Horses are Magic – all horse lovers feel this and that is why they are drawn to them. Horses symbolise and embody freedom, spirit, power, energy, speed, strength and athleticism. This is what makes them magnificent and within all of this power is gentleness, softness and love. When we were young and dreamed about horses they were magical to us. The sad part of this story is that often as soon as the human comes in contact with horses this magic is lost from the horse. Horses have been shut down, restricted and their spirits broken and instead of softness they have become full of defensiveness, fear and anxiety. Usually this does not happen purposefully it is just the way things have been with people and horses.
We can rekindle the magic of horses by developing ourselves as True Horseman. I use the word Horseman as meaning the coming together of the horse and the man, as in the human. I put the word True in front because the word horseman is used so commonly that it doesn’t encompass who or what I believe the horses would classify as a horseman. What qualities would horses want in a horseman ? Who would horses call horsemen? After all, they are the ultimate judge. As a student of the horse here is what I have learned form them thus far.
Primarily horsemanship is about working on ourselves. It is more about a way of ‘BEING’ than it is about a way of ‘DOING’. A way of being calm, still, centred and focussed in our minds and emotions, and physically aware and balanced in our bodies. It is about being considerate, compassionate and understanding things from the horse’s point of view. It is about being totally present and free of judgement of the horse, of ourselves and all around us. It is about transcending the limitations of the ego and being our true expansive selves, operating from our heart and connecting to the horses with love. This way of ‘being’ has to come first and then we can physically learn the techniques or what to ‘do’. Training the horse is secondary to developing ourselves. When we get things right, the horses can usually do things without too much trouble. Horsemanship is an interesting paradox because whilst it seems that we humans are the ones training and teaching the horses, the horses are equally teaching and leading us. The more we listen to them the better things will go. So learning to listen to them and feel them is the core essence of becoming a horseman. People talk about horse whisperers but more appropriately we need to become horse listeners.
Learning how to ‘Be’ mentally and emotionally leads us into developing a great awareness of our physical body so that we can be balanced, coordinated, athletic and in control of our body. One of my mentors, Gavin Scofield, said to me “the only difference between a great rider and a not so great rider is that they are doing different things with their bodies”. This simple but profound statement set me on a path of discovering what was going on in people’s bodies and how to change patterns in their bodies from patterns of restriction and tension which are not helpful to horsemanship, to patterns of freedom, balance and mobility. Aside from plenty of coaching on the horses, helping people to develop their physical skills is done through mind and body awareness sessions, simulations and body balancing exercises which incorporate aspects of yoga, feldenkrais, aikido, meditation and energy healing. To free up the body we also need to free up the mind and the emotions, releasing any negativity, fear or stress.
True Horsemen are very aware of energy and how to use it. Horses are masters of using energy, so we too need to become masters of energy like the sensei’s in the highest forms of martial arts. When we learn how to ride with our energy rather than using muscle force and tension, we begin to ride horses in the unrestricted way that they want to be ridden in. Energy can be used for communication, health and healing or athleticism and performance. To become True Horsemen we need to work on ourselves at all levels of the mind, emotions, body and spirit.
As we develop ourselves we will start to find the magic in horses again, the magic of feeling in harmony with them when riding or just feeling their beauty, power and grace when in their presence. The dream can start to become reality, having your horse calm and relaxed, mentally with you and moving with effortlessness and ease. As we develop things further we can experience their spiritedness, freedom, courage, athleticism and power while still having the calmness and the mental connection. This is what we all dreamed about in a fairy tale type dream – the magic of horses.
- Treats horses with absolute respect and dignity. Appreciating them for “who” they are and not just using them for what they can do. Dignity means choice – a real choice – not just making the consequences of not doing what the human wants so uncomfortable or even so painful that the horse has no choice but to comply.
- Understands horses mentally – knowing what they are thinking and how they learn.
- Understands horses emotionally – knowing how they are feeling about things and feeling compassion for them.
- Understands horses physically – knowing how they are feeling in their bodies and how their bodies function. Knowing how they need to move with healthy biomechanics.
- Understands them spiritually – knowing them at a spirit or soul level, knowing their deepest essence.