I haven’t felt like writing much since having to say goodbye to my little horse. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything, really. I have pushed through and thanks to the generosity of people who owed me absolutely nothing, I have managed to keep sane and keep riding.
I have had some projects to keep my mind occupied, but these same projects have also got my mind spinning! After the loss of my beautiful Babaki, I kept wondering – and I still do – whether humans have any place sitting on a horse’s back, using tack on them that can and does in the wrong hands, turn into instruments of torture. I have always loved horses, but I have never felt more “at one” with them, than when on their backs. This leaves me conflicted. I love horses but do they really even enjoy our company? I love riding and that feeling of absolute unison with a horse, but do horses really feel the same way, or are they simply such compliant creatures that they will do anything to keep the peace, or from being hurt?
Just as dogs can’t actually see a human as a pack leader, I very sincerely doubt that any horse can view a human as a member of the herd, never mind their “leader”! We don’t look like them – we walk on two legs, we don’t even have mobile ears and our eyes are in the wrong place altogether! To me it just seems like one of those very arrogant human assumptions that will get us into trouble at some point. Most horses are just incredibly generous of spirit and would do anything to keep their environments as peaceful as possible, even if that means enduring pain – both physical and mental.
I always giggle quietly at the term “natural horsemanship” ; it’s a bit of an oxymoron really. (and I am not the first person to have said this!) As far as I am concerned, there is nothing natural about even as much as a rope on a horse. Although we can certainly learn to use our bodies in a way that they can learn to understand we surely can’t communicate like them and it takes years of being around them and physically paying attention to them before we can even begin to understand what they communicate to each other and attempt to communicate to us.
But back to my two projects. They are both young mares that I have been asked to help start. The one is by all human standards rather spoilt and lacks respect. Although she is small, she has already learnt that when those two hind feet fly at a fragile human, they will move out of the way. She is by no means an evil horse, but in the wrong hands, could so easily become a very real threat to a human handler / rider. The problem, as always, is not the horse. It is the human. But the fact remains that if she got “messed up” and becomes a danger, unrideable and of no further use to humans, she would meet a very sad end. There is no place for a horse like that in equestrian society. And what irks me about this, is that it was never her fault. She was just being a horse, adjusting to her environment as created by us.
The other one, is quite the opposite. Very relaxed and happy to co-operate. Thus far, we have had no issues and she has been a super horse to work with and ride. I am completely in love with this horse! And yet, I find myself in a conundrum. I want to start taking her places, so “naturally” (pun intended), the next step is to teach her to load in a horse trailer.
So there I find myself with a horse standing with two front feet on the ramp of the trailer, looking at me and asking: “Why must I go in that rickety claustrophobic tin box on wheels? I do not understand? Why are you making me do this?” I can think of plenty reasons why I would like her to get in but I cannot think of one single reason that would be good enough for her, as a horse, why she should want to climb into that box. My reasons all seem selfish…
People come past and see me struggling with a horse who will not load. Some even stop to offer advice. They mean well, but they cannot begin to fathom the depth of my true struggle. How can I expect her to get in, if I’m not even convinced.The only truly compelling reason to teach her to trust me enough to climb into what she sees as a death-trap, is in case there is an emergency and she needs to be taken somewhere. Because humans know what is best…but do we? Do we really know?
One of the hardest things for me to accept about my own horse’s condition was how tremendous her pain must have been. And she never complained. Never tried to hurt me and never tried to argue. The guilt still eats eat me. How could I not have noticed? I just never knew. It doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse.
So here I stand, talking to a horse that is half-way in and half-way out of the trailer, trying to convince her that what I want is what she needs…but even I am unconvinced.