Press Article - May, 2001
many questions during my workshops, book signings and other
presentations, and many of the inquiries come from people looking
for the means to understand their horses.
do you know when a horse is happy? Do horses have emotions?
Are horses jealous? Are they competitive?"
to assign human attributes to our horses when trying to deal
with them, and then ask our equine partners to meet these very
human expectations. It's the most basic and often ineffective
way we try to communicate - by putting something into our realm
of thought, then pursuing it on our terms. To genuinely relate
to a horse, though, we must leave parts of our world behind,
along with our lofty expectations for them, and enter the world
of the natural and realistic. We humans may never truly know
what horses are thinking, but we can try to tune into their
level of consciousness, listen to them, watch them, learn from
them and help them realize the most from their individual capabilities.
of horses, we have a responsibility to listen to what our horses
want as best we can, and give them what they need to be comfortable.
From that basis, the partnership can move forward and flourish.
If you begin your horse engagements by considering his or her
point of view - in this case, the innate makeup of the animal
- chances are the two of you will begin to more easily exchange
messages. Many horses today come from breeds selected for specific
purposes, and these horses usually are, consciously or unconsciously,
trying to reflect their breed's essence. The warmblood breeds
were bred to pull carriages and carry riders over wet, deep
terrain, Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds to be speedy racehorses
and hunters, Arabians to move over great distances in typically
arid climates, Quarter Horses to sprint and deal comfortably
with cattle, Tennessee Walking Horses to cover plantations and
provide their riders with comfort over many miles and hours.
I could go on, but the point should be apparent: breeds of horses
have innate capabilities and callings, cultivated by humans,
from which they draw in their interactions with their people
and their world.
One of my
childhood riding teachers told me, "The good ones don't
have to have gadgets or artificial aids to perform. Only the
bad ones need all that help." I've considered those words
many times. The reality is that there are very few "good
ones" by that high human standard, and they are usually
out of financial reach. The majority of us are partnered with
more average (normal) horses that often need assistance in some
form. Most of us have at some point have also encountered a
"project" horse that cannot survive or achieve much
don't quite live up to the breed's standards and don't perform
as expected within one discipline. Unfortunately, they may end
up for sale repeatedly or be unnecessarily headed for the equine
trash heap unless someone comes along who can identify and partner
with their specific needs. Our horses need to be heard and considered
for what they can do best. They should not be pushed and pressured
to do something their mind and body cannot endure. If we take
the time to understand the situation, we often find they are
suitable for some other purpose -- for a child or adult just
learning about horses, a police mount, or perhaps a carriage
horse for tourists and special events. Many state correctional
institutions are looking for horses to help with inmate readjustment,
and therapeutic riding programs are always in need of gentle
giants to take care of the mentally and physically disabled.
are also-rans in one pursuit may be champions in another. It's
up to us to try to work from their point of view, to listen
to their individual expressions and needs, to properly size
up their capabilities rather than force them into preconceived,
often unworkable plans. Communication is all about understanding,
understanding leads to the adjustment, and adjustment leads
to happiness and harmony for horse and human.
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D. Midkiff's new book, She Flies Without Wings: How Horses
Touch A Woman's Soul (Random House, Delacorte Press)
is now on sale at Amazon.com