This is the time of year holiday greetings include Peace on Earth. We need it- there is so much conflict in the world right now. Each side is defensive of their beliefs and adversity becomes the default position. I don’t have a solution for world peace, but this is what I have learned in the barn.
There are a certain percentage of people who seem to really thrive on adversity and if honest, would say peace is just too boring. If they aren’t fighting, they aren’t living. Sadly, some of them own horses. Avoid them, they are poison.
Most people have good intentions but develop of kind of passive adversarial behavior from time to time. It can come from a less than optimistic outlook. Or more often, as a result of exhaustion, frustration or just the daily wear and tear of life. Our energy gets gray, and resistance and drag begin to feel normal. There’s less whistling and laughing, and more sighing and grumbling. It’s like gravity working on our energy.
Horses can fall into the same rut of passive adversarial behavior- they might even catch it from us. And then all of a sudden there is a training issue and the rider is complaining that their horse has some wicked master plan of malicious deception, or a laziness so deep and profound that electric cattle prod spurs would fail to move him.
WHOA! How did we get here?? When did the war begin?
This year I have worked with some really great horses, who I usually meet in the middle of an unwanted behavior. After a little equine CSI work- the problem frequently boils down to a dislike of fighting. Meaning a trailer issue is more likely a resistance to the fight about the trailer, than the actual trailer itself. It’s not so much what we ask them to do, but how we ask. Once communication breaks down there is no joy on either side.
And it doesn’t necessarily mean the rider is violent or abusive by human standards. Horses are so sensitive to our moods- frustration can feel like a punishment and depression can feel like pressure with no release in sight.
I don’t know that it matters in the end who started it, or why. Both sides have to surrender their defensiveness to start over. The bigger heart should apologize first; some of us learn that from our horses. Then like kids on a playground, we can go back to our game.
When working with animals, I see myself as a peace-nik. I refuse to continue a fight or hold a grudge. Post the Serenity Prayer in the barn if it helps, but the useless bickering has to stop. I choose to stay relentlessly positive, and behave as if I have an infinite well of honesty, optimism and creative ideas- along with all the time in the world. I’m no saint, but if I can act that way for a while, horses will come the rest of the way to meet me. Then trust can grow as the adversity retreats.
From Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Read more.)
Sometimes real strength and benevolent leadership come from a counter-intuitive place. Lighten up- let peace be your weapon of choice.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.