Question: If we are predators, how is it that we are able to connect and work with horses?
Answer from April Reeves: This is a very interesting question and deals with an understanding of psychology as opposed to training. Horses can accept humans into the herd; what they don’t accept or like, is a human with predatory behavior.
Moving around a horse cautiously or too slowly is predatory behavior. It can cause some very violent reactions in horses, and is the main cause of horses becoming aggressive towards humans. While we believe we are being careful, the horse believes you are lining him up for dinner.
I have an article on Horseman’s U that describes, “How is it that we can ride horses?” and gives you a short overview on my take on the subject:
This is not a mechanical question. Nor can it cannot be answered in simple terms.
The horse is one of the largest animals that we, as humans, have daily contact with. They are also one of the oldest surviving mammals, dating back millions of years. Their ability to evolve and flow should be something (you would think) most humans would WANT to study, yet, through our relationship with the horse, we have simply taken their physical attributes and for the most part, exploited them in our history.
The very size, temperament and longevity of the horse suggest this animal is not one to work and train easily. Yet just the opposite is true, even to the point where the horse allows us to brutalize and mistreat him upon minimal initial contact.
What other animal can be ridden within hours of meeting?
We as humans have always considered ourselves the most evolved life form on the planet. This being a truth, it would seem that we would have the tools and abilities necessary to be able to connect with all other life forms at their level. Yet, for the most part, this is not true.
Did you ever just look your horse in the face and feel him ask “Are you ready yet? When will we have a dialogue that I can understand?”
No living or non-living thing on this planet has been created without plan; without purpose. If you believe this, then perhaps the real question is “What role does the horse have with us? What are we to learn here?”
There are no teachers on this planet. Every human in a teaching role is the mirror for learning. Giving and teaching is a higher form of learning and receiving. Therefore, as we work with horses, who is taking on the higher task of giving? The horse or us?
Horses help get us to the place where we want to be. How can we, as humans, recognize this?
If we are a predator, why can we join with the horse so quickly? Our egos tell us that we have these great skills that allow us to train better, quicker. Yet isn’t it the horse who decides this relationship? In any initial meeting, it is not the contactor who makes the decision of whether or not a relationship will go further. Isn’t it then, the horse that has the ability to see through being today’s dinner, and allowing contact with us? Perhaps horsemanship is about the way we connect with the horse, as opposed to the mechanical motions we go through.
Horses without humans
I took a summer job at 18 for 4 weeks, surveying and staking claims for a mining company in the BC interior. I was completely alone in the bush for the entire time. At week two, I was walking through thick underbrush, and came across the most beautiful natural clearing I had ever seen. The grass was incredibly green, and the entire meadow was surrounded by old growth forest that felt ‘enchanted’. I received this energy for about two seconds, when I began to focus on a group of large animals standing dead still.
I had walked into a band of wild horses. Not a single one fled the scene, but every head was up and every eye was on me. Neither party felt fear. Through the middle of the herd, a rather chubby but strong little horse came bolting through. He was a strawberry roan, with a mass of mane that flowed as one long, twisted rope along his crested neck. He had a coat that was so highly polished you simply wanted to know what he did to achieve that. In all my show years I had never seen anything like it.
He challenged me, letting me know under no uncertain terms that if I had any thought of predator activity, he would squash me like a bug. I quietly retreated, but that night I was awake for hours, pondering the ‘chance’ meeting.
The next day, and for the rest of the month, in typical 18 year old fashion, my job took a back seat to this group of new friends. I did not dare get close, but strangely enough I wasn’t looking for contact. I was happy to be the observer, but observing a band of wild horses was much tougher than staking claims. Although my friends visited the meadow occasionally, they moved continually, and there were days that I had to walk for miles just to find them. Their ability to run over hard terrain and move at a second’s notice with such grace inspired me and changed my thinking forever. I rarely shod my horses again after that encounter.
Are there moments in your life you will always remember, and when your final hour is upon you, these will be the defining moments you revisit just before you leave this planet? This wild horse experience will be at the top of my list when it’s my time. I only keep those memories that empower.
The Journey to Connection
How can we get there? How can we begin the journey of connection while having gone through a traditional learning experience? Can years of being drilled under rigorous training and methodology hurt or enlighten us?
I believe that you will have a difficult time understanding black if you’ve never seen white. We live in the world of duality. It’s all around us. But can we achieve the higher connection with the horse just by being with him? Is it simply mankind’s refusal to change that keeps man from learning the truths about horses, and opening up to the higher relationship we humans were meant to experience on this planet.
To begin the battle of working and accepting change easily, we can only start with small steps. By watching the teachings of people whose spirits connect with horses, it may give us the chance to ask questions (within ourselves). Not everyone is going to resonate with this style quickly or even at all. But by being around the horse and just ‘being’; not expecting specific outcomes, not training for tomorrow, but just living in the moment and taking in what that has to offer, can ‘plant a seed’ within us that, once initiated, has no alternative but to grow.
Beyond our physical realm lie the answers to our questions. Is the horse on this planet for the purpose of us to ride or for us to learn from and gain insight? Or both? I am simply putting this out there for you to experience at your own time, at your own speed. It is all a solo journey.
Perhaps we need to ask these questions first, before the question of which bit to use, when first beginning a relationship with the horse.