The horse is a being of raw emotion, expression, power, and beauty.
Look in the mirror and see how you are the same! The only difference is, you were given the gift of language. Something you learned by the age of two years old. The horse never got language skills and people all around the world seem to think they lack intelligence. But the interesting things is, when we take away your language skills, for instance if I tape your mouth closed and expose you to challenging circumstances, then every behavior or desire you have would be expressed exactly the same way your horse does. EXACTLY. It is called the language of emotion and it’s happening all the time, all around us. We are speaking in the language of emotion too, we simply mask our emotion with language from time to time. But a good observer would be able to read your emotions anyway, so language doesn’t often do as much as we might hope.
The proposition I’ve always asked of horse owners, is to see that their horse is more special than they ever imagined.
Does a horse dream? Answer: Yes. Not only does science show us this, I’ve seen it myself. I’ve seen horses act out or cry out while sleeping.
Does a horse remember? Answer: Yes. I’ve seen this too. I’ve seen horses connect with their mother after a decade of separation and instantly become “inseparable”.
Does a horse think of the future? Answer: Yes, Absolutely! I see it every single day I ride. I sense my horses desire to “be” somewhere else! That is a futuristic thought.
The point is, we are the same, horses and humans. The horse has a brain of a four-year-old human child. Cognitively that is. Animal behavior scientist have confirmed this now.
He gets nervous when learning, just like a child. He gets frustrated when he’s misunderstood, just like a child. He gets so scared he can’t see where the opening in the fence is to follow his pasture mates into a new field, just like when a child can’t see the shoes in the closet when mommy is calling for him to hurry.
He’s not dumb! She’s not stupid! She’s just young! Unfortunately, without language he or she will never “grow up” cognitively just like some children who failed to learn language and face their entire adult lives thought of as “slow” or “retarded”. These children who become adults face their challenges with emotional responses. They show their desire with sounds, wales, screams, grunts, sighs, tension in their muscles, smiles, holding breath, breathing loudly, and more.
These same behaviors are not beneath you and I either. In social experiments I’ve done with my students at certain clinics. I’ve asked them to close their mouth and speak no words while they attempt to communicate a series of very simple tasks to another person who has to figure out what they want. Always, without fail, my students resort to grunts, noises, motions, and almost always, forms of fear and frustration show up too.
You see we are the same!
So why am I telling you this? Because taking away this “sameness” is exactly what gives many people the perceived right to hold captive and enslave our four legged friends.
Throughout history societies will enslave other “different” populations of people or animals. It’s an interesting human dynamic that can leave some people indifferent and others heartbroken.
For me personally, it leaves me heartbroken.
So where am I going with all this? Am I saying horses are slaves? Am I saying we should free the horses and turn them back to the wild?
Yes! And absolutely NOT! Yes, I believe horses are held captive. They did not choose the life of human industry and recreation. But a resounding NO, is my answer for turning them back into the wild. It’s too big of a leap. There is a better path to freedom. If we turned them loose today, most domestic horses would perish, either by lack of space and food or fatal wounds caused by human inventions (such as cars and fences).
We must protect them, we must serve them, because they have served us. We built our roads, canals, and cities on their backs. We built and entire industry of recreation on their backs. They deserve better than to be turned out blindly into a world without support and maybe in a hundred years or so we’ll be able to evolve into a species that takes no more from them.
In the meantime, here is what we can do? Give them what they need to survive and thrive in our world.
I talk about these needs in depth in my book Leadership and Horses.
One of those needs is positive stimulus. (That can mean riding too!)
But there is something else we can do for our four-legged-friends. Would you like to know what it is?
Brace yourself. STOP breeding them. Not completely, of course. Any big leap in giving back the horses rights turns into a problem (I’ll explain in second). The best thing to do is, limit breeding to horses of a certain quality. I mean emotional and cognitive quality. I mean “calmer, safer, braver” horses. Stop strictly breeding for athletic ability, beauty, and muscle power, or for the mere thought of having a cute baby on the ground to look at.
The reason we can’t stop breeding altogether, is because any big leap to change the horse industry results in people losing interest in horses altogether. If a law were passed today to prohibit people from riding horses, many people would abandon their horses, allowing them to starve or worse. Time must pass slowly. And in the meantime, we can make a difference in our own backyard. We can give our horses a real “home” to live in. A safe place, even a fun place! We can both enjoy the experience. It no longer has to be one-sided.
Another thing we can do is ensure our methods for training and interacting develop a positive experience for our horses. I wish I could say… “Gone are the days of forces learning and consequence oriented training.” In truth those days aren’t gone. Famous trainers you may know, continue to sell cruel, consequence oriented training methods to an unsuspecting public. We can rise above this. In my book you’ll find exactly how I teach my clients to rise above this.
What I want to do for you today is bring a cold sprinkle of the reality our horses face with a bright ray of sunshine to inspire you to do more and be more. When clients of mine realize what value they can bring to their horse, they become excited about it. When they realize they can enjoy their horse on a deeper level, they become excited about it. When they realize they can achieve more, create more confidence, develop true leadership skills, they become excited about it. I want you to be excited too. The future is ours. How shall we share it?
I can’t wait to hear from you. I love your comments.
For now. God bless and keep you!