By Steve Stevens
I often find myself telling a client who is having a rough time with a horse what a great opportunity they have to work on themselves. What a blessing the horse is for them, opening them up to endless amounts of self reflection. How exciting it is to become a better human through learning how to correctly communicate with the horse. As you can imagine, I get all sorts of first responses to this concept of horse/humanship.
Some of the responses are of confusion, frustration, anger, or even tears and heartbreak. I hear things like, “You don’t understand. I just want you to train my horse; I don’t need training” or I don’t need to work on myself. It is my horse that has issues.” I’ve heard, “You are not my therapist!” and I have also seen people look at me like I am crazy and wonder how quick they can get off my property. Sometimes I mention what a gift the horse is to help us work through personal issues and the client will completely break down. I imagine to some I am like a Kung Fu master trying to describe the Yin & the Yang.
After working with humans and horses for nearly twenty years, it is, in my humble opinion, that while working with horses, if they are not improving your ability to become a better person you are missing the boat. Unbeknownst to people, when I am working with the human or the horse, it has become my life’s mission to help with this process. To truly connect with the horse, we have to work on so many of our basic fundamental human skills. Number One—we must work from a place of Truth to have pure honesty about ourselves.
We have to admit our flaws, be truthful about our abilities and be painfully aware of our intentions. See, horses can read us like a book because their sensorial levels are so much more acute than ours, due to being a prey animal and having the ability to survive millions of years with the use of flight. They can feel our fear, anxiousness, and frustrations—most of all our intentions, even if we are not aware consciously of what they are, (due to distractions of the mind’s ego.) If you were dealing with another human and they were nervous, anxious or manipulating a situation, would you trust them? I know I wouldn’t and would get away as soon as possible. If a horse is in the same situation, without the constraints of being connected to a halter and lead, or in a stall or a pen, they will almost always choose to leave.
This is where the horse can help us work on ourselves. If you can admit your true emotions, you can work on those issues from the bottom up. This will help you focus on what areas truly need work, and will actually help build the relationship between you and your horse. So the next time you work with your horse, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you want to accomplish with him or her. Be honest with your emotions and fair to your horse.
Allow the horse to teach you what human qualities need more work. Whether it is having more patience, nagging too much, needing more assertiveness, having more awareness, how realistic your expectations are, or how confident you are with your skills.
Give yourself time for reflection and start working on these human skills that we all lack in. Someone might have said this before but my mentor Kenny Call said, “Let the horse be your greatest teacher.”