Making My Way from “Ugh…” to “OH!”
I ONCE HAD A TEACHER ask me to describe some of my most transformative (what he calls “ah-hah”) moments relative to Being in the Realm of Horse. As I thought about the roads I’ve traveled with horses (and the many detours I’ve taken), I realized that my moments of enlightenment were more along the lines of a progression from “ugh…” to “oh…Oh! … OH!!” In other words, some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about relational horsemanship (being a better horsewoman) and relational humanship (being a better human) have been those I’ve learned – sometimes painfully – while walking paths in the Realm of Horse.
Learning the Language of Horse
During my travels in the Realm of Horse, I’ve explored Relational Horsemanship – the Art of Partnership with Horse and the nature of Passive Leadership. I have studied equine ethology, equine psychology, and an array of theories on how to best communicate with an equine partner. As a result, I spent many hours examining the magnitude of a simple, natural fact: humans are predators and horses are prey. As such, humans and horses operate from diametrically opposed perspectives. As prey, the horse’s primary objective is to survive. To do this, it must live in the present, maintain an expansive awareness of its surroundings, and move impulsively away from danger. On the contrary, a predator’s primary objective is to acquire food. To do this, it must be focused and future-oriented. In other words, predators, including humans, are by nature driven to concentrate on a desired outcome, complete a task, and attain a goal.
It was during this time and in the context of these studies that I had my first of many “Ah-Hah” moments: My predator-based methodologies for developing a meaningful partnership with Horse were, and always had been, fundamentally flawed (ugh…). Indeed, my focused, goal-oriented, and task-driven approach to Horse was entirely counter-intuitive to equine ethology and equine psychology. Moreover, in my attempts to connect with Horse, I was speaking human language and listening with human ears. As a result, the messages I had been trying to send to my equine partners were lost in translation (UGH!).
As I came to terms with the magnitude of this communication breakdown, a powerful insight came to light: A true partnership with Horse cannot be based on what I want. Rather, true partnership with Horse depends on my ability to meet the horse where he is – in any given moment, on any given day (oh…). I have to check my ego at the gate. I have to work with my horse and support him in order to get us wherever we need to be. My horse can only be my partner when I am his – I have to open the space for him to be who he is at that moment and who he can be in our partnership. In doing this, I am creating space for him and empowering him to do the same for me (OH!).
Distinguishing the Realms of Client and Self
My travels in the Realm of Horse have also included an exploration of Relational Humanship. As a facilitator of equine-guided activities, I have to be able to access connectedness, to open and hold the space for a client to experience, learn, and grow from interactions with horses. So, I studied the Art of Facilitation as a Partnership with Horse. I learned how to craft the activities and apply the methodologies that will lead clients to and through transformative experiences.
Within the context of these studies, I had another “Ah-hah!” (or perhaps “Oh, no!”) moment: My approach to Facilitation was, and always had been, fundamentally flawed (ugh…). That is, my preconceived notions of where the client is or where she needs to be cannot be gauges for her success (UGH!). Facilitation is not about instructing or directing, nor is it about validating myself or bolstering my own sense of self-worth. Rather, facilitation depends on my ability to meet the client where she is – in any given moment, during any given session (oh…). I have to check my ego at the door, and I have to support the client as she strives to get to wherever she needs to be. In doing this, I open a space in which the client can transform her own perspective and be empowered to create possibilities in her life (OH!).
Relational Horse&Humanship – Gaining Awareness in the Language of Horse
Clearly, my travels in the Realm of Horse have, on many occasions, required me to confront my ways of Being on a profound level. In doing so, I had a breakthrough, an “AH-HAH!!” moment that allowed me to bridge the distance that had once existed in my understanding of what it meant for Horse and Human to be truly Related: Whether developing a partnership with Horse or connecting with Human, whether my endeavor is personal or professional, the space I am creating is not about me. Quite simply, my Ego has no place. Instead, best practices as a Horsewoman, as an Equine-Guided Awareness Facilitator, and, dare I say, as a Human Being require that I remove my Ego from the picture, and instead see through the eyes, speak the language, live in the Realm of Horse.
By living life from the Perspective of Horse, I have been able to open connections with Horse and Human that are deeply rooted in consistency, clarity, and compassion. By speaking the Language of Horse, I have been able to provide Equine-Guided Awareness services that best meet the needs of Horse and Human. By designing and engaging in activities that directly address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the horse, I am actually focusing on providing the best practices, for myself as a horsewoman and the clients I am serving, and at the same time ensuring that my efforts always lead back to caring for the wellbeing of my equine partners.
This is the space of Relational Horse&Humanship, a space that has allowed me to come full circle and back to myself. The lesson is simple and profound: Living in the Realm of Horse allows me to live in and work from a space that is not only healthy and fulfilling, but is also the ethical and balanced state of being that fosters healthy relationships, no matter what the context. This is the wisdom of and purpose of Being in the Realm of Horse. And the irony, the simple beauty of it all, is that while none of this is about me, all of it leads to the ongoing transformation and the true fulfillment of Self.
To learn about our horses, our programs, or if you are just curious for more information, contact me. I’d love to explore the Realm of Horse with you.
Elyssa Doner, IdyleWild Farm