I sat down with a book of heart-warming horse stories, only to put it aside in frustration upon reading that Secretariat died of "laminitis, an incurable foot disease." A glance on the back cover revealed that the authors had written a whole series of heart-warming books and, one presumes, had no particular interest in the horse stories over, say, the stamp-collecting ones.
A second visit to the horse shelf (is there another shelf in Borders?) produced much better results: Mark Rashid's Whole Heart, Whole Horse. Over the next hour and a half, I skimmed through the book and found it to be full of wisdom.
Lately I've been thinking about koans, construing not only George's bite to be one, but also a host of other questions involving either/or, this-or-that, yes-or-no.
So I was delighted to find that Rashid's book opens with a dream question that came to him. A voice in his head asks - Which is stronger - the water in the river or the rocks of the canyon? The answer comes to him - The water of course, because it has worn away the rock. But, later, a different answer presents itself: The rock is stronger, because it has remained, while the water which shaped the rock has long since disappeared. And then finally, he realizes - neither is stronger, it's a draw. He concludes that this dream was a response to the constant either/or training questions with which he is bombarded. Is it better to use a bit, or not? Is it better to do this, or that?
As I wasn't planning to buy the book (yet!), I copied out a few noteworthy passages and herewith share them with you.
I believe a mistake in the training or handling of a horse isn't wrong[.] A "mistake" just doesn't get the result we were expecting; it does, however, get a result. If we didn't get the result we were looking for, we try again. We need to remember that what the horse offers in response to our request is simply information - nothing more nothing less. It's not good or bad, it just is. The response to a request is simply a compass pointing us in the direction we should be traveling. It's not the end; it's often just the beginning. What we do next, not what we just did, will determine whether or not we make forward progress. (p. 20)
A behavior that's caught when it's in the form of a thought takes much less energy to redirect in the first place. Consequently, once the thought has turned into an action, that action becomes increasingly more difficult to redirect and often requires much more energy, to boot. (p.33)
Most of the time when we talk about establishing boundaries we are referring to making sure the horse is comfortable enough with himself that he doesn't feel like he has to be on top of us all the time. However, sometimes boundaries are also about opening ourselves up enough to let the horse know that being close isn't all that bad either. (p. 44)A couple of other points he makes which are worth remembering and repeating:
- When a horse runs, it exorcizes trauma; when he runs because we're chasing him, the trauma is exacerbated.
- With a horse, an emotional reaction immediately becomes a physical reaction. So a horse's behavior is always an indicator of how he feels.Rashid, like Widdicombe, is a down-to-earth kind of a guy. Ok, so he does Aikido and stuff, but he's a cowboy at heart, and reading his books makes you feel maybe this whole thing doesn't have to be quite as complicated as you've made it. Or does it? Another koan.
To conclude, here is a nose. Bridget's to be precise - checking out what goes on inside that thing the humans like to get into all the time.