A year ago I bought my very first horse, I called her Ari.
Buying a horse was and still is a big deal. Like ok, it’s not a hamster or a cat, and don’t get me wrong I do love hamsters and cats, I also love crows and bats dearly but it’s an animal that I can’t keep in my house. She’s big, she needs space, exercise, food and a lot of time and not to mention the expenses and responsibility. For me it was Ciao life…the one I knew at least.
I watched the movie “the path of the horse” before Ari came into my life. I remember it hit me like a sledgehammer, there were humans being with and training horses without dominance, without punishment, without bits, without riding. This connection between horse and human I did not see before and it filled my heart with so much joy. This movie showed almost an opposite interaction with horses than the one I knew so far. What I learned is that I have to be the leader, I have to be dominant, I have to be the boss, period!
However, I got the message from the movie on the surface only but it didn’t sink into my consciousness fully, yet. Before Ari came into my life, I used to be totally into Parelli natural horsemanship. I was convinced this is the one and only way to train horses and there was nothing else. So of course my plan was to train Ari the Parelli way, which I did at first. Two weeks we played the seven games and guess what it worked very well and I was happy. One day when playing the so-called games, Ari looked at me in such a way that it almost broke my heart. The look in her eyes was a mix of sadness, helplessness and “what the hell” do you want from me. A wave of guilt and shame rushed through my whole being. From that day on I stopped working with her in that way. Don’t get me wrong there a lot of things I learned from Parelli but until that moment I did not realize that I was working with negative reinforcement. I really do not want to judge anyone who is doing Parelli, I believe there are a lot of great Parelli people who have a wonderful relationship with their horses. But for me, it was very clear that I don’t want to go that path anymore. It came from within and I listened to my intuition.
So, there I was with my horse, all of a sudden without a plan anymore. People telling me, I should start exercise her, I should start riding her…the longer I wait the more difficult it will get. Slowly I could feel how my brain was re-wiring and filling my thoughts with fear and doubt, now combined with time pressure. How naïve I felt to buy a 4-year-old, not ridden horse who barely knew anything than just being a horse with casual interaction with humans.
Ok, I start to look for other training methods, because my goal still was to ride my horse. Everyone talks about the cavesson lunging, I read about it, I talked to people who were enthusiastic about it. Yes, for sure if I lunge my horse in a correct way I can achieve very good training results and get her strong enough to carry me. So, let’s start and get my horse ready for riding. I was enthusiastic too for a while until again something inside of me tells me there is something not right. I can’t fully stand behind what I am doing. And Ari of course confirms that. In the meantime I watched the movie again and again, I read books from people who inspired me who seemed to have found a different way of being with horses. I tried not to listen too much to what other people were saying or doing, I stopped comparing myself with others, which can be so poisonous for our soul and only guides us in the wrong direction. Which, by the way applies to all life situations and not only when training horses. I started to listen to my inner being and most important, I started to listen to what Ari is trying to tell me all the time. Actually, Ari is the one who always clearly tells me: if I am not authentic all the time I am with her…she’s not interested in me, she is not interested in being with me and she’s definitely not learning anything which contributes to her well-being. How many times my Ego was hurt and all of sudden I felt so small and vulnerable.
Again, my plans and expectations were crashed. But, this time it was different. Somehow a transformation has happened. I stopped all training, I stopped having expectations. Instead I started to get to know my horse better. I started spending time with Ari and her herd mates. Just being there in pasture with no agenda, observing, listening, feeling. In the beginning it was challenging, I did not know the other horses and pretty soon they were interested in me and wanted to check out why I was just hanging out there. It can be pretty scary, if all of a sudden you are surrounded by horses you don’t really know or their reaction and have no control over them in the sense of a halter or any other tack. But they were all very sweet, curious and some of them really opened up to me. What a beautiful different way of being with horses.
So, here I am now, trying to spend time with Ari with no expectations, trying to be in the moment, having no agenda and spontaneously let things happen. Sometimes everything is easy and I feel very connected to Ari and we work in a very harmonious way and sometimes we have our disagreements. Sometimes she is in bad mood, sometimes I am in a bad mood and if this is the case it’s the best for both of us to don’t do anything together, we give each other space, like in any other relationship. Of course there are still a lot of times when I fall back into my old pattern but only to get back on the right track again. Because there is no way back anymore. I don’t have a specific training method anymore, I just try to be myself and do things my way and learn about the physiology and psychology of horses…and guess what, all of sudden almost magical things happen. When my horse is collecting herself in liberty out of nothing, even if it’s just for a few seconds, I know I am on the right track. It’s a long way ahead but the small little things that happen fill my heart with so much joy.
I don’t want to be the leader or the boss! I want to be a friend my horse feels save with and want to spend some of her time with, because she wants to and not because I tell her to.
A year ago Ari came into my life. In Hindi Ari means: one who shows the right path…how blessed I am to have found such a friend, teacher and spiritual guide.