Whenever I get tetchy, my husband will not-so-subtly say: “Don’t you think you should go see your horse?” For even he, the analytical left-brain introvert understands that when I come back, my mood will have lifted, my mind will have cleared and I will just be a more pleasant person to be around in general.
I myself don’t know how it works, or why, but going out to the farm and spending time with the equids, just makes me happy. It always has and I suspect it always will. It could be argued that it is just the fresh air and the getting-away-from-it-all aspect that allows me to relax. But it isn’t. Going for a walk around the block or to the park just doesn’t have the same effect. And when I haven’t managed to get away to the farm for an extended period of time, I feel… Well, I feel like a junkie jonesing for a hit!
The feeling peaked at the end of my pregnancies; especially the second one which left me as bloated as a whale carcass and equally elegant. But my body was used to me riding and even my doctor understood the mental well being it provided, so I rode for as long as I could. But there came a point where although I managed to get on the horse and stay up there, it became very hard to dismount on account of the big stomach.
Even my horse understood how important it was for me to be able to keep riding and my normally flighty, spooky mare became the epitome of calm and quiet. Many people joked that I was a better rider while I was pregnant! This may well have had something to do with the vast amounts of calming hormones (those same ones that make you so tired, pregnant ladies!) that was coursing through my veins. Horses are very in tune with their bodies and the others members of their herd’s, and therefore also ours. When we relax, they relax. The converse is unfortunately also true…
Having spent many hours on the backs of just-started youngsters, I’ve come to realise that the key thing is to be quiet and in control. The horse is actually more scared than you are and believe it or not, the first time the rider falls off a horse, the horse gets a much bigger fright than the rider!
It still breaks my brain when I try to understand why horses actually allow us to ride them, or even halter them and load them into horse boxes. It goes against every fiber of who and what they are! A horse has been adapted to move. Move, move and then move some more. Wild and feral horses will walk for many kilometers in a single day in order to graze enough and to find water.
Living in a herd gives them some safety from danger, but when predators do attack, they can also move really fast. If you are a horse and something jumps on your back, it very likely is trying to kill and eat you. If another animal corners you and you have nowhere to run, you are probably on the dinner menu.
How then, do they trust humans enough to put ropes around their heads, climb on their backs and confine them to living quarters that in human terms, would resemble sleeping in your loo. And then I’m not talking about the big bathroom with all amenities in one room – I mean that tiny little box with the toilet in it.
The majority of people start out afraid of horses, despite the fact that we are the predators and they are prey animals. I suppose it’s their size that’s intimidating. But horses are not dangerous because they plot to kick or bite or hurt us. They have the potential to be dangerous because they are large flight animals and in their need to get away from perceived danger, there is the possibility that a frail human could be in the wrong place. Luckily, if you take the time to get to know them well enough and understand why they react the way they do, the probabilities of getting hurt decline dramatically. As almost everything in life, it’s all about communication. Horses have so much to teach us humans; on every level of our being.