Hypothetically speaking what would you do if, from one day to the other, you could not ride your horse anymore? In order to ever ride again you would have to give your horse away and get a new one. Think about it. What would you do? Would you still keep your horse or would you replace it with a new rideable horse? What is it that you want from your horse? I am pretty sure most people say they love their horses, how far does this love go? And where does it end?
It’s been almost a year now that I have not been riding a horse. As most horse people and riders I loved riding, especially dressage and trail rides. It filled my whole being with joy and gave me a feeling of freedom, I could clear my mind, let go of the world around me, let go of my current problems. There was just one part missing in my perception of this…the opinion and feeling of the horses I was riding. To be honest back then it never crossed my mind that maybe, perhaps the horses don’t want to be ridden. I knew their back was not made for carrying weight but somehow this is what we always did with horses, we rode them. Why question something so traditional, old and something that is so much fun?
It is very difficult to find the right living conditions for horses where I live. The pasture size is very limited, there are still a lot of stables who keep their horses in boxes and only get out for some hours a day. For now I am glad to have found a place where Ari can be out 24/7 deciding for herself if she is staying in the paddock or grazing in pasture. She settled in quite fast, made a good friend and seems happy, as we humans would say. It’s far from what I want for her, but we’re working on things such as the quality and availability of hey for example. Until I find my own place with a couple of hectares I will have to do some sacrifices. But for now I’ll try to make the best of what I have. I like to come to the stable and I get along with all the other horse owners and even made friends.I accept and respect each one of them even if we don’t share the same opinion. However, most of them do not really know how I really feel. So far, people did not really show much interest in what I am doing with Ari. Of course, horse people tend to be affected by results and progress the horse is doing and since I am not a professional horse trainer, I guess I am just the girl who goes for walks or running with her horse and is just being silly doing some liberty stuff, playing, meditating and occasionally have some, not really serious, training sessions.
However, when it comes to the riding part people do start to ask what my plan is. Depending on how I feel in that moment, my answer is: well I will wait until her bones are fully developed, which can take up to the seventh year. But, the more I start to gain confidence I also mention that I don’t think that horses want to be ridden at all and there are studies and scientific proof of the damage done to the horse through riding. The studies I found made absolutely sense to me and also shocked me. I heard of this at the time I was still riding, but I guess I was too ignorant to believe it. And of course people tend to be personally attacked when I say I think riding is doing more harm than not riding. I felt the same way because it triggered a feeling of doing something wrong to the being I love. It’s a horrible thing to even think of, so better just forget about it and don’t question it. However, this is what I believe and this is how I am now with my horse, no riding.
So, the next question people ask me is why do I keep a horse then? Is it not too expensive to keep a horse that I don’t ride. Yes, it is expensive, but this is not the point, I don’t keep her for my pleasure only anymore, I keep her to give her an appropriate life where she can be just a horse and not a “machine like being” who has to fulfill my wishes and needs and amusement whenever I want to. Of course, I cannot just let her be by herself, the pasture she is living in is not as attractive as it should be for a horse. I have to make sure she gets at least some change of scenery and a little bit of exercise, which sometimes is not so easy when going a path where the horse has equal rights and has an opinion that is respected. Sometimes I also have to make the decision on my own to go for walks or do some training in the arena, if she wants to or not, but it’s still not happening with force or punishment and I always try to make it fun for both of us. As long as I can’t provide her a space as natural and big as possible, where she is moving herself constantly, I have to give her that exercise in order to keep her healthy. Once, I find this place there is no need for me to do that anymore, because she will be able to keep herself healthy. She will be able to strengthen her muscles in the most natural way, without anyone interfering in her movement.
I truly believe that when we give our horses this freedom, and this is not just a physical freedom it’s also a psychological freedom, they are very willing and like to be with us, learn and have fun, show us their beauty and pride in the most magnificent natural movements. This is what freedom really looks like to me, a wild free horse. Not a horse that is caged in boxes, taken out for our pleasure, kept under control with metal in the mouth, spurs, whips or any of the other thousands of equipment you can buy nowadays.
Ari and I are building very slowly a connection based on trust and friendship, this doesn’t happen from one day to the other. Of course sometimes I just wish that our connection would already be so deep that she would willingly follow me everywhere, this was just my EGO talking now by the way. But, the trust first needs to be built, on both sides. How can Ari trust me, if I don’t fully trust her…it’s like in any other relationship, trust is building up in small steps, and sometimes the trust can be broken and has to be re-built again. Mistakes happen and I also fall back into old patterns, but the great thing is that horses are so incredible forgiving that we can always start over and do it better.
I don’t care about the progress Ari is doing because she doesn’t have to progress in anything, she is a horse and as a horse she is always right and knows best how to move, provided that she is living in the right conditions. I mean seriously, have you ever seen a horse in pasture jumping obstacles over and over again or piaffing around for a longer period of time just for fun? I haven’t.
What I care about is our connection, the aspect of doing something, training, riding, grooming, whatever it is that I did with horses has changed completely, I am looking for a connection with my horse on a much deeper level, on a different level of consciousness that we share together, where we grow together, where healing is taking place and it doesn’t include riding anymore.And this connection is only my very own perception. This connection between horse and human I am talking about is very difficult to explain in words. It’s being in a balanced flow of energy, connecting to, not only the horse, to nature, the planet, the universe. Because, in the end everything is connected, right. Maybe you have seen the movie Avatar. This is what I mean with connection, a non-spoken communication between nature and human, totally in balance, everything pulsating with energy. Respect, trust, compassion and ultimately love brings us to this connection, which for me in the end is the purpose of existence, the deeper meaning of life. But we humans got so conditioned and cut off from the natural flow of energy, that we first must find our way back. This is the connection I am seeking with Ari, this is the connection I am seeking with humans too, it is just much more difficult than with animals who anyways already live in this balanced flow and can help us finding our way back too, if we are willing to take this step which includes working on ourselves constantly.
My biggest dream still is to gallop over a field without saddle, without bridle, without any tack, just being connected to Ari, melting into one. I know it will happen one day but first I have to get rid of my ego and live the connection I am talking about. I have to live this connection not only when being with horses but also outside of this sacred place. It’s our mindset that keeps us from even thinking that far, shutting us down from endless possibilities.
I fell off my horse three times before I started to listen to her. It was obvious that she didn’t felt comfortable, maybe she was even in pain having me on her back. It doesn’t matter anymore. I will not get on her back until the connection between the two of us has reached the level I am talking about. Ari is right…it’s much nicer to walk with a friend on eye level than being above someone.
What do you want?