I think that animals communicate in a far more subtle and connected way than humans. This morning, for example, I was packaging up my kitchen garbage – I grabbed the plastic straps to tie it shut and my young Doberman ran over excitedly, knowing that this indicated ‘go outside’. However, I had been messing with the garbage can for quite awhile before this, moving it around, cleaning, and lifting the bag… It was only when I actually took the ties and made a knot that he reacted. I guarantee that he has not seen this many times before, but he seemed to know what was in my mind…
My young Lusitano is the same way. Veleiro is very good at longeing and will continue steadily on a circle – unless I let my mind wander. Then, more immediately than I can register, he slows to a walk. I have experimented with this – making sure that my body position stays the same, then letting other thoughts enter for a moment. He reacts every time, as though my lack of mental picture of ‘us’ is enough to break the moment. If I am not committed enough to share the moment, neither is he.
As Klaus Hempfling says, “A horse can see through all masks.”
Horses seem to desire – or demand – this concentration from their human partners. It is what gives us the engagement that takes our horse relationship beyond what we have with our car. Yet, many riders and trainers treat horses like they are machines – applying a set of inputs that rarely change and expecting the same result over and over.
Women riders, in particular, also use their horses as therapists. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except when we bring our problems and agitated state of mind to the interaction. We must be fully present in order to share the highest relationship with the horse. It may mean getting off and putting him away for the day, if you are not in the right frame of mind. Or, perhaps you should stop arena work for the day and go out on a trail ride – it might be good for both you and your horse!