How Spirituality Can Deepen the Equine-Human Bond for Enlightened Horsemanship

 

Silence.

"Silence is a source of great strength." - Lao Tzu

What I mean by silence. Let me start by asking you a couple questions. Do you take the time to ever just be with yourself? This means no phone, no TV or streaming, no Internet, no background noise, no music, nothing but yourself. How often do you “disconnect” from society and go into a deep meditation or go for a walk in nature (without the damn phone)?

We all have busy lives, of course, but the increasing pressures of social media and being addicted to notifications and "what’s the latest trend" as a society brings a certain mental and emotional fatigue. I enjoy social media as much as anybody else, it can be a powerful tool when leveraged properly. However, I’ve also learned to take more time for myself in the real world and restrict the time spent on social media by adhering to a schedule. To avoid further scrolling temptation and getting sucked into the time consuming social media vacuum, I have my posts on an auto scheduler. I find this works to keep all the negativity at bay while I immerse myself in my “real life” activities.

Photos, videos, and news can be altered to appear any way the person or company behind the scenes want to project it, to you, the viewer. I appreciate seeing beautiful videos and images, but because of my background in digital marketing, I also understand they are illusions. Just like the cool special effects in some of my favorite movies, I realize they are illusions. I have come to view social media much the same way. Of course, there are serious, true stories, news, and articles, but for the most part, fluff and negativity reign.

Sitting in silence gives you the ability to reflect on things and prioritize your life. On a personal level for me, I won't write or post something that isn't authentic to me. I share what's meaningful to me and if it resonates or vibes with someone, great. If not, I good with that too. I'm not into impressing anybody because that doesn't offer any real value or fulfillment. Being in silence has offered new insight into what matters in my life. Absolutely everything is about personal perspective and the more involved you become with realizing how important your time is and that not every image we view is “real,” the healthier and better we will be as a society. But, we can't get there if we are distracted by our thoughts and fed a constant streaming flow of digital content.

I enjoy the pictures of fancy horses, matching tack and the piaffe videos of horses with graceful cadence. But I really wonder what drives them to constantly put up these photos and videos of glitz and glam. Is it to show off, attract sponsors, gain adoration, or what? When it comes to horses, let's not forget about what really matters behind all this. What matters is the relationship between horse and human, and what it takes to really achieve something beautiful together. No fancy saddle pad, $400 pair of breeches or blinged out bridle or any material item can fulfill or replace that connection. I think what’s missing and gets lost in all these images is the depth and connection experienced by horse and rider in the effort to attract or keep sponsors, these images portray an empty materialistic lifestyle. #PseudoEquestrianLifestyle if you will. How's that for a hashtag? Don’t get me wrong, sponsorships are a wonderful thing and of course, I understand not everyone posting photos and videos is seeking that. What I'm saying is these images are examples of how easy it is to get lost in the clutter and distractions of life. If we aren't careful, we believe these things are "the truth" and we must learn to master our time and defend our minds from the constant barrage of negativity and the feeling of “you’re not enough” if your life doesn’t look like this. 

A powerful tool is meditation and learning to be with silence. Sitting in meditation before my day begins, has done wonders for getting centered and after meditation, my mind is clear and focused. No social media or distractions come before I center myself and get my priorities in order for the day. Only then do I check my social media accounts and email at a designated time. Learning how to just sit in silence and be with yourself is probably the most important piece of advice I could share for maintaining a healthy frame of mind. And with a healthy frame of mind, you can offer a more piece of yourself to your horse.


Spirituality.

"Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. 'Know thyself' is not a narcissistic pursuit." - Marianne Williamson

What do I mean by spirituality? Let me start with what I don't mean. I’m not talking about religion or any type of organized, categorized labels of beliefs. I’m talking about where you are in your life and your connection to your soul and the development of your relationship with whatever you call God or Universe. Maybe I lost you there, but that's ok. Introspection provides insight into yourself at the deepest level and you can get there by embracing those moments of silence that I just spoke about. Spirituality is deeply personal for every individual. I understand that even the word “spirituality” conjures up its own set of connotations or triggers “woo-woo” types of ideas. However, for me, it’s about going into myself and doing some "me work".  I start to think about what I can do to improve not just my own life, but all those around me and how they might benefit. My attention to personal development helps me tune into my intuition and listen to my “inner callings.” As horse people, we feel “called” to be of service to them. For some reason or another, we are intrinsically and internally drawn to horses. Maybe you don’t equate spirituality with your love of horses, but there's a special something that brings the presence of equines in your life.

 
Horsemanship.

"I call horses 'divine mirrors' - they reflect back the emotions you put in. If you put in love and respect and kindness and curiosity, the horse will return that." - Dr. Allan Hamilton

What does all this have to do with horsemanship? It is my belief that as we evolve and grow on a personal and humanistic level, we naturally become more in touch with spirituality (whether we call it that or not) and it deepens our sense of empathy. This allows us the ability for compassion towards all living things,  especially if we have a love of horses. A great horse(wo)man works with the horse as he/she is and takes the time understand them. If you force a horse into the mold YOU see fit, they will break. And often times, there's no coming back from that tragedy. In order to understand the unspoken language of a horse, you have to ask deep questions about yourself while considering their perspective. For example, if you ask a horse to do something and they refuse or don’t quite give to you in the manner you expect—you have to take a moment to really reflect on why it wasn't a success. Maybe you asked them incorrectly and caused them misinterpret, or they have pain or some other limitation and they simply can’t. It’s your responsibility to understand the horse, be patient, compassionate and find a way to make your relationship successful based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. These are all the qualities poor and ego-driven horse(wo)man lack. They are often cruel to a horse when s/he is perceived as disobedient. And cruelty is a dead end road, it only leads to fear, disappointment, pain, and resentment—even in an animal as kind and generous as a horse.

If you want to deepen your bond with your horse, you must first understand yourself at a deeper level. It’s true you grow by working with your horse but it's an even more powerful personal experience to understand your shortcomings. Becoming more connected to my inner-self through silence and spirituality has brought about a sense of peace about my place within the universe. As I look back and reflect, I've moved along much further and deeper into my abilities to connect with the horses I work with. As a lifelong equestrian, I can truly say, my relationship with horses is everything. Horses are not only a way of life, but a privilege. Deepening the bond with them can only be attained if we know who we are, what we can give them and what we stand for as a human being.

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