To me, it’s my actions on the outside, matching what is real to me on the inside. Like a clear mirror.
And the mirror is always there, but if my inner and my outer do not align, there is this wierd haze it takes on. Like the silhouettes just don’t quite line up. Like when someone says “trust me” and you know, you just don’t.
I have struggled with this in the horse community. But this is my community. It’s where I have hung my personal identity. (and also changed it out a few times.) And I love it here. Horse people really are my people.
But we can be kind of wierd.
Our passion gets so big it can grow an ego of its own and I have seen this in every path, every way, every discipline. From the so-called Traditional Horseman, to the Positive Reinforcement Guru, to the Animal Communicators … I have found myself in the middle of snow ball fights, ducking and diving and not knowing which side I should be joining, because the truth is, I see truth in it all, and in it all I find fuzzy mirrors too.
But truly, it’s only this one, my own mirror, that I can clean. And that’s what I want to do.
I would like to make a list of all the things I believe in, when it comes to the horse-human relationship. These are my own inner truths. And it is important to me to write them down and to share them out loud, since I fully intend to (continue to) incorporate them into everything I do. and more so.
(these are not in order of importance, it’s all equally important)
Spurs, Bits & Whips: I have used all of it and will again anytime it supports the horse in understanding. To me, each of these objects can support more clarity in communication and all of them are quite simply vessels for my energy. The quality of energy depends less on the object and more on me, and that ultimately comes back to my inner Congruency.
If I am angry, (for me) it’s because I am doing/speaking/being something somewhere in my own life that does not align with my inner truth/my inner dharma/my inner me. And it comes out in my energy. I can’t hide it. It will not be suppressed. No amount of meditation in stillness will erase it. The silhouette in the mirror is simply fuzzy. Can’t help it.
And the horse will feel it *and* all these tools mentioned above, they will simply amplify it. The whip, the bit, the spur … they amplify ME. So, they can get us in a lot of trouble and cause extreme confusion in the horse if I am not aligned on the inside, first.
Inner Congruency must be my priority.
Food Rewards!: I use lots and lots and LOTS of them. All the time and, for the first time, I even wove them into a big performance (that this picture is from) And it felt SO good to do it. For so long I felt like I needed to hide that I used treats… especially when a judge is holding the pen and my score card!
I LOVE Positive Reinforcement training, (for me) it has been by far The Most Empowering tool for a horse that needs to hold onto their own personal sovereignty. (and this is a picture of that horse! She HAS to know she has a ‘say so’. She is SO much like me. … talk about a ! )
But I have also seen +R pitched as the “most ethical way” … or even simply alluded to be the most ethical way, but it never feels that simple, or clean, because when I hear that, I feel guilty.
Because I, while I do LOVE R+, it’s not my “only” way. I also DO use pressure and release, and I use it totally independently of the +R … and that has been a really important piece in my personal horse human relationships … most especially those I take out in public.
But, that guilt is in me. So I think it’s less about what that particular +R trainer might have said or not said and more about my personal inner Congruency (or lack thereof) …
For example, say I am using pressure and release to help explain something to the horse, but then only highlighting the +R part to the public? … for me that is a lack of inner Congruency. I simply have to be honest or my mirror just won’t line up. And I can’t help but feel it, even when it spills out as judgment.
So, I think the most ethical way is working on my own, inner Congruency and then using whatever tools I use from that place. … and for me it is an on going thing.
Pressure and Release: I totally use it! and here is why it is important to me.
One of THE Most Important things to me is …
When I take a horse out of this sacred safe space of our sanctuary and into this crazy, scary world of the public … be it a school with potentially screaming, wild children, or a horse show production with huge spot lights and electric crowds…or wherever else. …
I NEED to be able to hold their hand. And I need to be able to do this, no matter what is going on in the space around us *and* no matter what they might think about it. … I cannot wait until they are back under ‘threshhold’ .. I need them to hear me. Now.
Of course I would never take a horse into a situation like this that was not ready, so one could argue that I am not really putting that horse over threshold in the first place … but I can also say —No matter how prepared a horse is. There will come a time when the world outside seems terrifying. And that’s when I need to be able to hold their hand. With (my) pressure and (their) release to it.
To me, the halter and lead is a great visual for this quality of pressure and release. It really should (for me) be like holding their hand. I really leaned into this for Magic when warming up for this show. She is not one you can get tired, she just doesn’t like to feel her body that way, it feels scary to her, to feel exhausted. Some horses can do it. She cannot. And I respect that. (she made me respect that, it’s much of why I love her so)
So, with Magic, we warmed up with the halter first. Letting her feel the nose band, lean into it even… I rode her bareback, but not using my bridleless cues, just letting her feel the halter cradling her face… this way she could look around, take things in, not have to be so funnel focused on me, but still know I was there helping … and then, once she was ready I could shift to cuing from my legs and feet and seat and even mind … and when she was ready, she willingly tuned in, now able to hear me, and she gave me everything. Every ounce of her attention…. but I did not demand it. I held her hand with the halter and waited for her to hand it over to me. That’s pressure and release.
And it’s a lot of other things too. Just like everything. And again, I feel my inner Congruency is really what determines the quality of the communication through our pressure and release.
Animal Communicators: Yep. I believe. And I do it. And I know people that have such an amazing, highly attuned place of neutrality that they sometimes help me, because they can sometimes see beyond what my own inner desires (and lack of neutrality) might be blocking.
I truly feel neutrality is everything with this kind of work. You almost need to ‘not care’ to be an animal communicator. Which is wierd to say. And I would think many would disagree. Just like in animal rescue. I think it helps to have a quality of detachment there too. (sounds better than to say I don’t care)
I find it true. Passion can get in the way. Energy is so simple. It just is. So detachment is necessary (for me) in animal communication.
But, detachment or attachment, or whatever that part might be, I mean we are talking about playing with magic here, aren’t we? Or are we? And isn’t everything magic? I mean we breathe in the air the trees breathe out. If that wasn’t some simple, now culturally accepted fact, wouldn’t it seem pretty radical too?
So I struggled with this one for a long time … what would people think? Would they think I was practicing some voodoo stuff? … and perhaps some do think that … but that is OK too!
Everyone’s personal inner Congruency, what they believe, what they choose to do in this life, how they exist both inside and out … it really is totally up to them and completely within their own sovereign control.. Even if it doesn’t feel so.
Because we are all, sovereign beings, its the very natureof being human. And everyone really is entitled to their own opinions and that does not have to personally effect me. … and that has been a big lesson.
I think I thought it did. That someone else’s beliefs and judgement towards me really did penetrate me. Someone else getting upset and pointing that anger at me. I thought that was really scary… and it can be when that someone is inside of you ..when you are that close, like parents and little children, or spouses so woven … but it’s not everyone… Not everyone can touch me like that. Unless I let them.
Boundaries are something I really did not understand until recently. And again. Magic has helped me so much with this. She is a personal master at boundaries.
At this point in life, after 42 years of living, I am finding boundaries is not so much about putting some wall up, but more about dailing so deeply down into myself. Making sure what’s in my mirror, lines up.
And then being brave enough to let go when something does not align. And that truly has been the hardest part. Some things align for some time, and then they do not. And when the “things” are not things, but real people… well that has just been so hard. To let go. and to know how much I still so love.
But it helps to realize that not being in complete alignment does not mean either thing(or person) is wrong. Not them. Not me. But that I simply have to honor this internal mirror, first and foremost, and all ways.
I am always growing more and more, into me. And that is the greatest gift of love that I can give anyone, both the beloved horse and my intimate human friends. Honoring this inner Congruency. It is everything.
This picture. This performance. This Mustang. This moment.
It was such a gift of such inner congruence. Every moment of this performance Magic and I designed together. Selecting only things she wanted to share, in body, and letting go of my own inner stuff that said, it’s not a real relationship if you are using sticks, or treats … or it’s not real horsemanship if you are on your feet at liberty 80% of the show. … or whatever else my mind got confused about and tried to tell me and I chose to not listen and instead align with that sweet sacred inner Congruency.
The truth is. I love all the horse stuff. Everytime I witness a horse truly in harmony with their human, I fall in love. And I really don’t care if they have spurs on, or a big fat carrot in their pocket or are meditating in the pasture together. I love it all. I am it all.
And now that I have experienced such a clear mirror, within myself, I simply cannot unsee.
ps- This photo captures a moment that Magic and I had just changed leads. (left to right)
video link –> https://vimeo.com/792082140