To ride or not to ride….

As a little girl I clearly remember my fascination with and passion for horses. I recall the stirring butterflies in my belly watching the TV show Black Beauty and the almost overwhelming excitement I felt when we drove to the “ranch” where I attended riding lessons. Although riding was the ultimate dream, being around horses in any way satisfied my soul.

Looking back, I cannot quite grasp what it was about riding that me yearn so much. Perhaps, the chance to feel free and alive like I was on top of the world and to feel power and strength beneath my little body but there seemed to be so much more.

As I reflect on those days and compare them to my current journey I notice a slight shift in perspective. When I am working with and training members of our herd, regardless of whether I am riding or not, I am lost in time. If this was the only thing that I could ever do, I would be completely fulfilled and my heart full of joy.

What I notice now is a feeling of complete reverence for horses as sentient beings. Even as a small child I felt that horses and humans were equal. While I couldn’t have explained it back then I knew this truth in every cell of my body. When I am with horses it is about the relationship I share with each one. Each horse is unique; each has a story and a perspective on life. When I am observing and paying attention I find I learn many things. Sometimes it is about myself and other times it is about the horse but it is always about connection.

When I focus my attention on the relationship I understand that it isn’t about what we are doing but rather how we are being together. It may just be me spending time leaning against the fence and watching them sleep, walking aimlessly in the field as they graze, or running playfully together in the spring sun. The value is not the doing but in the being.

Which brings me to point of this article. I find myself moving away from offering horsemanship programs that emphasize riding. This has been a gradual shift after years of teaching, training and competing. My reasons for doing so are part of who I am today and how I perceive the interconnectedness of life.

For centuries horses have been by our side. They have farmed with us, explored new territory, and been status symbols. They have carried us through the ravages of war and, despite their own fear as prey animals, have galloped courageously to their own deaths. Even today many people still believe that horses are here to do with what we will: to control and dominate over, or to use until they can be used no longer.

In order for us to change our world, be kinder, feel more connected, and have healthier relationships, we need to honor the two and four legged, furry and feathery creatures with whom we share this planet. We need to see them as worthy of love, kindness and respect, much like we want to be given ourselves. This is where I find myself in regards to teaching. Horsemanship is not just about riding. It’s about forging a connection with our horse companion through deepening an understanding of ourselves and our relationship to others. In this way, we not only create space for a better riding experience but a safer one. Moreover, as we learn to connect on this level with horses, it naturally translates into how we relate to others in our community. So, while I still teach people how to ride or improve their performance in a ring, the foundation of my work in on relationship.

Riding a horse is, without doubt, an exhilarating past time. But until we truly feel this connection and join in relationship with horses as our equals, the riding will be just that, a past time. Horses can give us so much more if we only open ourselves up to the opportunity. This is about being Empowered by Horses. Check out our programs for more information.

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