Just Being Human.

2014-01-06 10.09.31

I went to a day long retreat recently. An opportunity to chat with one of the speakers came up, so I approached him and introduced myself, letting him know how much I appreciated his work. We got to talking about the words people use to describe his work, and him. His easy laughter and chagrin at some of the terms was plain. We both shared thoughts about how such labels, while on one level helpful, could also be limiting. Toward the end of our conversation I remarked, “We have to use labels, because it certainly isn’t enough to just be a human being!”

I’ve rolled that around in my head for a couple of months now, this idea that we enforce on ourselves (and perhaps by proxy, all others who come into contact with us) the idea is that being human is not enough. We have to be this person with that talent doing this incredible thing while striving to stay ahead of what ever curve it is we measure ourselves by. This can extend to our horses too: they are not just horses, they are breeds, disciplines, trophy, money and award winners, therapists, best friends, teachers. The way I see it, labels are neither bad nor good. I think sometimes that they are also like driving on ice: one quick turn of the wheel and we are in the ditch.

Of course it is fun to do things with horses! Of course we like challenges and improving our skills with horses. Of course they can be our friends, teachers and confidants. All of that and more! At the end of the day though, they are horses, just as we are humans. In my personal experience, the letting go of labels (in as much as we can) brings a certain quality to our interactions with others and our horses. Striving to see things as they are by its very nature depressurizes most situations. It can mean the difference between fighting with a “stubborn” or “resistant” or “lazy” horse, and clearly communicating what we’d like to a horse who is otherwise unclear about our request. Once we see things as they are, we can interact with them in a way that is not about seeing things as we wish them to be.

I’ve seen Thoroughbred racehorses who didn’t like to run. Warmbloods who were happier out on the trail than in an arena. Quarter horses who loved to jump, Arabians who excelled at working cattle. I’ve seen gaited horses who were talented pacers, and child-sized ponies who could jump higher than many taller horses.  My point is that despite our labeling a horse as anything, they are so much more than that. Sometimes we recognize this, and sometimes it takes a horse (or several, in my case) to jar us out of our tight-fisted, white-knuckled grip on a label.

Horses are many things to many people. By no means have I seen it all when it comes to horse/human interactions, but I’ve seen enough to say with confidence that when we can treat our horses as they are, things usually go pretty well.

Many years ago now, I was helping out at one of Mark’s clinics and I said to him with no small amount of frustration how the horse I had brought with me was 15 years old and he should know how to be bridled by now. Mark paused and remarked, “Maybe if you treat him like he doesn’t know, instead of treating him like he’s fifteen it might go better.” That was the beginning of my grip starting to loosen, because sure enough, once I calmed down and helped my horse understand, we stopped fighting and things got easy. Lesson: confusion doesn’t know how old you are.

I guess in a way it’s like traveling back to when I was twelve. Grooming a horse or riding a horse – any horse – felt the same to me. Joyful. As I got older, I did my share of competing (whether I was in a show or not), my share of pressuring a horse to be something different from what they were. My share of agonizing over and struggling with how to get my horse to do something I felt was very important. Perhaps it is a by-product of getting older and working so closely with them, but these days I feel as though I’m still that pig-tailed girl, who is giddy just hanging around a horse.

(Below: a torn out page from my journal when I was twelve. It says,  “I cantered.” )

June blog photo

About the Author

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A lifelong horse woman, learning how to listen to horses.

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Horsemanship

24 Comments

Thank you for the freedom, thank you for writing my thoughts down, please keep posting on your blog, I so enjoy reading it.

Crissi you have expressed yourself very well. I agree completely. If we are not very careful words lock us into the very behavior we are trying to overcome. Practicing and breathing has changed my life for the better. Thank you for sharing with us.

Beautiful article that really spoke to my heart. The labels we cling to can be another form of attachment that no longer serves us and should be let go. I also love the idea of just being that little kid again and how no matter what the horse did it was ok – because it was just fabulous to be in the presence of a horse! I fondly remember those wonderful innocent times.

I am so happy to read this. Being fairly new at horse guardianship, I’m often asked (by trainers and friends) what I want to do/learn with my horses–dressage, trail ride etc.. and although these are nice ways to interact with them, it isn’t always what they or I want to do.. my favorite thing to do is just be a human being with them just being horses. Thanks for your writings 🙂

Thank you! Me, too. I love just wandering around in our herd, giving scratches, or sitting and listening to them eat. There’s a lot to be said for sharing in their inherent peace.

There are two other horse-centered blogs here on WordPress you might enjoy. One is my husbands (Mark Rashid)@ consideringthehorse.wordpress.com and annablakeblog.wordpress.com (or you can look up Anna Blake at Infinity Farm, under the “horses” category.

Happy reading – I really enjoyed your last post!

Thanks Crissi 🙂 I’m already a follower of your husband’s blog–love it as I do yours! And I’m enjoying Anna’s blog (thanks for sharing) this morning as I sip my coffee–ah but it’s time to go see about my boys……

So thoughtful and so true. Thank you for sharing…I remember the first time I cantered, was also time for labeling…I think I was 8 or so, the riding lesson teacher told my mom if I didn’t ‘make’ the horse (pony) do what I wanted to do (I couldn’t get him to canter…) then she shouldn’t buy me a horse..after hearing that, I kicked really hard (I really didn’t want to kick the pony!) and he took off and I fell and got my foot caught in the stirrup and was dragged across the pasture. I sure wasn’t ready to canter, and I think the pony knew that 🙂

Oh wow – I had a similar experience with a pony, too. 😉 Only she was more than happy to canter when I didn’t ask! You bring up a great point “making” as opposed to “asking” are such different intentions, aren’t they?

Thank you for the lovely article. I am re thinking a few labels of my own lol. Like most people, my energy is taking me to different places, with different experiences that also work along side the ones I already know.
I am in ore and wonder of the journey ahead of me and I’m learning more and more, on how to be comfortable with where I am today, for tomorrow is full of wonder and experiences I’ve yet to have!
look forward to reading more.
Regards.

Thank you for sharing Crissi. I have been humbled more times than not by insightful ventures.. and about six months ago found myself with a 10 year old thoroughbred gelding, talk about labels, lol . Started when he was two, rode again when he was 5… at at age ten had an opportunity to become more than just a yard ornament. He would beg me to do something with him. So as labels go, I found , he was just a colt in a mature horses body, waiting to absorb what ever I could teach him. But the story I learned was not about him… it was about me, and how he taught me to stay open to what he had to offer. Blessings to him, for I found i am still a child in a mature persons body.

Thank you for your story it reinforces my experiences and that I am not alone. Looking forward to meeting you someday.

Kathy, thank you for your kind feedback! What you shared here is hugely interesting. It speaks volumes about how not only can labels back us into a corner, but also provide a door for personal insight and growth. Horses are amazing creatures – I feel as though there’s a whole universe there that I’ll spend the rest of my life exploring! Thanks again, and I’ll look forward to meeting you someday, too. 🙂

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