When we’re new to horses, we get “psychological” about horses and search the cosmos for messages. It’s the dirt that brings us back home, settled and present. Horses know. They depend on the ground to hold them, it’s the ground that gives them flight. If you watch horses, they lose confidence if they can’t trust the earth. It’s why tarps and bridges are obstacles to them and why icy ground frightens them. Watching horses, you can’t miss their profound connection with the earth.
Yet, when we want to connect with horses, we ignore the dirt. We hug and kiss them, our hearts swelled up thinking that their closed eyes mean love returned and not distancing or evasion. We try to love them into submission. Or we use semaphore communication. We wave our arms, use whips or sticks with bags to make our arms longer, and pull their faces with ropes to disconnect and unbalance horses.
No wonder we think it’s magic when horses come to us when we’re quiet or follow us silently at liberty. In spite of all our chatter and rattle, horses continue to try to connect with us. If we were on the right track, we wouldn’t see calming signals constantly. We get so excited to see the horse’s message of anxiety that we don’t hear the intent. Calming signals are the horse telling us that they are no threat, they are prey and mean us no harm. They send the message that we don’t need to be predators. It’s them trying to calm us!
Maybe we need to pay more attention to dirt and less attention to our stormy thoughts.
I’ve asked horses to prove it to me repeatedly. When I halter a horse, step one is to breathe and feel my toes inside my shoes, conscious of the ground. I notice the horse comes. When I’m holding a lead and the horse is stiff with fear, looking in the distance and ready to spontaneously combust, I step to the end of the rope and feel the dirt under my feet. It settles my mind, and the horse calms quickly. I want to think that I’m the safe place, but what if it’s really the reminder of dirt under our feet that gives us each our balance and peace?
We are on the brink of better communication with horses; it’s here with us but we haven’t “discovered” it. Science moves us forward but only because science is also connected to dirt (the natural world.) Research tells us that trees communicate with each other through the earth. We know that each of the horse’s senses is more acute than ours. We talk less of their sense of touch, but those hooves are sensitive. Why do we use our hands, an appendage that horses don’t have, when they listen to our feet and match our stride naturally. When all the human chatter settles, isn’t the dirt under our feet the most primal connection with horses?
It takes a while for the love to settle, for us to realize that horses are flowers of the dirt beneath them. And so are we, if we let the earth hold us and support us. If we love dirt for its hold on us.
The holiday greeting is more literal than we overthink it to be. Let the emphasis on that second part. Peace on Earth.
Anna Blake, Relaxed & Forward
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