Learning Curve – BSE
I am very new to the horse human relationship. In fact it has only been two years for me; two wonderful years that has made a huge difference in how I look at the world. I’ve been an animal lover all my life but when I first met Iceman and Mark two Belgium Drafts on a cold November afternoon at Blue Star Equiculture in 2010 I was scared to death of them. They were the biggest animals I have ever seen close up. A beautiful tall woman (Pam) encouraged me to pet them and talk with them. She told me how Mark was afraid of alpacas (who he had just walked by) and manhole covers. Mark I bonded over that; I told him of my un-rational fear of spiders and how I understood his un-rational fear of alpacas. That was a turning point for me and Mark and I have been friends ever since.
Unlike domestic dogs and cats, horses are a force to be reckoned with. They are large powerful animals and unlike a dog or cat you can’t just pick up a horse and put the animal where you want it. Horses have taught me to be a better negotiator in my life. You have no choice in working and loving horses to negotiate a common goal and communicate it to them, and them to you. You’re not going to get a horse to do something just because you want them to. It takes time to build that trust and bond of working together as one. There is however a HUGE difference between sitting in a conference room listening to a lecture or attending a workshop about cooperation and negation in the workplace versus doing it with an animal much larger than yourself with its own attitude and objectives. That is real negotiation and communication not to mention team work.
A horse will smell you coming and will know who you are way before they meet you. Their body language is honest and subtle. You need to pay attention or you’ll be hurt and that will be your own fault not the horses. Being around horses takes care, attention to detail, observation, and all your senses need to be used. For example I was grooming Latte one day and while working on one of her hind quarters her head keep coming back toward me, and seemed to try and poke me in the butt. After her doing this twice I stopped what I was doing and walked to her front to see if something was wrong. At that time she dropped a load of soon to be aged horse manure. Thank You Latte for getting me out of the way and not dropping it on my head. I can tell in the office environment people drop stuff on you all the time and without warning.
I’ve also learned that talking to a horse and waiting for an answer is about the most rewarding experience I’ve encountered in my life. The very first horse I ever groomed was Gracie Blue under the guidance of Sally Sorel. Gracie and Sally were both very patient with me, and Gracie as always was very good. It took me awhile after that grooming (a year) before I was comfortable going out into the paddock to fetch a horse all by myself for grooming. No one at Blue Star ever pushed me, and Sally would always have me tag along when she went out into the paddock. I loved being in the paddock but was not sure enough of myself to do it alone. It was gradual, but over time I learned to watch the nuances of the herd and how they interacted with each other; I had always felt the power of the herd from the very first day. There is a difference between a single horse and the herd as there is a difference in a human versus how that person will behave in a meeting and around other people.
Another thing I have learned by being a volunteer at Blue Star Equiculture is ego and self importance has no place with animals and especially with horses; they just don’t care and are not impressed. We all have an ego, just some are larger than others, but my heroes and sometimes bosses are 11 to 13 year old girls known as the “barn peeps.” Big egos don’t work well under those conditions. These amazing girls know more about horses than I ever will. They are fearless, loving, and loyal to each other and the horses in their care. They have a great deal to teach others and the world and I will be one of many who will always be there to support them. There has always been a draw between horses and young women, no one has ever really known the exact reason why, but I say: who cares. It’s there, and it a good thing.
So in a Learning Curve about horses and what they teach us here is a list of the high level things they have taught this broken and damaged individual who has now started to heal:
- The value of unspoken communications
- Joy for no reason other than the company
- Being still and silent
- Honest body language versus learned or intentional
- How to receive love for the sake of love with no other expectations
- Living in the moment
- How to use strength
- How not to let people push you around
….and I learn something new every time I am around the horses.