“. . . the human heart is not personal: the more we fathom our own hearts,
the more we find there the being of others and, beyond that, the very heart
of the world itself.”
Reginald Ray, “Looking Inward, Seeing Outward”
When I look inward, I find a heavy heart. I see now, with clichéd 20-20 hindsight, that it began a year ago, seeing outward, watching The Path of the Horse. Then, the photos of jumper tie-downs, now, the Blue Tongue video, the wrenching articles in Vol. 47, Enough is Enough – each added a bit more weight. At the same time, over the past year, reading and listening to teachers like Carolyn Resnick, Imke Spilker and Klaus Hempfling, there has been a lighter counterpoint, and new possibilities with my own horses. Still, I’ve had to face my own past destructiveness in all the small and large ways I’ve slipped backwards into the mindset and practice of the dominance horsemanship in which I grew up. There have been other threads in my life, like meditation practice, and ecopsychology, in which I’ve felt an inward-outward tension. Out of this mix have come unexpected connections, and a proposal, or a suggestion really, for a way to be present, not only to heavy heartedness, but outrage, and the feeling of helplessness in repeatedly seeing violations of the dignity of the horse.
I might not trust these connections and the proposal I’ll make shortly, but for an experience with a chestnut mare I call Copper. I took Copper to a trainer after she spooked, bucked, and as they say, contributed to an unplanned dismount. And I stood by when she was taken to a round pen. I deferred, failed her by disregarding my heart, and allowed her to become panicked and desperate. The trainer was not a bad man and in fact was a superb rider with an excellent reputation. He went on to give Copper much needed trail experience. But I knew I had betrayed her.
Several weeks ago, when I committed to respecting a “no,” I saw a lot of Copper’s rump when I’d arrive with a halter over my arm. But then, in the midst of questioning “how to respond?” to Rollkur, to all the ways horses are mistreated, I approached with the halter and Copper stepped towards me, gently easing her nose inside. When I turned and she freely walked beside me the seventy yards to the gate before I snapped on the lead, what moved me deeply was her willingness to start over, to bravely meet me in trust. Out of that meeting could healing arise.
What stood between Copper and me was betrayal and distrust. What all of us who care about Rollkur, who sign petitions while feeling outraged and helpless,are also in the midst of - grief and betrayal and distrust. This is where we too, have to start.
These dark emotions can overwhelm, and cause us to inwardly constrict, shutting down, because remaining open to them can be at best uncomfortable and at worst, painful. In constriction and resistance, we are pulled to counterattack, to defend what we love. When we humans are in pain, there is the danger of projecting what hurts inside onto those we see as the villains. What is bad is Out There. Out There in those who hurt horses, with harsh use of bits, or torturous methods of ‘training'. It is those riders, or trainers, or stewards, or the FEI who should be blamed. They injure the horse, destroying dignity, fracturing the soul. Except – says a small inner voice – it was me that allowed my mare into the round pen. The problem was ‘in here’ and not just ‘out there'.What began tobecome clear to me was that whatever shape action was to take, it had to embody compassion.
In Buddhism, there is a term called bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is not easily translated. ‘Bodhi’ means awake, or completely open, while ‘citta’ refers to both heart and mind. A completely open heart-mind can be as tender and vulnerable as an open wound. It took me nearly a day to really “get it”. In the midst of uncertainty and angst, when I became still and open inside, my mare turned to meet me in that tender and vulnerable place.
So this moment with my mare unfolded smack in the midst of weeks of hanging out with the fact of woundedness in the horse-human relationship. Was there a way to bring bodhicitta to meet the stark facts of abuse? How to avoid the stickiness, the strands that tangle us up in the web of helplessness, grief and anger? Could the grief evoked in response to abusive action somehowfind expression, or rather, a structure for expression?
I sensed that the structure had to
to HORSES For LIFE™ Online Magazine for full access to the exclusive
and educational monthly articles in every Issue. Register - Login and then USE
the "Subscribe"button in the left hand menu.
Your subscription includes access to
A FULL 3 PAST YEARS OF ISSUES!
Hundreds of Articles!!!
For the Instructor, For the Rider, For the Horse.
Horses For LIFE - For You!
OR Enjoy the free
articles in every issue available for Registered Members! Registration
is FREE! Look for the asterisk * that denotes Free Articles!
Please note all resources presented are copyright protected by the original owners and reprinted with permission OR Copyright Horses For Life Publications 2005 to 2010 Please note this copyright must be included in all printed or copied versions of this article.