The One Lesson Horses Should Be Teaching Us, But We Are Not Listening

The Lesson

Rose awoke anxious again for the 3rd month in a row.  She was used to biting off more than she can chew but this time she REALLY did it.

Several months ago, a friend struggling with a risky pregnancy asked Rose to take over her horse’s training and care for a few months until the baby arrived and she was back riding.  Although Rose knew the stress of another horse under her care would really tax her physically and financially, she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to help her friend or the opportunity to ride the horse.  So she agreed.  That weekend she packed the horse up and brought him to her farm.

Immediately Rose and the horse hit it off.  They became great partners and Rose was learning a lot.  With the owner’s permission Rose started showing and taking clinics with the horse.  The sense of accomplishment she felt from getting the horse back in shape and into the show ring was immense.  She was doing really well, competing against stiff competition and holding her own.  On top of all that the horse shined, was muscling up and people around were noticing.

Oddly though she felt very unsupported.  At first, the owner was too busy with her health and family and was eager to pass off the responsibility of the horse unto Rose. Surprisingly, Rose felt the owner was somewhat put off on how well she and the horse were bonding and doing together.  Maybe a little jealousy, Rose thought.

In addition, Rose’s trainer was being aloof about the whole project.  The trainer was unavailable to schedule lessons and unable coach her at shows.  Rose felt more and more left out of the loop.  So she was super surprised when her trainer was posting Rose’s show results.  It just didn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, Rose was getting more and more stressed.  She felt that the relationship with both the horse’s owner and her trainer was strained for unknown reasons to her.  And she felt very betrayed and bitter that hardly anyone was supportive of all that she had done with the horse.  She started to feel threatened and taken advantage of.

Then it hit her.  The very lesson that horses are here to teach us, we aren’t learning…

The rotting affects of the ego.

Ego Driven

It was Rose’s own ego that needed the recognition and support from the owner, the trainer and fellow riders.  Her own ego wanted someone to stand up and notice what she had accomplished.  When she didn’t get it, she felt used, threatened, unappreciated.  It spoiled the whole situation and she eventually returned the horse having loved the opportunity but eager to end the stress and disappointment.

She also realized that sadly it was the owner’s ego that couldn’t really stand that Rose and the horse were doing so well.  And it was the trainer’s ego that couldn’t support her student during her time of shining but was willing to post show results as it reflected well on the trainer.  While Rose can’t be sure of other’s motives for their actions, she can reflect on the horse world at large and see where our ego has gotten in the way.  How ego runs the horse world and we aren’t learning the very thing that horses are so good at teaching.

She thought about it.  Why do some trainers steal other’s clients or horses?  Ego.

Why do people get jealous of other riders and can’t be supportive of those that are doing well?  Ego

Why do riders (or just people in general) sit back and judge another person on how they are riding or how they are behaving when they have no idea of the person’s struggles?  Ego

Why do some riders follow “the famous riders” with undying devotion?  Is it to ride on their coat tails?  Is it to better their own ego for just the association?  Isn’t this again just ego?

Why are some trainers so protective of their knowledge and won’t really share the secrets of good riding?  Ego

Why do some trainers feel the need to belittle their students?  Ego

Why are riders putting down other riders?  Ego

Why are some trainers so paranoid about other’s stealing their clients?  Ego  Possibly we should all realize that clients are not ours to own and possess?

Why are we constantly trying to bend the world to our way?  Ego

Why are we constantly trying to prove we are better than others?  Ego

Why are we scared of messing up, especially at a show?  Ego

Why do we even show to begin with?  Ego

Why do we stop caring about the horse’s will and desire and replace it with our own?  Ego

Why do horses suffer at our pleasure?  Ego

The Problem

Many years ago, I (Rebecca) watched a very famous trainer coach his students.  I was appalled by his attitude.  Demeaning each student at every chance he got to the point of abuse.  Why?  To make himself look better?  To make the student look bad?  To prove they really needed his help?  Whatever the reason, it was entirely based on ego.  I vowed that day that I would never ride under him no matter what.  I have lived up to that promise.  Such a blatant display of ego is not needed in this world and definitely not needed in the horse world.

But that is just a really obvious example of the ego.  In reality, the ego is much more sneaky.  Raising it’s ugly head when we feel offended by someone’s actions, when we feel unrecognized or threatened in our knowledge or ability, when we sneakily manipulate how someone feels about another rider or trainer, or when we manipulate the situation so that we gain.  The enlightened ego can be the sneakiest of all.  We have all seen it.  The person who has found “the way”.  Again putting themselves above those who haven’t.  It’s just another disguise of the ego.  When you have truly found the path, the ego will not be involved.  You will not feel more powerful, more enlightened and more special.  You will not judge others on what you know and they don’t.  You will see your flaws.  You will be humbled by your existence.

The biggest problem… the horse world is so full of ego that it’s accepted and goes unnoticed.  The show world relies on ego for it’s very existence.  There are coveted Year End Awards, Rider Awards, Breed Awards, Ribbons, Trophies.   Not to mention Centerline Scores or listing the famous trainer you worked under.  It’s all based on ego.  I’m not sure how we escape it.  It’s how you build a reputation and a business.  It’s how you earn your living as a professional.

The Path, Are We Listening

Ego seems to be such a human thing. Horses don’t act on ego, they act on survival.  They don’t move better so they get more ribbons.  They don’t lie to their fellow horses so they get better humans.  They don’t manipulate situations to gain popularity.  Instead, they are concerned about not being preyed upon, having enough food to eat, water to drink, shelter to get out of the elements, a “family” herd for protection, being free from stress and if they are a stallion, a harem of mares to pass on their genealogy.  They enjoy our warm embrace and our praises.  They enjoy a free supply of grass or hay and a regular meal.  They enjoy not getting eaten by tiger or horse flies.  Lastly, they give us an example of how to be.

Maybe we should take a note from horses.  Horses act and react from a pureness that doesn’t exist in humans.  Maybe we should let go of our need to be better, right or superior.  Maybe we should just be.  Be with our horses.  I struggle with this daily.  It is a noble cause but I have not arrived.  What I hope is that each day I let go of my ego more.  That each day I learn from my horses way of being.

That brings me to another point.  Should we ride?  Should we compete?  I think that some will feel very differently about this.  Don’t get me wrong.  This doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be the best or strive to be better.  It doesn’t mean we give up and do nothing.  It does mean that we leave our ego behind and make sure that our daily motives are pure.  Our striving to be better should be for the horses benefit.  Not to out ride the competition, to put ourselves up on a pedestal or to gain notoriety.  May I suggest that from here on out, that we ride from the heart.  Let go of the ego.  Riding from the heart embraces always doing what is best for the horse, riding with passion for horses, riding so we become better for our horses not for our own ego.

I hope that I can live this way.

I hope that when I fall flat on my face, that my fellow horse men and women can give me a lifting hand without judgement.

I hope that when I show this weekend, I do it for the pleasure of connecting with my horse as one, for the pleasure of dancing with my partner and to inspire others to do the same.  Not for my ego!