survival rests on co-operation and approval!
If you observe happy horses closely, you will discover how much of their being together is defined by harmony and play.
Because of their social nature, horses are emotionally susceptible .They adopt each other’s moods, it is as though a current flows back and forth among them, one lifts his head, they all do and look in the same direction adopting the same energy. Horses love harmony and for the most part alternatively attune to one another, scratch each other, in the same rhythm, in the same spot. They trot and canter in unison and they wrestle the same way .Horses like to feel at one with their friends and organize themselves around mutual harmony.
|Margaret and Cisco doing a gymnastic exercise called Jambette at liberty (in a huge paddock)|
Our thinking is hijacked because in captivity this harmony can be disrupted, domestic horses in paddocks are often aggressive toward one another and can develop strong rigid herd hierarchies, such “pecking order" is a sure a sign of stress that comes from our interference in their lives. We control everything about our horses, who they share their space with, how much and what they eat, just about all aspects of their lives. So that usually means competition for food, and many other factors that affect their emotions. Under normal circumstances in the wild there is hardly anything to fight about as there so much space; they can get away from each other, and choose who they spend their time with, and where they graze.
My point is that many equine teachings tell us to model ourselves as alpha/ leader but I have found this incorrect. I have discovered friendship with my horses, harmonizing with them: there is nothing safer, nor more joyful, no force, no resistance. I've found my horses to be more like dogs. which brings me to point I want to make: horses make wonderful friends and companion animals.
I love my interactions with my horses so much more than before and I never feel that my horses are trying to get one over me or dominating me. They really are such beautiful animals when we stop projecting all this nonsense onto them.
When you adopt the friend model, you give the horse back some choice and freedom, as there is no dominance, no force, no slavery , only plenty of mutual sharing of pleasure.
The way we train needs is fun and positive (no punishment) and in the awareness that is now proven, animals have morality, empathy, sensitivity, reciprocity and sense of fairness, it’s only fair to them. There is no such thing as a naughty horse, that is a human term and value, horses are usually fearful, in pain or haven’t understood our communication.
There are so many things we can choose to do and be with our horses now, it doesn't matter whether you just love hanging with them, you don’t have to ride, I have had so many older women say to me they can no longer ride but would love horses in their life again, I say do it, there are so many who need rescuing and good homes. There’s horse agility, liberty sports, tricks or Haute Ecole, and that is only a some of what’s on offer!
Also let’s not forget the therapeutic and spiritual experiencing of nature with the help of horses:
Bringing oneself into a greater whole, perceiving the needs of other beings, transforming inner landscapes, developing presence, interspecial communication, body awareness and competent action, within the frame work of communal unity, like the horses themselves. Harmony between human and horse. Horses sensitize us to the environment, they school our sense of the interconnectedness of relationships and give us a model of social competence, honesty, and with them we can become to know again aspects disappearing in today’s world , trust, responsibility, community, being and finding joy in the present moment and perhaps finding our way to a more humane world.
|Margaret and Tenorin, her Thoroughbred rescued from the knackery|