Updated: Oct 24, 2020
In 5 Simple Steps
How you can change everything, by first changing yourself
What is a role anyway?
Have you ever stopped to question the role that you play with your horse? Usually most of us are completely unaware of the roles we play, we just simply show up, play them and go back home. This happens every time we come to our horses in some version or another. It is just what we do.
When we take on a role in a relationship such as this, (or any relationship for that matter) it is because we have a human need that we want to be met through the horse.
Playing a roles, such as horse rider, horse trainer or ground work specialist for example, by way of identification with the role "gives us permission" to assign a corresponding role to the horse. Assigning a corresponding role to the horse implies that we have certain expectations of her. For example, if I have assigned myself as the horse rider in this relationship, then that makes you, the horse, the one who will be ridden.
If we look at this a little more closely, we can see that the role with which I have identified for myself is a role where I will be one taking and the horse will be the one giving. The role has been defined for the purposes of my needs in this relationship. We ask, perhaps without realising "What can my horse give me? What do I want from the horse? What can my horse do for me?"
At The Gift of the Horse, the very question we always ask ourselves before we do anything with the horse is:
"How can I be of service to the horse?"
Now this may sound a little crazy, but is it really? For centuries the horse has been seen as a work animal. An animal that essentially has been identified as one who exists to serve the human. At the Gift of The Horse, we look at this animal very differently. I have often heard people exclaim "But I pay for the horse, so he must do what I say." and "He has 23 hours to do what he likes, for 1 hour he does what I tell him." Then some will go as far as to say "I own him, so therefore I have the right to do what I please with him."
As you can probably tell by now, we love to go a little deeper here at The Gift of The Horse. The above perspectives do not come from the higher self (or the inner self, the true self, inner knowing or inner wisdom). They come from the ego self . And I do not mean ego as in "he thinks very highly of himself". The ego self that I refer to is when we come from a place of wrong mindedness. The self that comes from a place of lack, a place of victimisation, a place of fear and yes you guessed it, from the place of role playing. Sometimes we are so strongly attached and identified to these roles, that we are not see ourselves as being separate from our role. The role we have chosen, or perhaps that has been given to us, does not make us who we are. This identification is not wrong, it is just the way the our human minds are wired. Our ego selves are very strong. The like to feed on identities and roles. Perhaps identifying with a role makes us feel safe. And that's ok. But sticking only to the roles that you have identified with or that have been placed on you is very limiting. What if I told you that the roles you have identified with are keeping you from breaking free of all your fears? And in fact not keeping you safe at all.
What if we were let go of the roles we have identified with? When we show up to the horse, our roles left far behind, our cups empty and our hearts open - what will unfold immediately, is SPACE. A space that you have created by letting go of the need to identify with a role. There is now a space, a gap of opportunity between you and me. I have not arrived telling you who you are (your role) and telling you who I am (my role). Suddenly the ground is prepared for something far, far greater to come through.
The horse will now be free to offer us far more than we ever thought possible. Because you would have essentially freed her from her role, by letting go of yours.
The same applies to every human being we encounter. Think about the roles you play and what would happen if you were to let them go? Does playing the role of "customer" automatically make it ok for you to be rude to the "teller". At The Gift of The Horse we ask, "How can I be of service to the teller?" It is very profound when you step out of your role and see how you can make anyone's day better, despite the fact that you may be returning an item that you are not satisfied with. That issue of the item is just a fact. How you treat the person is what really matters. These are some powerful concepts to think about, but now back to our list of steps!
Step 1: Ask The Horse: "What can I do for you?"
Our blog post entitled 'How to Spend Undemanding Time with your Horse" has some great tips on mindful activities that your horse will love. Think about what the horse would love to do if she had absolute freedom. Think about what would best serve her. Think about what she would do in the wild. Would she trot around in endless circles? Or hold a posture? No. She would more than likely be very curious and keen to do the following, but see what suits her best and have fun figuring out what she likes best!
Take him for walk with grazing being the only thing on the agenda. Support your horse to graze where he would like to. Pay attention to what grass he prefers. Make it a treat to take him down to that same spot regularly. You may only get a short distance away from the yard and that's totally okay. Remember, this is about him. Ask yourself, "How can this outing benefit my horse?"
If you horse picks a spot that is not safe to graze at due to traffic etc, please do move her to a safe space. My horse loves the taste of the grass on corner of an extremely busy road, so I tell her "Not here" gently. And then once she is safely back at the yard, I nip back and pick her some of the grass she wanted. It is very touching to see her face when she gets a hand delivered bunch of her favourite grass from her human. "For me?!" I can almost hear her saying. It's very sweet.
As often as you can take your horse into nature. This can be a walk down to a lovely lush field, a stroll down to a nearby river, or for a hoof soak and a splash in a dam. If you are lucky take her into the woods or into a forest filled with big beautiful trees. When you get there, allow your horse absolute freedom to sniff and explore where she wants to, on a long supporting rein. Vari surprised me the other day, by resting her nose on a tree, inhaling the smell of its bark. It was so beautiful to see, Please see our article: "How to Spend Undemanding Time with Your Horse."
A brisk walk down the road is a lovey way to get the circulation going for both of you and also good for self trimming. Horses naturally move in straight lines. It can be a great activity if you don't have too much time but want to get out and about with your lovely companion. Practice leading her from in front of her head, at her shoulders, from her quarters and even from behind her tail (this is made easier on the way home!) Practice leading her from both sides. I love to play with energy when we are out and about together. I will take a breath in, lift my energy and Vari will trot next to me, whilst I can still be at a walk, her powerful energy contained in in a beautiful upwards movement next to me. I breathe out and she comes back to a walk. (more on how to communicate through breathing and body language to come!). Once your horse is fit, why not go for a jog together? But make sure to be mindful of what your horse would naturally do. Would she trot at a steady pace for a long time? No. Little trots. Keep it natural to her. On occasion I will bring my cell phone and play music while we walk, but only if I am on the farm and there is no traffic. Vari really enjoys classical piano, which is why all our videos have background music very similar to what we love to listen to.
Remember to slowly build your horse's fitness. More on how to do this mindfully in a new blog post.
A sunset walk around the farm at liberty is an absolute favourite of ours and can bring such inner contentment. If your horse stops and has a sniff, be with her. Turn your energy down, take a step or two back and support her. You are here for her.
If your horse is stabled, as many horses are, let her out to have a wonder around the yard, in the evening while you pop in for a visit, if it is safe to do so. Keep an eye on her, but from a distance so she feels free to explore. She can visit each member of her herd and check in on them. I do this regularly with Vari and she absolutely loves it. She will check in on everyone, by putting her head into their stables. She will go to her closest companions and spend a little more time with them.
If you are at a livery yard, check in with the others if they are happy for you to let your horse out for a wonder. Some folks get nervous around loose horses. Always be mindful of others.
Grooming your horse can be a very good way to build a relationship of trust, care, love and service. Grooming is an absolute art form and it is an extremely intimate practice that we often take for granted. A quick brush off before going out is not what is called for. Take your time and be extremely mindful. Remember, this is her body and we need to treat it with absolute respect and tenderness. Grooming your horse can be a wonderful gateway into deeper and more precise communication. A lot more is to come on our philosophy around grooming and horse care and I cannot wait to share it with you!
Please note: Many horses do not enjoy being groomed! There is a valid reason for this. More on this topic in future posts. If you have a horse who does not enjoy grooming, let him get dirty!!! It's not a big deal to have a dirty horse, in fact there are many benefits to your horse to leave that dirt on! More on this to come.
Massage. Ask your local physio to give you some tips on how you can treat your horse safely and in a supportive way. There are loads of inexpensive courses and great books available on how you can serve your horse in this way. As with grooming, your horse may not be comfortable with a massage. Read her body language and expression and do not pass go, if she is uncomfortable. I know many humans who cannot bear to be massage, especially if it is by a complete stranger. This is another reason why it is helpful to learn to do this yourself and slowly you can offer it to your horse as she feels more comfortable with you.
Learn to trim her hooves. We believe that it is absolutely vital to understand the functioning of the hoof, hoof trimming and care. Over the years I have studied many methods and now trim Vari's feet. As with grooming this can be a very intimate experience, also opening a gateway for greater communication. Imagine going to have a manicure and the lady at the salon is rough, unruly and distracted. She may even slap you if you suddenly get a cramp in your arm. Always give your horse deep presence and focused attention.
Real Talk: Sometimes I do have my little ones down at the farm with me and splitting myself between Vari and my kiddies can be a challenge. So when I am with my children, it is about them and exploring the yard and having fun. And I will whisper to Vari "Another day, you and me, girl." It's all good.
Step 2: Start a dialogue - Yes/ No
Many years ago, when I began a dialogue with my horse I was pleasantly surprised how very, VERY quickly she responded back with a "yes" or a "no". What amazed me even more is that soon after, she started to ASK me questions. And they were all questions that called for me to support her. Open this gate, move that bush, scratch me there. Take me home. I imaged that she had waited a long time to be finally heard. It was a deeply moving lesson for me. Stop, slow down, pay attention. What is the horse asking every moment of you?
How do we begin a dialogue? It is best to see what the horse's reponse is, in any given situation. Lets say for example you would like to take your horse for a walk and as you come up to the gate, she stiffens her body, or moves her head away from the direction in which you intended to go. This, my friends is your horse saying "no."
Now if you are training a horse conventionally, you would not allow the horse to say "no". So you would ignore her communication to you in this instance. Now you see what has happened here is almost like "strike one" and you missed it.
So we blast through and continue with our plan, only to have the horse again say "no" further along, but this time it is louder. Perhaps she barges past you and tries to cut you off, because you missed her first subtle "no". But our horses are not allowed to barge - correct!? So we reprimand and push on. "Strike 2!" , you missed again! And so it continues until the horse eventually does something that either puts you or her in danger. And ultimately she will be punished. So a very foundational philosophy at The Gift of The Horse is allowing the NO. Which brings us to Step 3.
Step 3: Be prepared for the answer
When you first begin a dialogue with your horse, please be prepared that you may get a lot of no's. Honour it. The lessons are there in the no's. Embrace them. There may be many, many no''s before you get your first "YES!!". When you accept all the no's, the one YES that you do get, will be so much bigger than all the ones that you had to draw out of your horse before. And it will knock your socks off. You will know that it will be a genuine "yes", not "ok I guess I have to" "yes". (Gosh all these "" I'm sorry!!) When I began to accept the no from Vari, what was amazing was her surprise. I could literally see a recognition from her as she processed what was going on between us. "You mean its OK if I don't want to walk today?" "Yes its ok. It's not about me. Next time." We learn not to force, coerce or convince from the very, very beginning.
New Video on our Facebook page coming soon on this topic!
As always, if your horse says no and you are in the middle of crossing the road, as the guardian you will have to say "this time I need a yes, okay Boy, come with me, I got you." As you would do with a child. But do it kindly, with love and care. And wave a thank you to the cars.
Step 4: Focus on adding to your relationship
If you are worried that serving the horse may mean that you will miss out on valuable training Tim, don't be. If The Gift of The Horse philosophy resonates with you, go with it, start a dialogue, start being in the act of service, be an enabler to the horse and be open to what will come. I can promise you, if you are ready, you won't look back. Suddenly the horse is here for you, in a way you never thought possible, through you being there for her first. I have first hand experience of this. (And I'm always here to help if you feel lost.) Serving another can only add to you. The key is not to expect anything in return. This is a very high vibration to be in. And who doesn't want to be vibing high!?
Step 5: Really embrace your relationship for what it is in this moment
When we embrace the "no", we will spend a lot of time doing what the horse wants to do and not necessarily what we had planned to do. This is a good thing my loves I promise. The gift here is that you will be led deeper into the amazing practice of mindfulness. The horse has said "no" and walked away from you. Observe, breathe, walk, ask yourself. "What do I need to learn here?", Less doing, less stressing, less pressure. It will take you to a place where you ask a question, receive the answer and accept it. No resistance.
I can't even begin to explain what profound changes this practice has brought to me in my life outside of the stables. When you simply allow what is, in this case - the horse has walked off - we come to a place of acceptance. So, the horse walked away. That is, what is. From acceptance we move to the beautiful place of surrender. Which leads to the realisation: "I am not yet in a place in my relationship with my horse, where she will come to me of her own free will. Thank you, for showing me, that I still have great work to do." This is far better than becoming angry, frustrated, or blaming the horse, or worse, chase the horse, trick her or call in an expert.
The horse shows us, rather magnificently, that we cannot control anything other than our own reaction. And when we let go of our identification with the roles that we play, a whole new world will be waiting for you on the other side.
Sat Nam xxxx