ch8From the Herd: ride us with kindness, gentleness and silence. Quiet your mind, and allow us to speak, we have much to tell you, but you need to be in silence and peace to hear us.

If you look at riding today, most of it is based on interference – we want to “frame the horse” – really?? A frame is something static, it doesn’t move and a horse is always moving, so how can we frame it? Instead we should learn how to be part of the dance, a constantly moving vision of harmony. If we look at life – how often do we try to control the outcome or change someone else’s mind? It’s really not our business, and it’s often a futile attempt which results in conflict or a failed relationship. We are all on a journey, and the least resistance we can have, the more we learn, it’s the same with riding. How does your horse feel today? What do you need to do to make them better? How many riders ask themselves that question before they ride, so they can evaluate what’s really going on from a place of enlightened consciousness, instead of a place of the need to control?

I’ll give you an example of this. My horse was doing cartwheels in the field which was somewhat slippery due to spring rains. He does this every year. Obviously he slipped as he came in a bit off in the right hind. I did my usual body work and found a bit of a strained psoas muscle beside the right hip. I gave him his massage and he had a few days off with some muscle relaxant herbs. When I came to ride again he was a bit ouchy still but not as bad so I decided to lunge him first to see how he was. He didn’t want to be lunged really and I felt he wanted me to ride him instead, so I got on and proceeded to do what I call “chiropractics under saddle”. This is a way of mobilizing the spine from the saddle and pretty soon the clicking in his hind end stopped and he was much more comfortable. Everything was good and we had a great ride. I chose to be aware and work with the horse instead of charging ahead with my plans for what we should be doing and ignoring the horse altogether.

There is a big difference between being there to help the horse balance if they need it, and trying to control absolutely everything. Movement and training have to evolve at the horse’s pace, not yours. Otherwise the soundness of the animal will be compromised. Riding and life have to develop organically, in a natural rhythm, not in a forced mechanical grind. We have to clear our minds of demands when we are around our horses, so we can listen to them and do what they need to be happy and sound.

For instance, non – interference in riding is something I was taught by my horses many years ago. Warming up the horse can take many different shapes – these are some of the things my horses taught me. My Secretariat son loved to put his head almost on the ground and canter around the ring 3 times on either rein before he was ready to work. If you did not allow him this time, he would be hell to ride and fight you the whole time, because his back was not stretched out yet. My old grey mare used to walk around with her head on the ground and I was not allowed to take up contact until she lifted her head – same deal different horse. So why not allow your horse to show you how they want to warm up their body? They know what they need; you only have to become a willing partner.

It’s like dealing with your kids – stop being a helicopter parent. Leave them alone, their wings work and they will find their way regardless of what you do. Some kids need to learn very hard lessons, but until they are ready to listen, the more you say only makes things worse. I’m talking about adult kids here, not a 10 year old. It’s always amazing to me how kids raised in the same household can turn out so very differently. But that is the joy of the individual, we are all different and we all have a story and a life to live according to the lessons we came here to learn. It’s what makes life so fascinating. Everyone processes emotions and facts differently, so we have to be tolerant of the differences, and it’s that way with horses too. Non – interference gives the individual freedom to be who they are, and that’s what you work with, not the person or horse you want them to be. It’s not our job to interfere with someone else’s journey, as hard as it may be for us to watch. It’s like an addict, they keep failing rehab until they decide they want to do that, otherwise they just keep falling off the wagon and going back again and again. And maybe that’s their lesson in this lifetime.

Never tell anyone what to do, you can tell them your opinion, but the final decision is up to them. Tell the truth and they can deal with it how they like – as I always tell people “don’t ask me if you’re not prepared to listen to the answer”. If they don’t like my answer that’s not my problem, but unless you stand by your beliefs you are lying to yourself and others. I won’t compromise my beliefs to make someone happy and pacify them, for one day they will figure that out and then they will never listen to my advice again. Then I become unworthy of their friendship as I have compromised my integrity by wanting someone to like me. Better to speak your truth and risk someone being mad at you for a short while, then pacify people as they soon discover that your word means nothing and holds no water. This means they cannot trust you to be of any help, as you are not being truthful. Horses are always honest, so if they try to buck you off, figure out why. There’s always a reason but we have to be quiet in order to listen to them. There is a reason for everything, and if we don’t understand what the reason is, then we have to become quiet and re-evaluate things so we can learn the lessons. Allow life to come to you, and don’t be in such a hurry to chase it down.

The path of non-interference doesn’t mean that you have no backbone and no opinions; it just means you don’t force your ideas onto others; you let them discover their own truth. This removes you from a lot of turmoil in life, and you can become the observer without becoming embroiled in the lives and problems of others. It’s a good way to be, and it works really well when you train and ride horses, as if you don’t feed into their drama, the horse become less dramatic.