Now that the gnats, the heat and the humidity have kicked in around here, Silk likes to spend her afternoons standing in front of the fan in her daughter’s stall. Normally, when I appear with the green dinner buckets, she quickly ducks back over to her side of the barn to wait eagerly for the grain sprinkled with a chopped up carrot. So I was concerned that Silk might be sick a few nights ago when she flatly refused to move even as I shook the bucket and cajoled her to go back where she belonged.
I was frustrated at first. I tried to get behind her and push her butt to encourage her to move. She just looked over her shoulder and gave me a look like “Really? You’ve got to be kidding.” Determined to have my own way, I grabbed a halter and lead rope, put them on her and led Silk back to her stall. She followed me willingly, but after she ate, she stood there sadly and swished her tail and shook her head as the tiny no-see-ums nibbled her ears. I realized that my horse just didn’t understand why I forced her to leave the cool air stirred by the fan to return to the land of gnats where no breeze was blowing, It occurred to me that it didn’t really matter if she stayed in her stall. I was only insisting on it because it was my idea and I wanted her to be obedient. She could go back and stand in front of the fan all night if that made her feel better. So, I opened the door and let the horses choose where they wanted to sleep that sticky, hot night. And I asked myself, how often do I do things just because I want my own way and don’t want anyone else to get the upper hand?
Walking back to the house, I considered how much more insistent people have become about getting their own way. There’s been a cultural shift over the years since I was a kid that “giving in” implies weakness. Entitlement is no longer a dirty word. Not being “stepped on” often takes priority over consideration.
It made me think about something that Mark Rashid, one of my favorite horse trainers, recently wrote about his efforts to communicate with horses on a level that is as subtle as they communicate with each other/ A communication so almost invisible that most people do not even see it. He thinks that “to change the outside, you must change the inside first”. “We are taught to watch or feel for external changes in the horses we work with, but pay little attention to the internal changes. Even when we do look for internal changes in the horse, we often are paying little attention to what is going on inside of us.” Rashid wrote, “One of the things I also noticed as my own internal awareness began to improve is that my ability to see and feel internal changes in horses has not only improved, but it has gotten more accurate as well. Whereas in the past I might have had to wait for some tiny external change to occur before I would pick up on what the horse might be thinking or feeling, now I could sort of “feel” what was going to happen before the external change in the horse would actually show up.”
It’s no wonder that most of us aren’t able to easily attain that level of awareness with our animals or with other humans. We are often so intent on getting our own way that we miss much of what is actually going on around us. If we lose that relentless, often unconscious but controlling urge that rises up on the inside of ourselves, imagine how much easier it would be to deal with everyone else on the outside.