The human ego does not belong anywhere in the interactions between horses and humans however, it happens all the time. I have observed horse owners, trainers of various disciplines and those using natural horsemanship methods in situations where they have not obtained a desired behavior or outcome which then resulted in aggression or abusive actions toward the horse. Perhaps they were competing or demonstrating their abilities and they didn’t get the desired result. What happened next? Ego appeared (we are human after all) usually to the detriment of the horse.
The focus of this article is to bring awareness to the subject rather than to assign blame or punishment. It is my opinion that we still have a long way to go to move from control over and abuse of horses, to being in partnership with him.
I have heard many people make statements such as, “he (the horse) was trying to do x (a behavior) to do y (a reaction) to me (the rider/handler).” It is described as if the horse has the conscious mind or formed intent to do something (usually undesirable) to the human. Horses do not have a conscious mind like humans do – a good thing. Without conscious mind, horses have the ability to always live in the moment, to express their emotions with honesty and fullness, and to be this way while being in harmonious community with one another. These are the same qualities that so many humans are now seeking on the journey of personal development and spirituality.
Think about this – What would the horse / human relationship look like if ego were not involved? What if humans were able to check their egos at the gate just as in martial arts training where students are challenged to set ego aside before beginning a sparring match? My friend, an avid instructor in Martial Arts, states that the challenge to his students is to perfect their character rather than technique and this can only be done without ego (which often gets in the way and distorts the students’ image of his/her true self). What if the approach with our horses was without ego and we moved into an interaction with the question “what can I learn?” My suspicion is that the human would learn a vast amount about him/herself if taking the opportunity and openness to value the horse as a teacher.
One of the most common situations where ego arises is when the rider/handler believes the horse is blatantly disobeying them. The frustration builds in the human and the communication continues to become more unclear to the horse. Frustration may turn into anger, communication stops and abuse begins. In this case, it is mis-communication that began the mis-understanding.
What if humans were to take notice when this dynamic is occurring and then choose to take step back, slow down and assess what really is happening? Being aware that ego is becoming involved, allows one to make a choice to respond with awareness rather than react without it.
My invitation to you is to take time to notice what is happening to you when interacting with your horse. Just notice and ask yourself if your ego is becoming involved. By increasing your awareness and chosing not to react with ego, the relationship with your horse will move to a new level.
I would love to hear your stories and feedback about how this process worked for you.