I Know Your Horse

I know your horse

I know how they like to be scratched and where
I know what time of day they sleep, how their feet and lips twitch while they dream, I imagine of running

I know how their hair whirls and changes over their chest, and their flanks
I know just how they like to be brushed

I know their feet, their growth cycles, and where the flair and cracks show up
I know what is needed to head those off

I know how to soothe them when they get antsy
I know how to draw them to catch,
And how they like me to carry myself a particular way

I know when cold rain makes them shiver
But wind doesn’t seem to bother them much
I know which corner of the pasture they find shade in
And when they’re comfortable, or uncomfortable

I know they don’t like to be cinched fast
And they hate it when my mind wanders
And I know they remind me to stay present
With a stomp of the foot, or meandering away

I know they remind me to let go of what I know
And to observe, and make no assumptions about who they are

You may have your worries spinning round
From an enclosed space, an office chair
An internet article,
A friends recommendation

You may have a program, a series of labels
He’s an introvert, or a naughty boy, or a lazy boy, or a pet

But I know your horse

He is not on the timetable of you and I
And he doesn’t carry our goals or worries or thoughts

And he knows you
And he knows me

no amount of covering up
Can hide who we are from the horse

The Gift

The Gift

We are given gifts probably thousands of times a day- a visitation from a little bird, a strangers smile, a cat rubbing up against our legs, the laughter of our children, our horses endless generosity. Each day is sprinkled with them, and we often miss many, or discount them.

Gift giving, inherently, is not a transactional experience. These occurrences mentioned happen just because you’re alive. They’re your reward for simply being. Certainly, the more you pay attention to them, the more positively you engage with the world, the more of them you recieve, but they are not transactional. They simply are.

Probably everyone has experienced someone giving a gift and expected something in return. We’ve all heard the words, “after all I’ve done for you!” spewed at us with resentment. We feel stressed during the holidays because if someone gives us a gift, we owe them back. The endless human exchange of owing, measuring worth, tracking debt is a depleting and counter productive spiral –

And it shows up with our horses.

Whether we admit it or not,
We wait quietly with them to calm down because we want something- something owed us for our patience.
We feed and care for the rescue because we want something – accolades, admiration, a perfect relationship the horse owes us for saving them.
We work toward the rehab, the abuse case, the scared horse, and somewhere deep down, we feel we are owed.

After all I’ve done for you! We think, when they trot away, kick at us, break the fence, won’t get in the trailer.

The horse is giving us gifts 100 or more times a day. The sound of their breath, their company, their beautiful shape trotting across the field, happily standing at the mounting block, fulfilling our requests, even though they were muddy and unclear to the horse, simply getting along with us in some capacity every day is a damn miracle.

But when we live in transactional mindset, we are perpetually owed, and the world is in debt to us. We look for more to be happy, show me a sign? As if the world and our horses were not showing us signs a million times over.

And in our entitlement and uncharitable hearts, we miss them, and we miss out on the true joy of giving for giving sake, without being owed a thing.

A Horse In His True Power

A horse in his true power

I think one of the main reasons so many training programs make quick work of shutting a horses energy down is fear of their power.

If you’ve ever ridden a horse who is fit, unblocked through the back and confident, there is quite a formidable amount of energy in there. It is a strong, bounding energy, like riding a lightning bolt- you’re part of the circuit, but you don’t have near as much control or say as you’d hope.

I think a healthy frame of mind for riding is to consider your weakness and infinitely poorer judgment and timing in the sensory world of a horse. One must let go to some degree-

There is much to be gained in the letting go, in the integrating into the movement of an animal much more graceful than you. To sit and allow your body to become better than it ever could on it’s own- this is an experience that requires detachment from control.

If you work to develop balance and strength, you have the obligation to stay out of the way and let it be shown. A horse in their glory feels like moving, and moving powerfully, and this is precisely what most people do not want.

But why?
Why aren’t riding schools teaching folks to sit centered and stay out of the horses way?
To understand, support and honor movement?

Why don’t people invest heavily in learning to ride, and ride well, like their life depends on it?

instead of hoping their horse, a 1200 pound rabbit with a sports car motor and a brain that could fit in one man’s hand, adjust to meet their needs instead?

Why instead, do many lesson programs immediately indoctrinate young children with kicking, pulling, making a slave out of a tired and weak horse?

Why do people fear lack of control on a beast who’s grace and freedom and power is what attracts them in the first place?

So much fear, so much desire for control, so much teaching the horse to physically power down, to drop the base of the neck so there is nowhere to go without artificial human energy taking its place –
Or to mentally escape because there is nothing and nowhere worth going to.

The reality is, you can develop a friend, you can develop confidence, freedom, and balance, and you will still be riding a rocket ship. You have some say, but likely you are slower, less agile, and have poorer judgement as things concern intake and processing of information, so you have to accept some lack of control to get along well with horses.

Learn to balance the horse, help them feel free in their bodies, and stay out of their way.

Through the eyes of the horse

It is an honor to teach you, to engage with you. It’s an honor to care for or get to know your horse.

Every day that I wake up, I get to work on myself, as seen through the eyes of the horse. I have a million daily reminders to slow down, to breathe, to check my thoughts and behaviors, to curb my goals or send them down a different direction.

I feel the horse is a central part of my well-being as a human, and of my growth. But each student I work with as well helps me grow- initially, in making a great push to be more social and less introverted. But I’ve learned also, and am slowly and painfully learning still, how to communicate better, how to set boundaries, how to apologize, how to protect what’s mine to protect, and how to let go of what isn’t mine.

I get to see the world from the eyes of many other people with very different lives and worlds. I get to be inspired by the strength and resilience of so many; overcoming injuries or illnesses or trials of life. I am inspired by the truly positive and upbeat natures of so many, and the tenacity of those who make it work despite lack of time or financial means.

I’m grateful for the experience and the opportunity – I don’t take it lightly. Every single day has been a monumental learning opportunity – even the worst experiences and the occasional bad apple have lead me toward self improvement and better awareness.

So to all of you reading, riding with me, or working with me in any capacity, from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to you for making my life a beautiful thing

What’s the value of education?

What’s the value of education to you?

Everyone has their line for what’s considered too expensive. For some, the cost of high quality education is quite the pinch. Some have to wait til it’s within reach financially, and some find ways to make it happen anyway. For others, financial means are much more comfortable, but the mindset is limiting. “Can’t” afford, for many, simply means “prefer not to pay the amount of.” For many, “too expensive” would be better described as “don’t want to pay.”

The cost of a lesson is less than many face creams, or dinner out for two, and certainly less than a vacation, yet many prioritize wants over needs.

To me, education is a need. Whatever my teachers charge, I’m more than happy to pay. Not because I’m sleeping on a bed of money, but because I respect them, value their time and knowledge, and know they have something I won’t find elsewhere. I’d rather skip the dinner out and pay for the lesson, because that is my priority.

So next time the cost of something seems too high, think from another perspective- not just the price, but the value. Who’s charging matters a lot- what do they offer? Do you respect them enough? Do you respect your own education, or your horse enough to prioritize a high quality education?

Before the Portal Closes Back

Many peoples training philosophy is influenced heavily by their life views. You can tell a lot about a person and their political and religious leanings by how they describe training interactions, or about their struggles and experiences in life by how they talk about obedience, fear, leadership, and more. Most people can’t help but blanket their life views on those around them, and seeing the world through the lens that they’ve developed in.

But what happens if your training transforms your life views?

There are moments, I look at as portals of opportunity, that open up so wide, so strongly, they wallop you out of your parameters, like hurricane force winds that splinter your plywood board walls, spreading refuse too far and wide to be retrieved.

What will you do then? You have a choice. Change who you are and walk the path opened for you, down the dusty trail with tree branches insulating you on each side. Or go back to your small, comfortable world.

The world, the horse, people- they are too large, too infinite to be confined to boxed up views. When these portals open, will you have the courage to step onto that dusty road? Or will you turn back, to the safety of your peers, your family and friends, to fit back into the box created for you?

Virtue, Handicap or Indulgence?

Worry- is it virtue, handicap, or indulgence?

Many people struggle with worry- worry of making a mistake, worry of whether the horse, perfectly quiet, might spook or move too fast. Some proudly display their worry as a mark of moral superiority, fretting over the quality of feed, restocking a full bin of hay, second guessing the care and handling of paid professionals.

Maybe the worry is well founded- maybe there is cause to worry with the horse that snorts at his shadow, or the horse isn’t being fed. Maybe the horse is too much for us, unprepared as much as we are, and we know it somewhere deep down.

Sometimes worry is a signal to explore deeper- something needs changing. The horse needs a better environment with better care. You need some help with your horse, help with your seat, or maybe a different partner. Maybe you need some coaching on better guiding your thoughts, your breathing, your attention.

But often, worry is an indulgence that steals from your horse- it steals your attention, steals the ability to give presence and guidance to the horse. It signals to the horse, you are not there for them, and so they must look elsewhere. It steals from everyone around, requiring more attention to the worrier- it steals resources, and time that can’t be made use of, because the cycle of worrying spits out help, and indulges in its own spiral.

A horse has worry, and plenty good cause to have it- and a human lost in their own worry can’t help the horse.

Whatever the cause, whether the reason be valid, or fabricated- the horse needs you there. So take the stirring of worry as a sign that something needs deeper exploration, maybe a change in environment, skill, or in you.

But a worrier can’t be there for the horse, and it is our cross to bear to learn how to be present, and useful, for our horses.

Nobody Can Read Your Mind

If you know how to ask for what you need, you might get it

There’s no prize for martyrdom, no reward for holding back from getting what you need. It doesn’t make you more virtuous, it makes you resentful of those who couldn’t guess for you, and poisons your relationships.

Nobody can reach in your mind and pull out your thoughts, nobody can intuit your needs for you better than yourself. You have your life and you are the master of it- so don’t wait for others to reach in and save you- if you know what you need and aren’t afraid to ask, the worst that can happen is you hear a no.

To not ask, to not speak up, is a disrespect to the chances and gifts that so fleetingly pass our way.

But, there is an art to knowing the difference between wants and needs, and knowing when to ask, and when to let go of frivolous desires

It’s All In the Small Details

It’s not about what you get done, it’s the way you get it done that counts

Each interaction with the horse we have, whether it be to get a task done, like putting a halter on, or doing an exercise, like a transition, has a world of possibilities within it. There is nothing we do that doesn’t affect the outcome of something further along the line with our horses- it’s only a matter of how much we’re aware of it.

Within the first touch of an unhandled colt lives the first ride, and every upper level movement that exists. The way we lay in the feel we offer, the way we teach them to think and find center, the way we ask them to get straight and stay relaxed in the neck: a first touch is just as important as the first rollback or canter pirouette- or much more so. Because we lay the foundation for how the horse feels about the rest of his life.

There is nothing so important as mundane tasks, the small stuff we take for granted and tune out, or the firsts we rush to get to, so we can move up and on.

For instance, leading your horse through a gate is teaching them transitions. Within each passing through a threshold lives the first transition from walk to trot, or the first piaffe steps, or a flying change. Because the quality and attention we choose to offer the horse in passing from one side of the fence to another teaches them how to tune into us when changes are expected, how to get balanced to prepare for something new, how to get centered, straight and calm to move from one way of going to another. It teaches them a great deal about our attentiveness, our reliability as a partner, and what they can expect us to offer.

There is no haltering, leading, trailer loading, grooming or simply even saying hello that doesn’t alter their way of going, or their way of thinking. Everything we hope to accomplish is made possible through the care we offer to doing simple things well, and the respect for the nature of the horse within every interaction.

What Is Connection?

What does connection look like?

Social media would have you believe it’s a bareback, bridless ride on the beach in a long flowing dress

Or one of those kissy face moments, where a horse and human are locked into a smooch

There’s nothing wrong with those things inherently, they’re fun displays of enjoyment of being around horses

But humans are wired to view things from their own perspective, and miss the horses perception of connection

Connection is not just a glamorous magazine cover, but a way of life. It’s a simple, but profound language between two beings.

Connection is highly variable, and nuanced
But like everything else, it has become watered down, cheapened and confused. The words lose weight as they’re passed around like a cheap prom dress between high school friends.

Connection is simply the ability to perceive and adapt to the moment and needs of the other

Connection is the ability to get into a flow state, to feel and respond and adapt moment to moment to the horse or human in front of you

It is the ability to get out of your own thoughts and into the present- to fully absorb what is happening, to become engrossed in the sights, sounds, smells and feels around you

Connection can’t be purchased with money, or time, and it isn’t owed to you by anyone. No horse or human owes you connection if you feed them or love them.

It is something real, that comes from an earnest and genuine place inside you, that horses pick up on and can connect to. It can’t be faked, can’t be bought, and must come from you –

It’s a feeling that can’t be explained until you stumble on it, like the feeling you get when you turn the bend on a forest walk and discover the light between the trees illuminating a small portion of the path- and you feel like the first human to ever discover it’s majesty, and you’re in the most important, most special place in the world. You want to protect this feeling at all costs-
To help others discover it, but protect it from tourism, that would surely leave it littered and steal its glow, selling it in a bottle while destroying the unique and true beauty that cannot be replicated anywhere else.