Self Development

Life lessons from a horse

As I mentioned in my previous post, this summer I was very lucky to spend a week at a horse ranch. The horse ranch belongs to my husband’s uncle who is a dressage instructor. Until now, I never had any direct contact with horses and I never got the chance to analyze their overall appearance and most importantly their behavior in regards to humans. Seeing them so close, I was so struck by the elegance of their body and especially by their large, prominent and expressive eyes.

I was really impressed by the amount of care, love and dedication that my husband’s uncle showed towards these animals. We spend several evenings discussing about horses, their behavior and how you need to relate to them in order to achieve a trustworthy relationship. At one point he said: “I know how a person is by the way they behave or react to a horse. You cannot lie in your relationship with a horse. The way you are and your psychology comes out immediately once you come in contact with them.” As opposed to other animals, the horse reacts as a mirror to the person in front of it. The horse gives you immediate feedback about your own actions and your body language. If you are tense and nervous, the horse will mirror this feeling. A horse is looking for simple and clear commands. Once he feels safe and peaceful, he will cooperate immediately.

So I closely observed my behavior around the horse and the way I related with it. I was fearful and timid; his tall body intimidated me. But I was very interested in him and I had a huge desire to make him like me. I was very eager to establish with him a very quick and deep connection. I wanted him to trust me right away and to know that I would never harm him. I tried to pet him several time, maybe a bit too much. I was scared that he would be annoyed by my signs of affection. I didn’t trust him. I was hesitant whether to get close or give him space. I wasn’t sure if he liked me or he wanted me to get away from him. I analyzed him from head to toes and I was very aware of every feature and movement. I was worried about what he was thinking. I felt him fearful, timid and distant. I felt like he needed time to trust me and I wasn’t understanding why. I felt frustrated for not being able to get a dog like reaction. I realized that this relationship would need time… I felt frustrated.

And now looking at what I just wrote, I realize that this is exactly how I am when I come in contact with a new person. The horse was my mirror… and this is how I am, not only when I come in contact with an animal, but with every single human being that I meet. Doesn’t that say a lot?

All these talks and analysis got me thinking about how much a relationship with an animal can teach you about yourself and your relationship with others. It is not surprising that horses are used so often in therapy. Since they are such large and often intimidating creatures, they allow us to gain confidence and trust when dealing with overpowering situations. The horse gives you immediate feedback about your own actions and body language. It also teaches you in a much more natural way the art of nonverbal communication and the ability to establish a relationship without focusing only on words.

You would think that these would be enough life lessons from a horse for the holidays! 🙂  But there’s more! In the coming days I will share another post about horses and non-violent communication.

Photo credits: Anamaria Olaru

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