Monday, August 09, 2010

Horses and Learning

photo by Lauren Pigford Studio

Have You Hugged Your Horse Today?

Equine Assisted Learning and therapy provides a unique opportunity for all people, but especially for people suffering with communicative disorders, learning disabilities, and emotional issues such as low self-esteem. Horses connect to their subjects on a level that does not involve “words” and communication becomes an interactive trial by nature situation. Horses "sense" our strengths and weaknesses very quickly! They size us up and test us to see who stands where in the "pecking order." In order for people and horses to truly "bond," people must "pass" such tests in order to work together with horses effectively as a team- otherwise, we don’t get very far with them! In this respect, horses teach us how to “troubleshoot” and help people improve their overall communication skills. If you can "understand" a horse and learn to "read" their thoughts by observing their body language, you'll probably be better able to "read" people.

Working with horses is very much a “mental” activity. Success with horses does not come from physical strength or overpowering them, rather from understanding them, gaining their trust, observing and learning to “read” their body language. They tell us volumes in the subtlety of a movement, gesture, flick of an ear, lick of the lips. Human willingness to learn this new “language” opens the mind and it feeds the soul. Once learning to “talk” with a horse, the horse gains respect and I believe shows you an unconditional love that warms the heart and heals the soul. It is not a selfish love, but one that is unconditional, honest, simple, yet an intensely powerful bond that can have a positive life changing effect on a person. It can be the first true glimpse of pure love, trust, respect and teamwork that someone has ever experienced. And all this, can come from the often gentle, persistent, and calming spirit of a 1000+lb horse, that chooses to work with us and submit their wild natural and instinctive roots.

Why horses do this, when they don’t have to….. sometimes still perplexes me? I don’t know many humans that would do so. But my own theory is that I believe horses to be our earthly guardian angels and teachers put here to help us “learn” something about ourselves. They can show us how we should treat ourselves, each other, and every living thing- with respect, dignity, and appreciation! They are mirrors of ourselves and reflect our own nature in how they respond to us. If we're nervous, they're nervous. If we're affectionate, they're affectionate, if we're hostile, they'll react as the big flight animals they are! Horses are after all, horses!

Most horses demand that people “earn” their trust. Not a bad survival trait, considering the number of dishonest folk out there! Once a human has earned the trust of a horse, they’ve earned a life-long, loyal friend. Not to say that horses won’t give “refresher’s” on this lesson….and test us from time to time. We must earn the right for them to view us as a leader- which they must accept us to be in order for the relationship to be successful. Horses MUST respect and trust us in order for their to be an effective partnership. This is when the true magic comes into play- when both horse and human have bonded, and work as partners and a team. Truly then, magic in the form of unconditional love, respect, enjoyment, and learning opportunities are born. This world would be a better place if more people had the opportunity to experience and learn common-sense, hand's-on, interactive lessons from some of the most effective teachers on earth- horses!

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