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Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 401: Mirror Mirror, in the Horse

We are integrating a new horse into our herd, and there is an interesting dynamic happening. First, let me give you some history: This horse spent many years alone with just one other horse. The two of them were moved to live across the road from us and his friend, a mare, got African Horse Sickness after being here a few months and, sadly, passed away. The surviving horse, a chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, spent a few months alone with only some young cows to keep him company. The people looking after him did not have time or knowledge to care for him, so he basically lived out and alone. Eventually we were asked if we would take him as the owner could not find a new home for him, so, what with us having an empty stable, we said yes. He had some mange and thrush, and was a bit underweight - but was otherwise in OK condition - it could have been much, much worse. We started him off with one other horse in a paddock, and slowly added more more horses to his group. He was timid, but there were no major altercations. When we got to having him in with the entire herd, one of our ponies decided to beat the crap out of him, chased him all over. We had to separate the horses into 2 groups, keeping the new boy with "friendly" horses.

The problem is interesting: his interaction and communication skills are terrible after having had only one friend for so long, and then spending a few months alone. Horses are herd animals and are quite particular about designating roles in terms of "who's the boss of who" - so this new boy basically doesn't have the confidence and/or knowledge to be able to participate in this designating of roles. What the other horses are expecting is for him to put his ears back and defend himself - maybe not with every horse - but at least with the more timid of the horses. Horses determine who's the boss by moving each other around: if one horse causes another horse to move, then the first horse will be the top gun in that situation. Now the new boy flinched and shied from every look and gesture, which the more unforgiving horses did not take to.

We are now allowing the new boy to build up his confidence and communication skills with the "friendly horses" - it may take some weeks. We have seen this before with a horse that was neglected (and who knows what else) - it's as if they don't know how to be horses after experiencing certain situations, and now they have to learn how to be a horse with other horses.

My point in all this is that the human mind is similar: for so long we have lived in the mindset of individualism and self interest that we literally do not know how to live and work together in harmony, supporting each other. When presented with a proposal for changing the world that would require us to change the way we live in significant ways, most of us will dismiss it immediately as being "impossible", "preposterous", or some kind of negative label. Think about it: think of a world in which our priorities are different and our actions are thought out and then carried out with different goals in mind. For example: Think of living in a world in which we each see ourselves responsible for, not only ourselves, but everyone else as well - because we realise that we are in this together and can make the best life possible by working together. It may be a simple point to consider, but it is profoundly different to how we currently see and live life.

It will take time to teach ourselves to be compassionate and live with responsibility - but that doesn't make it impossible, it only makes it difficult.

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