Deep down, we all want to become the best person we can for our horses. To understand them deeply, to help them trust, learn, connect & understand. To have a neck to hug when we’re sad & an ear to whisper into that will keep our most intimate secrets. To make sense of the things they do when they’re acting silly & when they might not be doing the things we think they should. To help them through their worries & fears, to take them by the hand & tell them everything will be ok. We want to be able to share relaxing trail rides with friends, run the barrels as quickly as we can & jump a course cleanly. We want to share our lives with them as a confidant, a partner & a best friend.
We watch movies that show incredible bonds between horses & others & people who are able to help the most difficult horses become balanced & centered, while making it look so simple. We all aspire to be able to help horses in this way, so how do these individuals accomplish such great understanding & ability? By two simple little words, letting go.
Drawing from my own personal experiences, I have learned that we believe we need to climb the intellectual ladder & accumulate as much information as we can. We spend countless hours & dollars to hear & watch what others have to say about these subjects, never considering what our horses have to say about them. We mimic & quote others, looking for the little hidden gems that we believe will change our whole perception of how to move forward & accomplish our goals & dreams. When we establish some types of routines that seem to work for us, we tattoo these ideas into our belief systems & will defend these methods & those who taught them vehemently. Holding onto these concepts that we cling to, like amazing little hidden secrets are responsible for so much quarrelling & egoic stroking, that they cause too many divisions & result in closing minds instead of opening them. I was also one of these people once upon a time.
I was always in search of more knowledge. I was convinced that the more knowledge I attained, the better & easier my ability to understand & work with horses would become, through social programming. The steps to reach my goals seemed to never end & brought me to a point where I decided that the only remaining step for me was to work with wild Mustangs. I was convinced that if I was able to not only “tame” wild Mustangs, but to be able to start & ride them within one day, that this would be the ultimate accumulation of knowledge & my goals would finally be complete. I thought, how could I possibly have any more to learn from this point? My ego told me this would have no choice but to result in finally being entered into that elite group of professionals that I had idolized for so many years.
I purchased 8 Mustangs that varied from some handling to no handling & one who had been mishandled to the point that she was dangerous & would try to kill anyone who entered the paddock. Inevitably, I did learn so much more from an intellectual level & accomplished all of my goals, but in the end, I still felt like something was missing. Little did I know that these Mustangs were going to open up a whole new door of non-intellectual understanding that I had no idea was even possible.
They taught me how to let go of everything, in ways I had no concept that I was even holding on to. And how did they accomplish this? For me, it didn’t happen through invisible or telepathic energies or animal communication that few seem capable of achieving, but by my being willing to open my previously closed mind, observe and analyze the things I was seeing & I thought I knew. Over time, I have come to understand that intellectual knowledge creates a block that doesn’t allow us to see the finer details & deeper understandings during our interactions. Holding onto what we think we know & understand from others, will prevent these deeper insights because we’re only looking for what we think we should see instead of what’s actually taking place.
Through introspection, these horses taught me to recognize my own unbalanced emotions & thought processes & how these also created blocks in my deeper understandings. How my previously conditioned judgements & labels, learned from others, were responsible for misunderstanding what the horses were trying to teach me. If we make the choice to decide, label, judge, believe a situation, that a horse is being lazy, fresh or defiant, for example & we imagine a hallway of doors, we have made a deliberate conscious choice to only open a single door in that hallway of choices & closed all other possible doors or perceptions. How I had learned from others, that working with horses was a serious business & there was no place for relaxation, fun, laughter or deviation. How I had learned to drill horses in consecutive physical steps until they wanted to puke. How I had forced them to run circles until they were tired & just gave up so I could impose my selfish desires without consideration for their feelings or opinions, because I didn’t know another way of making them comply. But my biggest lesson in letting go was learning how to replace the habit of listening to others, who I had come to believe were superior & more knowledgeable than me. The horses taught me how to listen to them instead, who have infinitely more to teach us about horses & ourselves, than any human ever could. They taught me that letting go isn’t easy but it’s a choice & that choice will open unlimited new doors that the limited intellect never can.
Learning involves replacing old information with new & deeper understandings. If we choose to hold onto old concepts, ideas & beliefs, we do not allow room for the experiences & subsequent acceptance of the new & improved. The highest attainment of understanding with horses comes not from what we accumulate intellectually but having the courage to let it all go, accept our own feelings of vulnerability & move forward with humility & a new sense of wonder & curiosity, like we had when we were children. If I still had a belief, it would be that letting go is the real little hidden gem.