“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” -Socrates-
Everything I’ve learned in life can be explained through the lens of horsemanship. I realize that may sound crazy to those who’ve walked a different path, but it’s accurate and probably one of the reasons equine connected therapy is so effective for humans.
By example, my own horse is easily described as “spooky.” It’s not because he dabbles in the occult although he does seem to see things others don’t. Both visible and invisible stimuli activate his flight mechanism frequently and with little warning. It’s totally possible there are ghosts involved. With Chance it’s always wise to be present and sit deep.
Chance is opposed to change. Any change. Moving a table from inside the arena to outside gives him the jitters. Putting jumps in a place they’ve never been makes him think wolves are near. Taking a trip in the horse trailer to another location, even if he has been there before, gives him the vapors. He will voice his objections and offer elaborate and energetic displays of interpretive dance to emphasize his concerns. He lives his life in condition orange, with a hair trigger to red for those of you who follow tactical nomenclature.
Of course his example is extreme. He is a prey animal who leans towards flight over fight whenever possible. But are we humans really that different?
We also dislike change. The idea of things being other than expected gives us nervous tics. We resist innovation more than we embrace it. And it’s a primal response because familiarity feels safer than the new and unknown.
We sometimes strike out at one another in response to the fear we feel when things change. Social media maximizes on our base response to change leaving us all aflutter over the latest outrage or dire prediction.
I firmly believe, after much practice, that if I dislike an invention or new approach to an old problem, y’all should invest in that thing because it’s going to be a huge success and I will be totally dependent on it in under 5 years. Just because we don’t like change, doesn’t mean we are being rational about it’s potential to improve our lives or offer us valuable lessons.
Horses teach horse people to be more rational than normal. Experienced horse people know that when the horse is afraid and getting ready to spook, the safest most effective response is a quiet spirit, reassuring words and patient understanding of their fear. We are kind as we show them the new thing isn’t a threat to them. The horse learns to accept new things because we use persuasion rather than force.
With horses, we are careful to find our common ground and use that understanding to build our partnership and live in companionship with one another. We depend on one another. The horse trades for feed, shelter and veterinary care, we trade for companionship, strength to perform work we can’t and emotional support that’s hard to convey to the non-horse person.
As we enter a new decade, I have a dream that humans can learn to treat each other the way great horse people treat horses. With patience and understanding of our differences, and appreciation for our shared humanity and common ground. I hope we can evolve to become better partners in our future goals and dreams.
Happy New Year