The One Lesson Horses Should Be Teaching Us, But We Are Not Listening

The Lesson

Rose awoke anx­ious again for the 3rd month in a row.  She was used to bit­ing off more than she can chew but this time she REALLY did it.

Sev­er­al months ago, a friend strug­gling with a risky preg­nan­cy asked Rose to take over her horse’s train­ing and care for a few months until the baby arrived and she was back rid­ing.  Although Rose knew the stress of anoth­er horse under her care would real­ly tax her phys­i­cal­ly and finan­cial­ly, she didn’t want to pass up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to help her friend or the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ride the horse.  So she agreed.  That week­end she packed the horse up and brought him to her farm.

Imme­di­ate­ly Rose and the horse hit it off.  They became great part­ners and Rose was learn­ing a lot.  With the owner’s per­mis­sion Rose start­ed show­ing and tak­ing clin­ics with the horse.  The sense of accom­plish­ment she felt from get­ting the horse back in shape and into the show ring was immense.  She was doing real­ly well, com­pet­ing against stiff com­pe­ti­tion and hold­ing her own.  On top of all that the horse shined, was muscling up and peo­ple around were notic­ing.

Odd­ly though she felt very unsup­port­ed.  At first, the own­er was too busy with her health and fam­i­ly and was eager to pass off the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the horse unto Rose. Sur­pris­ing­ly, Rose felt the own­er was some­what put off on how well she and the horse were bond­ing and doing togeth­er.  Maybe a lit­tle jeal­ousy, Rose thought.

In addi­tion, Rose’s train­er was being aloof about the whole project.  The train­er was unavail­able to sched­ule lessons and unable coach her at shows.  Rose felt more and more left out of the loop.  So she was super sur­prised when her train­er was post­ing Rose’s show results.  It just didn’t make sense.

Mean­while, Rose was get­ting more and more stressed.  She felt that the rela­tion­ship with both the horse’s own­er and her train­er was strained for unknown rea­sons to her.  And she felt very betrayed and bit­ter that hard­ly any­one was sup­port­ive of all that she had done with the horse.  She start­ed to feel threat­ened and tak­en advan­tage of.

Then it hit her.  The very les­son that hors­es are here to teach us, we aren’t learn­ing…

The rot­ting affects of the ego.

Ego Driven

It was Rose’s own ego that need­ed the recog­ni­tion and sup­port from the own­er, the train­er and fel­low rid­ers.  Her own ego want­ed some­one to stand up and notice what she had accom­plished.  When she didn’t get it, she felt used, threat­ened, unap­pre­ci­at­ed.  It spoiled the whole sit­u­a­tion and she even­tu­al­ly returned the horse hav­ing loved the oppor­tu­ni­ty but eager to end the stress and dis­ap­point­ment.

She also real­ized that sad­ly it was the owner’s ego that couldn’t real­ly stand that Rose and the horse were doing so well.  And it was the trainer’s ego that couldn’t sup­port her stu­dent dur­ing her time of shin­ing but was will­ing to post show results as it reflect­ed well on the train­er.  While Rose can’t be sure of other’s motives for their actions, she can reflect on the horse world at large and see where our ego has got­ten in the way.  How ego runs the horse world and we aren’t learn­ing the very thing that hors­es are so good at teach­ing.

She thought about it.  Why do some train­ers steal other’s clients or hors­es?  Ego.

Why do peo­ple get jeal­ous of oth­er rid­ers and can’t be sup­port­ive of those that are doing well?  Ego

Why do rid­ers (or just peo­ple in gen­er­al) sit back and judge anoth­er per­son on how they are rid­ing or how they are behav­ing when they have no idea of the person’s strug­gles?  Ego

Why do some rid­ers fol­low “the famous rid­ers” with undy­ing devo­tion?  Is it to ride on their coat tails?  Is it to bet­ter their own ego for just the asso­ci­a­tion?  Isn’t this again just ego?

Why are some train­ers so pro­tec­tive of their knowl­edge and won’t real­ly share the secrets of good rid­ing?  Ego

Why do some train­ers feel the need to belit­tle their stu­dents?  Ego

Why are rid­ers putting down oth­er rid­ers?  Ego

Why are some train­ers so para­noid about other’s steal­ing their clients?  Ego  Pos­si­bly we should all real­ize that clients are not ours to own and pos­sess?

Why are we con­stant­ly try­ing to bend the world to our way?  Ego

Why are we con­stant­ly try­ing to prove we are bet­ter than oth­ers?  Ego

Why are we scared of mess­ing up, espe­cial­ly at a show?  Ego

Why do we even show to begin with?  Ego

Why do we stop car­ing about the horse’s will and desire and replace it with our own?  Ego

Why do hors­es suf­fer at our plea­sure?  Ego

The Problem

Many years ago, I (Rebec­ca) watched a very famous train­er coach his stu­dents.  I was appalled by his atti­tude.  Demean­ing each stu­dent at every chance he got to the point of abuse.  Why?  To make him­self look bet­ter?  To make the stu­dent look bad?  To prove they real­ly need­ed his help?  What­ev­er the rea­son, it was entire­ly based on ego.  I vowed that day that I would nev­er ride under him no mat­ter what.  I have lived up to that promise.  Such a bla­tant dis­play of ego is not need­ed in this world and def­i­nite­ly not need­ed in the horse world.

But that is just a real­ly obvi­ous exam­ple of the ego.  In real­i­ty, the ego is much more sneaky.  Rais­ing it’s ugly head when we feel offend­ed by someone’s actions, when we feel unrec­og­nized or threat­ened in our knowl­edge or abil­i­ty, when we sneak­i­ly manip­u­late how some­one feels about anoth­er rid­er or train­er, or when we manip­u­late the sit­u­a­tion so that we gain.  The enlight­ened ego can be the sneaki­est of all.  We have all seen it.  The per­son who has found “the way”.  Again putting them­selves above those who haven’t.  It’s just anoth­er dis­guise of the ego.  When you have tru­ly found the path, the ego will not be involved.  You will not feel more pow­er­ful, more enlight­ened and more spe­cial.  You will not judge oth­ers on what you know and they don’t.  You will see your flaws.  You will be hum­bled by your exis­tence.

The biggest prob­lem… the horse world is so full of ego that it’s accept­ed and goes unno­ticed.  The show world relies on ego for it’s very exis­tence.  There are cov­et­ed Year End Awards, Rid­er Awards, Breed Awards, Rib­bons, Tro­phies.   Not to men­tion Cen­ter­line Scores or list­ing the famous train­er you worked under.  It’s all based on ego.  I’m not sure how we escape it.  It’s how you build a rep­u­ta­tion and a busi­ness.  It’s how you earn your liv­ing as a pro­fes­sion­al.

The Path, Are We Listening

Ego seems to be such a human thing. Hors­es don’t act on ego, they act on sur­vival.  They don’t move bet­ter so they get more rib­bons.  They don’t lie to their fel­low hors­es so they get bet­ter humans.  They don’t manip­u­late sit­u­a­tions to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty.  Instead, they are con­cerned about not being preyed upon, hav­ing enough food to eat, water to drink, shel­ter to get out of the ele­ments, a “fam­i­ly” herd for pro­tec­tion, being free from stress and if they are a stal­lion, a harem of mares to pass on their geneal­o­gy.  They enjoy our warm embrace and our prais­es.  They enjoy a free sup­ply of grass or hay and a reg­u­lar meal.  They enjoy not get­ting eat­en by tiger or horse flies.  Last­ly, they give us an exam­ple of how to be.

Maybe we should take a note from hors­es.  Hors­es act and react from a pure­ness that doesn’t exist in humans.  Maybe we should let go of our need to be bet­ter, right or supe­ri­or.  Maybe we should just be.  Be with our hors­es.  I strug­gle with this dai­ly.  It is a noble cause but I have not arrived.  What I hope is that each day I let go of my ego more.  That each day I learn from my hors­es way of being.

That brings me to anoth­er point.  Should we ride?  Should we com­pete?  I think that some will feel very dif­fer­ent­ly about this.  Don’t get me wrong.  This doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be the best or strive to be bet­ter.  It doesn’t mean we give up and do noth­ing.  It does mean that we leave our ego behind and make sure that our dai­ly motives are pure.  Our striv­ing to be bet­ter should be for the hors­es ben­e­fit.  Not to out ride the com­pe­ti­tion, to put our­selves up on a pedestal or to gain noto­ri­ety.  May I sug­gest that from here on out, that we ride from the heart.  Let go of the ego.  Rid­ing from the heart embraces always doing what is best for the horse, rid­ing with pas­sion for hors­es, rid­ing so we become bet­ter for our hors­es not for our own ego.

I hope that I can live this way.

I hope that when I fall flat on my face, that my fel­low horse men and women can give me a lift­ing hand with­out judge­ment.

I hope that when I show this week­end, I do it for the plea­sure of con­nect­ing with my horse as one, for the plea­sure of danc­ing with my part­ner and to inspire oth­ers to do the same.  Not for my ego!