Photo & Poem: Hand


One draws attention, standing by a tolerant gelding
and playing the horse whisperer, tickling withers,
teasing his whiskery muzzle. Passive violence in
the guise of a scratch, demanding an involuntary
response ripped with conflict, pulsing with agitation.

One demands sweaty perfection, the mare never
exactly good enough, but rewarded at last, one
ringing slap, a threat masquerading as praise is only
a thin acceptance. Diminished by miserly gratitude,
her exhaustion has no value on unreliable footing.

Horse, you are enough. Bringing no request, no
expectation you must fill, my hand rests on your shoulder,
both precious and familiar. Let my palm be a still place
we meet, neither owing a debt, both lingering in this
unremarkable moment, needing to be no more than we are.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

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40 thoughts on “Photo & Poem: Hand”

  1. WOW I had to read this a few times – wonderfully said
    Always take time to appreciate and thank your horse for every effort they give

  2. How do you manage the emotions that you feel when you witness this kind of behavior? And how often do you find the perpetrators willing to listen to a radically different perspective. And, finally, why compete at all? I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts and feelings, if you care to share them.

    • Thank you, Susan. I don’t think these questions are rhetorical… so I’ll be personal. I am a professional, submerged forever in horses. I don’t ever want to add more emotion to the situation, so I might cry later but usually end up healed by the work I do. I meet those with other perspectives all the time and it’s easy to demonstrate the other way because horses always have my back. Most of us started with horses with a more harsh approach, and looking around, I see lots of people changing. It’s inspiring. And there is no reason to think that kind training means we are less capable of success in competition and my mentors taught me to play at shows. I love spending the weekend there, there are no rules that we have to become demons. Right now the top riders train affirmatively, it’s an exciting time. I would not be who I am as a trainer without competition, it helped me learn to change quicker than if I’d been riding in the pasture. I’m taking this next month off to go to competitions with clients in Colorado. Sorry, but competition isn’t a dirty word to me. There are despicable riders everywhere and I won’t let the haters take my beloved Dressage away. Bit of a rant, but a kind hand works everywhere. Thanks for asking.

      • Without pony club, gymkhanas, shows and some low-level dressage, there are things I would never have known (and could never have taught my youngsters) if I had remained “self taught” in the bush. I would prefer to go droving than compete again, but all my subsequent horses benefitted from my experiences. I love a bush gymkhana, where what we wear is irrelevant, and could probably still win a “Veteran Lady Rider” class. It is the showing, winning, prestige, and marketing that has pushed prices up, so there is often far more money than horse sense. The horses pay the price.

    • Tickles and slaps…always essentially aggressive, no matter the species–including humans–although the perps will insist otherwise. Thanks, Anna.

  3. Well, yeah on that last paragraph! I must admit my guys get a good slap directed at the blood-sucking horse flies and those green ones, too, that land in predatory fashion. I think they forgive me that one transgression.

    • I feel compelled to say there is nothing sad about it… I always want to quiet my emotions around horses, so I can hear theirs. I appreciate if you are touched by the poem, thank you.

  4. Love this piece. All too often, I have witnessed really nice horses pushed so hard with little or no reward. Horses are receptive to praise. I always talk to my horses when I am riding them saying “Good job, Nice effort, There it is”, letting them hear my gratitude. I try to make sure they know they are loved and appreciated. They are my partners, not machines. Your line, “Horse, you are enough” is perfect!

  5. Humans have been conditioned to expect nothing less than perfect, from themselves and from others. It’s not who we really are, and Anna you remind us of that. Thank you.

  6. Your writing is always inspired. Literally “in the spirit”. I believe it comes through you, the conduit. I interpret this poem as “mind your hands, don’t slap in praise”. A horse can sense the light touch of a loving hand, but who of us all touch that way? Horses recognise when someone “knows” them. We develop reassuring ways of moving about them. Praise would be a stroke down the crest, a loosened rein. I rather like the “laying on of hands” to calm a horse, sort of like a Reiki thing, with conscious loving energy flowing. They get it. “One Man (woman)” horses become so when they realise they will not tolerate fools.

    I do think we have to pat them, so I pat massage with two hands, all over. Some idiot is going to walk up and pat them, some kid is going to want to kiss them, stock horses need to accept the cracking of the stock-whip, so I confess to de-sensitising. I love this post, thanks Anna. I’m sure the horses thank you too.

  7. Thank you, as always.

    “Passive violence”: I think I am finally – Maybe – getting this from their point of view…..sigh~~~ I hope.

    • Oh Deb. I’m getting ready to write about this, but at clinics, the example I use is tickling; we laugh and hate it. It’s anxiety and displacement, that calming signal that is about conflicting messages. It’s how our “love” can go sideways with horses. It’s been a long journey for me, too, listening over my desire…

  8. There’s a line in a song that Hank Jr sings that has been stuck in my head for about a month. I think the horses channeled it to me. “………don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.” It makes perfect sense to me.

    • Not to mention, I wanted to dance when I read it! (Just want to be aware of space, in this un-listening world.)


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