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Of Horses and Humans, why ride and do they like us

Dear Franklin,

My name is Thalia, I am 23 years old and I live in Greece. I found your site through the Greek website
and I read most of your articles and your answers to owners facing problems with their horses.....The way you write about horses, speaks to my heart. When reading what you have written, I feel like reading what I wish I could have written myself if I had your knowledge and experience....That is why I have chosen you to share my thoughts about an issue involving horses that has troubled me since the very first time I rode a horse........It's a question to which I hope I one day find the answer so I can ride with an untroubled mind.......and this question is, why are we riding them?

Everybody involved in horse riding would claim he rides because he loves horses.....but is this the case? Even if when every measure is taken so that the horse is not stressed, afraid, bored or in pain, how can we be sure that the horse feels nice when we ride it, and that we do not simply take advantage of the fact that it is an animal who likes to please us because we ourselves, have made it to depend on us? We force these magnificent creatures to live in small boxes, wear all sorts of equipment on them, jump over obstacles under our command and perform difficult dressage exercises, when none of these procedures takes place in their natural environment....

You say that we should be "loving parents" for the horses, and this makes them feels nice and secure.... but why should we replace their natural parents or leaders in the herd? Why don't we let them live in peace in the wild, and love them from a distance? Do horses really need human beings and to what extent?

Personally, I haven't been able to experience more overwhelming, pleasant emotions than these that I feel when I am around or riding horses....they are my passion, and the only ones that inspire me......but the thought that by going to an equestrian center and paying money to ride a horse, I contribute to their slavery, feels me with guilt. I wish I could find a way to be with them without causing them the slightest annoyence, the slightest uncomfort or oppression. I wish someone or something could assure me that the irreplaceable feelings of completion and unison with the nature that I experience when riding a horse are equal to what horses experience when being ridden........

Is it ever possible that a horse would choose a human for its companion, than its herd?

Sorry for my long e-mail and for my lousy English......

Thank you for being who you are.

Sincerely yours, Thalia

Hello Thalia,

Thank you for your kind words. I shall take a bit of time with your wonderful question. I think its all about 'relationship' and the attitude the human has towards the horse. If your paradigm (belief system) about horses is that the horse is stupid, good for serving man only and needs to be dominated to get anywhere with, then the horse is a slave. We make him a slave with our thoughts and beliefs. If our belief and attitude is that the horse is a smart, feeling (empathetic) and potentially willing partner, and we work towards that sort of relationship with a horse, then that is what will happen. Horses live in community. If we can learn to understand them and can empathize as they do, we can have a bond with a horse that is true, strong and lasting just like they do with the other horses in their community.

Unfortunately, many horse owners keep and ride horses only to serve their egos. "Look at me, I am riding a beautiful horse! I can control this big powerful animal and win ribbons for riding it!" Horses that live a life at a riding stable do not have it great for sure. Many stables do not care well for their horses. But, by going to a public stable and renting a horse that is abused a lot and not abuse it, but rather ride it wonderfully well and appropriately, the horse will have a fine time generally, unless it is in pain. The horse will only come up to the level of the human with it. This goes for how well the horse does with a specific rider and how good the horse can be supported in feeling when with a human. Its up to us each time we are with a horse to come forward with our best. I can help a stable horse to feel better simply by being the best horseman I can when I am with it. By interacting with it appropriately and showing respect for its feelings, space and boundries (yes horses have and deserve to have their own boundries) I can help a horse to feel quite good about everything, at least while I am with it.

As for why we don't just let them live in the wild and admire them from afar, there is not enough space anymore for many wild horses anywhere in the world. This is a physical fact. Sad but true. Raising cattle and sheep have taken over the home that was for the horse, as well as human sprawl and the growth of our nations. No more room for many wild animals these days. But, the horse is one of only several animals that will naturally partner with a human. If a human understands the language of the horse and can learn to communicate with it, the horse loves that. Horses will begin to communicate more with a human who understands their language. Its like if you learn to speak French, more French people will speak to you more often. Also, horses all have a role or job within their herd. They like this and need it to feel like useful members of their community. A horse wants to do its job. It has a noble work ethic in the wild as well as domesticated situations. It will sometimes want to do its work even when feeling some pain. They have a special nobility. Some folks call this stupid. But I think it is the human who is stupid to think that.

If you are a fine rider and knowledgeable horseperson the horse will feel just as good about you as you do about being with the horse. It will want to dance with you whether you are riding it or on the ground playing with it. Horses love to play and dance with humans when the human understands how to dance with the horse. Once we get close to a horse and have that high level relationship, the horse is very likely to choose us over one of its own kind to be with. Another thing to keep in mind is that a horse gets its sense of safety and security from the leaders of the herd. When we humans understand how to show up as the great leader for the horse, a compassionate leader, a kind leader, a knowledgeable leader, a confident leader, a skillful and precise leader, then the horse will really only want to be with us. We become its santurary, its safe place, its home base. You will make a big difference in the lives of many horses. Simply seek to offer kindness and skillful compassionate leadership towards all horses you meet and you will be doing great service for all horses. Thank you again for this wondeful question. I hope I have offered you some good insight into the world and nature of the horse..

Sincerely, Franklin

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