I'm often called to ride other people's horses and I've learned a lot by doing so. I'd like to share some of my insights with you; insights that I personally feel are not only helpful in most horse/people scenarios but insights that can allow us humans to enter into the wonderful inner world of the majestic horse.
Many times our world of noise, violence and hurry-up is taken to our horses. Horses don't live in that chaotic world, they live in a soft and quiet world and this is one of the reasons we get ourselves into so much turmoil when we go to our horses. There are a few very simple ways we can approach our horses in order to enhance our odds of creating a situation that works rather than a shituation where someone gets the snot beat out of them whether that is physically, mentally or emotionally.
Whenever I go to meet a horse for the first time I always take my grooming gear. I always, without exception, spend the first 20 or 30 minutes grooming and touching the horse. This time spent is invaluable in that it gives me the opportunity to touch the horse absolutely everywhere, or at least attempt to, and it offers a unique window through which I can observe the attitude and responses of the horse.Does he like me? Is he just tolerating me? Would he rather be sailing? This time spent grooming and touching can speak volumes about the mind and attitude of horse. Horses don't lie, we've all heard that said, so let's take the opportunity to learn from his honesty and to adjust our approach accordingly.
At this point I'd like to say there are many ways a person can touch a horse. A touch is not a touch is not a touch. I often watch people I first meet when they go to pet my wonderful dog Mr. Parker. He and I are pretty much together 24/7 so if I'm around then Mr. Parker is not far away. I've watched people bonk my dog on the head as though his head was a watermelon and they were testing for ripeness. Needless to say I didn't hesitate to inform them that I'd appreciate it if they'd cease with the bonking. I've witnessed the same thing with people and their horses. Maybe people are inhibited by the mere size of horses and for this reason they feel inclined to slap on them and be rough with them but whatever the reason, believe me, you'll have great difficulty entering the horses world being rough. And if the horse's world cannot be entered then we remain an outsider and if we remain an outsider then we will never really experience these creatures. If we spend time around and with horses without entering into their world we will never ever really be with them and we will never know their wonder.
It is true that people don't change overnight, or at least most people don't. We've all heard that said however, I none-the-less continually remind people to touch the horse as though it is their favorite child or grandchild. Sometimes I immediately see more tenderness with the next touch but often the slapping and the bonking continues uninterrupted. A touch originates in the heart and the heart is the deepest part of our being. In the German language the word for compassion is mitgefuel which roughly translated means to feel with. Unless we can "feel with", whether we are talking about animals or people, we remain isolated; an outsider and alone.
So, the first twenty or thirty minutes I spend with a horse is my way of requesting permission to enter the horse's inner sanctuary. If he doesn't respond at first then I will intentionally be even more gentle and more quiet and even more soft. And even after only a few moments with a horse, when that horse doesn't know me from Adam, it is incredible to watch the horse open the inner gate and let me in. When I am in the presence of a horse I continuously touch and admire them with my whole being. Horses are so ready to trust and are so willing to forgive and forget. But they will not allow us inside if we are not worthy. So, what I say is, let's learn how to become worthy.
Learn to touch horses as you would pick-up a wounded butterfly or a tiny bird that has fallen from the nest. A touch can say a thousand words and mean a thousand things. As I stated before, you will never truly enter the horses world without a soft touch. A royal seal stands between you and the gateway into the horses inner world and that seal is flung open by earnest heart-felt tenderness, respect and humility.
See how softly you can go to your horse. See if you can shut down the unending quacking monkey mind which confuses and irritates not only ourselves but terribly irritates the horse. Work towards becoming ever more gentle and watch what happens; a new world will open before you and you will see the horse differently from that moment forward. A true friend, with great honor, will step forward out of the mist to stand by your side and you will be amazed.