Interspecies Communication & Groundwork
When the horse chose domestication, it chose a relationship with human beings. The horse gave us beauty, mystery, and power in exchange for our care, honor, and gratitude. Some deep horse cultures worship horses literally religiously.
What I love most about working with horses is the process of helping them to understand that they—the species—made the right decision, with regard to domestication. To train a horse is to be the human that the horse longed for. "Interspecies Communication" to me consists in speaking a language of both body and thought at the intersection of animal and human consciousness, and at the cross-section of tender understanding and clear indication—what it is that we are asking of the horse. With regard to horses, it seems that we humans are, once again, binary and extreme: we either superimpose our wills upon them to get them to perform for us as we want them to, or, contrarily, we are sentimentally subservient to their overpowering majesty—and allow them to "walk all over us" in a romanticized idyll of "bonding."
There are extremely accomplished horse trainers of all styles and disciplines the world over. I have never met a trainer who was sincerely devoted to the nature of horses who has not taught me something; I have learned from them all.
My own purpose in ground work is not targeted toward a particular equestrian discipline. Rather, I am deeply in love with the process of building trust between the human and the horse. Trust is developed through clarity, and the tempering of human ambition, in order to make space for deep listening to the being of a horse. Horses are clear, because their cosmos is based purely on subtle energy. The human cosmos, too, is ultimately based purely on subtle energy—but we have forgotten this. In order to hear, or rather to feel the clarity of the horse, a human must feel within themselves the part of their nature that is essentially sympathetic (sympathia: Latin for "same feeling") with horseness. Then, from that mysterious sympathy, a person demonstrates intention with their entire being: their body, thought, gestures, and somatic intelligence.
But the goal of every human intention toward a horse should be mutuality, not coercion. On their own, horses exhilarate themselves in order to feel their athleticism. On their own, horses fall into deep and protracted depression when they are separated from their intimate companions—even if that companion is another species. I have seen a horse befriend a goose and never leave its side. What this means is that there is a reason we—humans and horses—have brought ourselves together. As riders and horse lovers, what we ask of our horses may seem to them at first to be novel and strange, but it should always, through deep communication, training, and trust, become natural. By "natural" I do not mean wild. No horse that we train, care for, ride, or attend to in any way is wild. Rather, by natural I mean that our horsemanship should reinforce our mutual instinct, human and horse, to belong to one another.
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