Day 587: Learning About Your Mind with the Help of a Horse

I noticed an interesting thing a while back, but let me give some context first.

I did horse riding lessons as a child, I learned how to make a horse do things while on its back, but never more than that. I was not taught anything that gave me any real understanding of the nature or behaviour of a horse. Now when I was in a position to take on a horse of my own a few years ago, I leaped toward the opportunity and ended up meeting a horse and a lady on the same day that would change everything I though I knew about horses and horsemanship.

The lady started telling me about how a horse communicates and processes information, about how they focus on body language to have a conversation and that if you learn the body language then you can join in on the conversation. I was immediately attracted to the ideals that she was sharing, I had never heard of any of it before but i knew that it was 100 times better than anything I had learned before. I jumped right in and started learning as much as I could from her with the big chestnut horse who eventually came to the farm.

One of the things that I learned is that any behaviour, be it constructive or destructive, starts with the smallest of things: in our case it's a thought and in a horse's case it is a movement. So you may find yourself in a position where your horse has developed a "bad habit", but it's likely that the habit started developing a long, long time before you notice it. A pushy horse will start off by moving just one hoof just one centimeter forward without you noticing (and obviously without you asking for it) - that one centimeter becomes 2 and then 3 and then 4 and then a whole step and then 2 steps until eventually you have a horse who can't stand still and who's on top of you all the time and has no issue with barging through you when it gets spooked. I had to learn how to look for that one centimeter and to ever, ever allow it - and this post is about how our thoughts can be regarded in exactly the same manner.

If you allow just one fleeting thought, just one moment, the next one won't be far behind. Allowing one makes it that much easier to let the next one slide, and eventually you end up with a cascade of thoughts and emotions inside yourself that you feel you have no control over, as if it's all just too much and you don't know how to stop it. Obviously it's much more difficult to stop a habit once it reaches those proportions, but the same approach can be applied to big and small patterns: stop the thought. Stop each and every thought - do not allow even one. Sure, you'll miss a few, especially in the beginning, what's important is that you pick yourself up and carry on with no less will or determination to get to where your going, which is a life without being controlled by inner experiences that overwhelm you (and that eventually become outer experiences).

Interestingly enough, this same principle can be applied in other situations as well. Raising a child, training a dog - whatever. The key is to teach yourself to recognise the very beginning of a pattern: see the thought and then correct the thought. Depending on the situation and who / what you are dealing with, stopping the thought can be something as simple as saying "no" and redirecting their attention. When stopping that first movement with a horse, like a foot stepping one centimeter out of place, the correction is to place the foot back where it was, 100 times if necessary. Some horses you deal with test you to see how consistent you are, to see if they can get away with moving themselves in some situations. If they see that you are inconsistent then the behaviour will escalate - it doesn't help only correcting it some of the time, just like with a thought. There is no use in stopping a thought sometimes and allowing it the rest of the time, you will end up with that same escalation of experiences within you.

My relationship with a horse is not about DOMINATION or trying to control the horse, it is about establishing a basis of communication where I will place myself in a position of leadership - or maybe it is better to say I must earn the position of leadership. It is the same when working with your mind - you cannot try to dominate your mind, you will just end up living in a perpetual power struggle, you must become the directive principle and direct your mind to function and support you in a way that will be what is best for you and everyone around you - in this way you develop a partnership.

Another interesting point I would like to open up in a future post is how one horse will behave completely differently with different people, according to their specific "nature" and things like what issues they may be working through.