• VOLUME 41 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
“Hey, can you watch this video on YouTube and tell me what you think?”
The request asked, I went and looked, expecting some good work. After all, this was an instructor and trainer of some fame and the few pictures of his work that I had seen in the past of this particular trainer were quite good. It took maybe sixty seconds for me to shake my head silently, eyes sad as I watched. I tried to find a kind, non-judgemental way to share what I was seeing. I did not want to seem too critical to someone who obviously idolized this trainer. But there was no way to escape the fact that this particular piece of work failed in a very fundamental way. The trainer thinking he was showing off with his horse on the lunge line, instead showing how completely unconnected he was to the horse, and vice versa, how completely unconnected the horse was to him! There was no relationship between his body language and what the horse was doing. His own body language and positioning were often contrary to what it seemed he wanted the horse to do. But it was disturbing to realize that not only did the trainer not recognize this lack of connection, but that neither did the viewer, not realizing at first that this was happening.
As I learn more and more, it is funny that the first thing I notice today is not how well a horse is tracking up, or if he is on the forehand, or even how pretty he looks. Today, one of the first things I notice when I see horse and human working together is whether they have a connection.
Sadly, this is true that in their interaction and training methods, so few have any kind of connection with their horses. The horse, either dull and apathetic, often deemed a well behaved horse, or a horse for an advanced rider as it powers across the arena with oohs and aahs at the explosive power of the horse, who is just looking to get away. For all the oohs and aahs the horse shows no connection, no feeling of being bonded or interested in the human either working him from the ground or working him from his back.
They seem to have lost the realization, if they ever had it, that they are working with sentient beings. We can argue over how intelligent they are, whether animals have a soul, or how alike or different their feelings and emotions are from ours, but we cannot doubt that they are sentient. They are aware - aware at a level that we cannot even begin to comprehend. A level we are just beginning to understand. We are just beginning to understand how intelligent they are and many are beginning to see the horse as a shimmering film, a window that is the merging point between what we see on the physical plane and the connection on another plane that we have yet to understand.
If we give any credence that they are sentient, that we are dealing with feeling beings, beings that experience emotions, whether we understand them or not, beings that feel pain, we have to admit that they can become confused, that they bond and can have close friendships with others. Knowing all of this, one is struck with one basic element of training or interacting with these incredible creatures which so many seem to overlook.