There is no shortage of gurus in the world. Want to learn yoga? I got “About 315,000,000 results (0.52 seconds)” when I searched “Learn Yoga Online” on Google. The same is true of horseback riding instructors, horse trainers, and equestrian coaches – over 1 million results for “best coach for horsewomen”. Although I coach horsewomen (and showed up near the top of the first page in the Google search), I’m not going to tell you I’m the best life coach or confidence coach for you, or for any horsewoman. I’m good, and more than happy to help you get the quality of life you’re looking for, but your best coach is right out in the field – it’s your horse.
What You Can Learn from Your Horse
You want to be a great horse owner. In order to do so, you need to develop a deep understanding of 2 things – your horse, and yourself. The best way to understand a horse is by learning from a horse. Your horse will teach you his language, his likes and dislikes, his fears, quirks, favorite scratching spots, and whether he prefers peppermints, carrots, or apples (or loves all 3!) Strangely enough, the best way to develop a deep understanding of yourself is to partner with your horse as your coach.
I think Buck Brannaman said it best when he said the horse is a mirror to your soul. Horses don’t worry about the same social norms that we humans do – things like hurting someone’s feelings, only showing positive emotion, or not showing any emotion at all. Horses stay alive by cutting right to the important stuff. Like where to find the best grass in the spring, a good roll in the mud always feels better just after a bath, and the fact that peppermints come in nice crinkly plastic wraps, (truth – if I want to attract the attention of either of my horses, I just crinkle a mint wrapper or yell “Peppermints!”. Works every time). OK – so that’s not the important stuff that keeps them alive, (although it does improve their quality of life) – the stuff that keeps them alive is who, what, and when to fear; and who, what, and when to trust.
“The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” Buck Brannaman
Trust is huge for horses. Think about it – they are prey animals. Throughout their evolution, they’ve learned that a likely attack could come from a predator jumping on them from above – and yet – they let us climb on their backs. And humans are PREDATORS! That, my friends, is trust! When horses trust us, they literally trust us with their lives. They look to us for companionship, but also for a strong partnership and leadership.
So, what can we learn about ourselves from our horses? We can learn to trust ourselves. Horses follow instincts instilled in them over millennia. What we forget, is that humans have an inner knowing as well. Sadly, in most cases, it’s been civilized out of us. We’re not taught to listen to our own souls. We’re taught to trust everything and everyone except that quiet voice inside that says – “This – this is right. This is how it’s meant to be. This is who you are meant to be.”
Watch your horse. Spend time with him. Does he ever worry about how to be a horse? He doesn’t need to. He knows. We need to strip away all the trappings and reconnect with our essential selves. We need to listen to someone we can trust. Trust your horse. Trust that mirror to your soul. He knows who you are at that level. Let him show you. All you have to do is look into his eyes and believe what you see in the mirror.