In his introductory blog Chris allowed me out of my stall and gave me, his dark horse, free rein to ask the question: what is it that people are truly, deeply, asking of their horses? And the answer was that people want to control the body, mind and spirit of the horse. People play God with horses.
Good horse training is about empowering horses to be able to make peace with their vulnerable nature as prey animals. Enlightened horsemanship is about facilitating the horses, to “aid” horses, into being ready, willing and able to boldly go forward with confidence and courage. People, to be real about it, need their horses to calmly and willingly embrace change.
And yet, it’s not an exaggeration to say that more often than not the natural spirit of a horse, as a prey animal, is prone to being a passive-aggressive – attention deficit – paranoid victim waiting to happen. But with great training a super-natural horse can become a calm, confident, loyal, affectionate and focused achiever.
Of course, if you ask us horses what we think about our ability to transform and evolve our nature with the help of people, our first question is a logical one that many horse people seem to overlook or deny. Can the human leader of the horse walk his or her own talk with regard to embracing change? Or are people asking the horse to become something they have yet to learn how to be own their own? When that’s the case I often hear Chris quoting Gandhi as he tells his students they must be the change they want their horse to be.
In terms of training, learning, healing, personal transformation and empowerment, Chris does the work he does in EAPD (equine assisted personal development) because he has found throughout his life that anything he can do for his horses he can also do for himself.
If you know that you can bring out the best in horses and that your equine friends follow your lead willingly with confidence and courage, then you can apply your horse leadership inwards upon yourself. You can train your own inner horse, your vulnerable prey side, in order to boldly go forward and face the daunting challenges in our fast changing world with playful enthusiasm and confidence.
Horse sense is not a metaphor. Horse sense is being aware of and working with fundamental Laws of Nature Leadership. Horse Sense is being very real about survival of the fittest. Horse Sense is about waking up from human illusions and daydreams and warped expectations that come from living in a material and technological world full of ambiguous half-truths. Horse sense is about staying grounded, truly connected, and in communication with the world of authenticity that can only be found in nature.
Well-trained horses boldly go forward and embrace the unknown with enthusiastic courage and determination. And so do well-trained horse-people.
The first rule of nature is “survival of the fittest.” Yet look closer and we see that what it takes to survive in the natural world is not necessarily strength, speed, courage, agility or cunning. What good is it that a horse can run fast if it did not see the cougar lurking in the bushes beside it? What good are wings for flight if the bird doesn’t notice the cat lurking in the shadows beside the bird feeder? What is it that the ponies have that so often allows them to be leaders of much bigger horses?
The key to survival of the fittest is AWARENESS. A horse will follow your lead willingly and loyally if you demonstrate that while your horse has the bigger, stronger and faster body that you have the more aware mind. Horses give themselves without hesitation to leaders who demonstrate a Zen awareness of themselves, their relationships and the environment around them, and that they use their profound awareness to protect and serve. Horses are prey animals looking for trustworthy shepherds to get them safely through a world full of predators. And so are people!
Horses live in an absolute world of lead, follow, or get out of the way, and a horse will boldly follow you into hell and back if it knows that you possess enough awareness to safely manage yourself and your relationships in the environment around you. Of course, that being said, a horse will definitely test your awareness if you are attempting to become its leader.
A horse must challenge you because it is obligated by the first rule of nature being survival of the fittest. A horse is naturally compelled to test your awareness to find out whether or not you are truly competent and worthy of leadership. Horses would never follow human corrupt or incompetent political and financial leaders who keep leading the world deeper into chaos.
Before any horse will allow you to become the leader who can do what you want with it – the horse will need to know that you will not allow it push you around. In other words, a horse does not respect or trust you if you allow it to simply enter your physical space, cross your personal lines or send you challenging or disrespectful body language gestures.
Horses adore people who have rock solid self-esteem and self-respect and for most horses all it takes to have them follow your lead is to be aware of not allowing them to lead you. Because horses are so much bigger, stronger and faster than people, horse training is the epitome of the ultimate self-help cliché that: “We cannot control what happens in life we can only control how we respond to what happens.” And when horses respect and trust your responses to their challenges they will give themselves over to you with lightness.
So, ultimately, the essence of horse sense is self-awareness for personal boundaries in relationships. Sound too esoteric and touchy-feely? Well, that last statement is the truest meaning behind riding fundamentals such as “keeping the horse between the aids of the legs and the reins.”
In closing, before Chris puts me back in my stall, we’d like to suggest that your time with horses can merely be about recreation, entertainment and competition. Or, above and beyond the sport of horsemanship there is a bigger picture of being immersed in horse sense as the perfect compass for people to help find their way in a dog eat dog world out of control.