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Full House Farm: Harmony With Horses

Philosophy History Articles
"The lasting revolution comes from deep change in ourselves."
Anais Nin

 

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Journals ] Annual Letter 2004 ] Annual Letter 2005 ] Annual Letter 2006 ] Annual Letter 2007 ] Annual Letter 2011 ] Annual Letter 2012 ]

March 30, 2004

True Leaders

(You may wish to read "Brave Boy!" before you read "True Leaders")
I have had only one surgery in my life. I was seven years old and had my appendix removed. I remember very little about the incident, really. I know I was sleeping over at someone's house and in the morning went home earlier than I normally would have. I was in very acute pain as I walked home. I remember being in the hospital and wearing a shower cap thingy before surgery. I can recall the mask of gas going over my face and counting backwards. Then, I remember as I woke later, vomiting. I wanted to get out of the hospital very quickly and was told I could check out when I could walk to the bathroom on my own. I made darn sure I walked to the bathroom by myself that day! Hospitals were not for me.

I have never liked hospitals. I had my two children at home so I would not have to go into a hospital. I don't like strangers touching me and I hate the loss of control over decisions that I have always experienced in association with hospitals. Horses have to deal with these issues every day, especially if they are rental horses or school horses. Even privately owned horses have to deal with strangers and no control, as the owners bring friends over or call in a vet or other professional care giver for horses. Horses assess who is moving who every moment of their life and whenever humans are involved it is most frequently the human who moves the horse, one way or another.

The day Indy was gelded, I went out to lunch with Dave after the vet left and the horses were comfortably eating. As we sat in our booth, the couple in the booth behind me started talking about horses. The woman said she had an aunt who had a horse and she had gone to visit once and rode while she was there. She said the horse she got did not listen to her. As I listened, so impolitely, I couldn't help getting a smile on my face as she said this. Ok, I thought, so who wasn't listening? Then, the man she was with said something about "horses like that" and I found the smile on my face fading. My thoughts roamed to my desire to figure out how I could help people to change the way they think about horses.

It hurts my sensibilities to hear (that's what I get for eaves dropping) horses being talked about like that. We take so many liberties with horses, expecting them to drop everything they are doing the moment we walk into their home. We wrap equipment around sensitive body parts and pull or push the horse around, unaware for the most part of the struggle the horse has to maintain it's balance. Domesticated horses have learned to allow themselves to be pulled around in order to keep their balance and avoid conflict.

Even the most well-meaning of us humans frequently takes for granted the invasive behavior the horse tolerates. I hate going to hospitals because I don't like strangers touching me. I don't think I am alone in that feeling. Most people don't really like strangers touching them, yet horses have strangers touching them all the time. Maybe we'll have a friend come over and the friend wants to go for a ride or wants to go see the horse. The horse may be eating or sleeping or playing with it's friends and we bring out our friend, like the horse has been waiting all day for us to bring this stranger out. The stranger then expects to be able to "pet" the horse. Some horses tolerate this and some do not. Yet, most of the time it does not really matter how the horse feels about it. The petting happens, like it or not. The sad fact is that most of the time horses are "owned" by someone who adores their horse. They would feel terrible if they were to suddenly be aware of their horse's needs on this level. Yet, our perspective must change if we are to hear the lessons the horse has to teach. Until we notice that we are giving the horse no choice, as if they don't desire choice or even have the capacity to make a choice, we will continue to behave as if we are victims ourselves.

Victims believe they have no choice. When we behave as if others, including our horses, have no choice, we define how we view our own core existence. The woman in the restaurant said the horse did not listen. She told how she would turn it left and it would go right. This horse was not trained very well, she said. I wonder why we expect to be obeyed without any prior relationship or any agreement? Furthermore, it occurred to me that it was very likely this woman was in fact saying turn right, even though she thought she was saying turn left. If we travel to a foreign country and say something to the countryman there and get something totally different than we asked for, do we consider we may have said something incorrectly? This rarely occurs to the person handling the horse. We just know we are right and the horse is wrong. We treat the horse as a victim should be treated. It is in the treating of others as victims that we in turn victimize ourselves. We are not apart from the whole, but rather a part of it. How we treat the world around us is how we treat ourselves.

Yet, I am reminded by such brave behavior as Indie displayed on the day he was gelded and by the conversation I overheard later , that horses allow themselves to be moved in ways I would abhore. I struggled across the hospital floor, bent nearly double in order to make it to the bathroom on my own and hence be released. I , at least, knew what was happening to me to a large degree. I knew I was sick and had to go to the hospital to be helped. I knew that I was supposed to wake up after I was put to sleep by the gas. I knew I could go home if I just walked to the bathroom. The horse, and countless other animals including other humans, are not so lucky.

Perhaps the true leaders in life are those who know how to follow, know how to step aside when they must, can endure and accept the indignities and discomfort of strangers touching them and the prospect of being given no choice in any matter until such time as those who flounder like fledglings in life can see that the very ones they have treated so badly are the ones who can offer them the greatest lessons in how to live.

 

 
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Photos Copyright 2004 Barbara Bourne Photography, all rights reserved.
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