Is It Okay To NOT Work My Horses?

I received this beautiful question from one of our readers in Europe. I say the question is “beautiful” because it shows this woman is in that precious space of opening, transition, and transformation.

And yes, this space also feels very tenuous, it can be agitating, frustrating and fraught with angst. BUT it is so vital to be willing to dwell in this space if you want to open up new worlds for yourself and your horse(s).

black-headDTBut before I get to my reader’s question, I want to ask another question courtesy of Deidre West from Healing With Horse Collective:

If you, with a soul mate horse next to you, could reinvent the world even beyond your short life, what would you do?

This question – take a few moments now and actually breathe into this question…………
– puts us in the right space from which to now consider my reader’s question, which is:

Dear Jini, can I ask you a question? πŸ™‚
I find your blog amazing and very inspirational but still have some issues with old “rules” sitting in my head…
I can’t visit my horses very often – once in 3 weeks usually. When I finally see them I have a strong “need” to work with them – because I want them to feel good and healthy I have a feeling that they should train their muscles, posture etc. BUT… after years of traditional and parelli training I have problems with this dominance, leadership, “my idea becoming horse’s idea” thing. What is more, I have problems with riding on them – because I’m afraid – my youngest horse is very “hot-blooded” πŸ˜‰ and my older Bart simply doesn’t want to – of course Bart will be obedient but I don’t want to put any pressure on him any more, after all he was carrying me on his back for over 16 years!.

I would love to just be with them, practice our conversation “in spirit” (which is new for me!), wait until THEY invite me to play or ride… Is it OK to not ‘work’ with them at all? πŸ˜• Is it good for them??

So let’s call this reader “Angel”. And let’s go a little deeper into the points of her excellent question.

appaloosa-libertyDTFirstly, Angel is concerned about her horses health and fitness. However, realistically, how is one workout every 3 weeks going to make any difference here? Yes, we need to facilitate healthy, sound bodies for the horses in our care. But even a stalled horse that is exercised routinely for an hour or two a day is not very healthy in a holistic sense of the word. And probably (almost assuredly) suffers far more injury, discomfort and pain than a horse simply left alone in a few acres of field!

The horse world is rife with so much rabid defensiveness of a chosen position, condemnation of others, moral outrage and judgment that we can become very fearful about whether we are good horse owners, or not. The dynamic is very similar to what new parents experience – where everyone is desperately trying to do everything right for this new baby/toddler in their care. Then the kids grow up and by the time you get to parents with a few kids, ranging in age, the parents have realized that:

  • Not a whole lot of what they thought was so crucial matters after all.
  • So much of what you should do is dependent upon each individual, and what is perfect for one, is disastrous for another. What serves one child’s development can cause lasting trauma and damage to your other child.

So at the end of day, caring for a child, or a horse, or any other being, can be condensed to just a few crucial elements:

1. Compassion. Compassion. And more compassion. For yourself and those in your care. I boil this down to one question: Am I doing the best I can with what I have/know/am right now? I ask this question with honesty, integrity and I hold myself accountable for the answer. And then I either shift things, do some experimenting (to see if X is better), make improvements, or let it go.

2. Accept that life’s a journey. Are you going to take care of your horses better in 5 years than you are now? Probably. Because you’ll know more, you’ll have more resources, more ideas, more options, maybe you’ll have more money. Owning what’s wrong, or not optimal is good; dwelling there is not good. Apologize to your horses, tell them what your ideal circumstances would be, your ideas, hopes and dreams and then allow yourself to feel their love and acceptance of what is.

So in Angel’s case, since she can only visit once every 3 weeks, I would put my energy into making their habitat as conducive to health and fitness as I can. Setting up a Paddock Paradise, or walking track, does more for a horse’s health, hooves and fitness than any scheduled riding or lunging activity. Combine that with low-sugar hay or forage and that’s all a horse needs! If that’s already in place, then I would pat myself on the back and kick all those needless concerns about fitness, soundness and posture out the door! A horse that’s doing a lot of walking, free play with herdmates, rolling and grounding into the earth, foraging or consuming low-sugar food, is already living in the ideal state for equines – as modeled by wild herds.

Example of a Paddock Paradise in the Netherlands
Example of a Paddock Paradise in the Netherlands

And in fact, even though I visit my horses every day, my goals for their habitat are exactly the same! Most of us are not really logical about the impact we have on our horses lives πŸ˜‰ Even though I spend about 3 hours/day with my herd, in fact, I am only with them for 3 hours out of 24! So my impact on their daily lives is still minimal compared to the impact of their living/eating conditions for the other 21 hours of the day. Simple logistics.

The next aspect I would encourage Angel to consider is summed up nicely by Deidre West – who has been a horse trainer for decades and a full-time Equine Assisted Learning practitioner for over 10 years, and has a spectacular herd of 14 horses:

Rather than their ability to be ridden or their athleticism being the focus, horses’ ways of being, seeing, and processing, and engaging with the world opens sources of wisdom and enlightenment about our inner selves, our relational dynamics, and all those forces that make us yearn, change, transform, and do things we would not otherwise do (whether creative, destructive, or genius) if we were truly logical, exclusively conscious beings.

That focus on horse as a sentient being full of wisdoms we do not have, distinguishes the goals for working with horses in this field from most every other equine field out there, including natural horsemanship and most liberty training. This is a profound shift about which practitioners find there is an onion-peeling sort of learning to get to the heart of, not just for our clients but for ourselves and our practice/facilitation.

So although you may not be an Equine Assisted Therapist, why can’t you give yourself permission to dwell in this same space with your own horses? Former trainer, Ren Hurst, now has 19 horses and she doesn’t ride or work any of them. Her book, Riding On The Power Of Others, is all about her journey of how and why she transitioned from a professional horse trainer to a horse sanctuary guardian.

REN'S HERD (c) Ren Hurst
REN’S HERD (c) Ren Hurst

If you’re looking for permission to NOT work or ride your horses, but to just BE with them and follow the threads of what emerges from time spent in communion with your soul mates, there are plenty of examples to derive your permission from (be sure and read the numerous comments under the post).

So let’s return to the question we considered at the beginning of this post:

If you, with a soul mate horse next to you, could reinvent the world even beyond your short life, what would you do?

My horses not only communicate with me when I’m not physically with them, they communicate with a number of my close friends and family too! They support us with choice questions posed at poignant moments, they surround us during dental appointments and other times healing energy is needed, and they appear in our dreams.

aude-after-tapping2One of my best friends commented, “I hardly ever see your horses, because I just don’t have time during this phase of my life, but they feel like they are my horses and they are around me all the time!” When this friend does physically show up at the barn, the herd teaches her something profound every single time – they tell her where to sit or position herself and they direct her in what to do or observe – so she walks away empowered with new clarity, or a technique to use during business meetings, or the knowledge of an aspect of her life that is out of balance.

Horses do not hold the same judgment of us that we do! They are much wiser about the logistics and limitations of life and they do the most spectacular job of holding space for our most magnificent, loving self.

Let’s give ourselves permission to enter this soulmate dance. To listen only to our horses and our own intuition; and with compassion and patience, see what emerges from the burning ashes of the shoulds we have released.

Your permission may involve not riding and just communing with your horse. My permission may involve getting on my horse’s back to trigger old riding wounds/stories so we can walk the Healing Journey for those wounds. My daughter’s permission may involve hanging upside down across the back of a semi-feral mare (even though she didn’t really want to) so the horse can give her a full-body hug – through her back to my daughter’s heart and belly.

There is no judgment – don’t take that on! There is only compassion, and listening to your horse, and listening to your gut.

grandma-black-horseDT

Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Freedomite. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
Is It Okay To NOT Work My Horses?

17 thoughts on “Is It Okay To NOT Work My Horses?

  • August 13, 2016 at 3:11 am
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    I love it, thank you! It’s funny how hard is it actually to NOT do anything! Just be, breathe, listen, feel… Wooow, what an amazing journey is before me!

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    • August 13, 2016 at 9:51 am
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      Yes, and how hard it is to NOT fill the time up with chores! Just another opportunity to practice putting the important before the urgent πŸ™‚

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  • August 13, 2016 at 6:01 pm
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    Once again, another lovely reminder and reinforcement that its ok to have horses for just being horses. I hardly ever ride any of my herd of 15, and I have a horses raging from 8 to 12 that I bred and I’ve never ridden! That’s not to say I won’t ever ride them – maybe one day when we are playing or learning together and they offer me their back, I will probably take up the invitaiton to at least sit for a minute.
    But I don’t feel the ‘need’ to ride’ as my horses live on a track and have daily access to grazing pastures so they have most of their needs met by the herd in terms of movement, companionship and a natural life.
    Thanks again for pointing this out – providing a healthy lifestyle for them is far more important to ‘working’ or riding them.

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    • August 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm
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      Nice Cynthia! And I heard back from the reader who posed the question and she does indeed have her horses in a great environment already – the pressure was all in her head; from outside sources and “horse experts”. She’s looking forward to letting all of that go and seeing what happens when she allows herself to just BE. πŸ™‚

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  • August 13, 2016 at 6:35 pm
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    Beautiful perspective, I also struggled with this quite a bit adjusting to my new herd life. Since I’ve let go of a lot of these old rules and beliefs the horses have opened up to me and are continuing to show me new perspectives all the time. I’m loving this journey <3

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    • August 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm
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      Fantastic Madison – would love to hear a story or two from you when you get a chance…

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      • August 14, 2016 at 1:48 am
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        I completely adore my horse but I suffer from anxiety and really suffered with the idea of riding him. My daughter rides him on the weekend, but I just being with him. He seems to be a nervous soul so we match each other perfectly. There are no words to describe the joy I have with the lovely triangle of mum, daughter and horse.

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        • August 14, 2016 at 1:50 am
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          Sounds like the perfect arrangement to me!

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  • August 14, 2016 at 5:18 am
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    As a former professional trainer I often get asked: “What do you do with your horses?” I provide them with ample pasture, feed them, make hay for the winter, trim their feet every 4 weeks and occasionally groom them. They can be horses. I would love to provide them with more room to roam, alas, I only have 17 acres available for the two of them. They seem to be content with eating all day. I am content in the knowledge that they live a fairly stress free life.

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    • August 14, 2016 at 10:24 am
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      I went to your site Claudia – your Tumericle product looks great – do you find it takes a while for horses to get used to the taste? And have you ever had any horses just refuse to take it?

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      • August 14, 2016 at 10:36 am
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        Thank you for asking Jini. I never had a horse refuse to eat it, at least I haven’t heard about it. You just top dress it over their feed (we recommend to feed every horse Cool Stance copra meal instead of grain). If you are concerned, start with 1/2 dose twice a day and see how it goes. You usually see a difference in a few days. You always can call me at 803-647-1200, even on Sundays, if you want to chat.

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        • August 14, 2016 at 10:41 am
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          Ok thanks Claudia. I don’t have a horse with any particular need right now, but I like products like this during the winter – just to give a boost to the immune system. I look forward to trying it!

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  • August 15, 2016 at 9:57 am
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    i spend a large part of my relationship with my horse doing nothing but hangin out

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    • August 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm
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      Sounds good to me Brian!

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  • August 18, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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    all this input sounds great, and here’s a perspective from a horse:
    my horse and pony hadn’t been ridden much in the past couple weeks because it had been really hot and buggy. The other day I was sitting out on the grass with them, and pony Patrick strolled up near me. As he came by he said “When are we going to get back to work?” IHe is very, very communicative, but I was still surprised by the question. I responded, we’ll get back out riding on the trails as soon as this extremely hot weather passes. He then said “No, I mean the other kind of work” and strolled away. I realized what he was talking about is the horse communication work, the advising and sharing his wisdom that he sometimes does with me and our vet/acupuncturist, and anyone else who wants information from horses. (The info we receive from him is profound.) To do this work, it means that I need to just hang out and be with him more, be attentive and listening, rather than actively engaged in riding or doing barn chores.
    I thought I’d pass this on just to give you a sense of what really matters to some horses —

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    • August 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm
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      Love it Mary! Thanks so much for sharing. And for pointing out that doing chores and otherwise being active is not the same at all as actively listening in stillness. I often TALK to my horses while I’m doing chores – fill them in on where I’m at, vent, own the feelings I’ve walked in with, etc. But when I’m ready to LISTEN to them, I sit down, settle my breathing and open my heart.

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  • January 8, 2017 at 12:23 am
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    I love this piece and all the comments. It gives me a huge boost for what i do. I have 10 ponies and I see them daily and i just love ‘being’ with them. I don’t ride them at all. I love them and funnily enough like the comment above, they said to me the other day something similar – that it was time to get going with teaching others how to be peaceful. So now the centre, the legalities etc are all sorted… perhaps 2017 is time to find clients:)
    So exciting to be able to hear so many like minded peoples stories. Thank you!

    Reply

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