When we see an animal suffering, whether their pain is mental, emotional or physical, it is easy to jump to judgment. We judge the training methods, the handler or the owner. The truth is judging another may make you feel better, but it’s not productive. I say ‘may’ because there is a chance your ego will get a small boost of superiority but that won’t last long. It’s likely that you will begin to feel frustrated or angry, which doesn’t help the horse, the other person or you.
The energy that judgment carries is all about separation and attack. If we look at it from a logical perspective do you respond better when you feel judged or when you feel accepted? I know when I feel like I’m being scrutinized my walls go up and I become defensive. On the other hand if someone offers me help, in a way that makes me feel respected, I am much more likely to listen.
Furthermore if I see that person being successful in the area I’m struggling in, and they are friendly and approachable, I may even become curious about what they are doing on my own initiative. If the horses have taught me anything over the years it’s that everything is energy. If I don’t like the energy in a situation I can do something about it. By embodying the energy I wish to experience I am able to set the tone of the situation. When I shift my own energy I open the door for others to do the same. Otherwise I not only waste a ton of my time and physical energy, I get sucked into the energy that I’m resisting… like judgment and a lack of compassion.
If you are really serious about transforming the equine industry then you need to start asking why. Why are they doing that? There is a payoff for everything we do. We may be conscious of this pay off or we may not be. But it is there. When we become curious about the why and about the payoff that is being searched for, we empower ourselves to find a solution from a different level of consciousness. That shift consciousness is what will transform the equine industry.
Here’s a video of me helping a young horse learn to stand:
I’d like to share with you a personal example from about 11 or 12 years ago. At the time I was just starting out as a professional in the horse world and was watching a fellow trainer that sometimes worked at the same facility as I did. He was prepping a young horse for its first ride. The horse was brought into the round pen, some hobbles were slapped on and the trainer left the horse alone to figure it out. The young horse was panicky and stressed but eventually “learned helplessness” kicked in and he stopped fighting and stood still.
Later that afternoon the trainer went to get on for the first time and the horse stood perfectly still. The trainer did a great job (I’m being serious not sarcastic) of slowly getting on and off, desensitizing as he went. I felt the actual first ride was a positive experience for the horse.
Despite the fact that hobbling the young horse and leaving him to panic was not in alignment with my philosophies I had remained curious about why it was being done. Moreover, I was able to see the benefit of being able to introduce a young horse to the first rider with no ground person and a horse that was standing still. By figuring out the benefit, or should I say payoff, I was able to work towards solving the same problem without the hobbles or the excess stress on the horse.
To this day I get on young horses in a very similar way to that trainer, with no ground person and the horse standing on a loose rein. The difference is that I take the time to teach the horse to stand in a way that relaxes her and empowers her. Sometimes this lesson takes days, sometimes months. But the most common feedback I hear is, “Wow! She was so relaxed for the first time with someone on her back…I thought it would be way more eventful than that.”
Honestly I do not know if that particular trainer ever changed how he did things. But by remaining curious instead of judgmental I learned a new way of doing things. In the long run it has been a way that works better for me and the horses than my old way did.
I also know that every time I hear a “Wow” from the person watching that they too have raised their consciousness and will expect their horse being shown at least this much respect moving forward. This is how I choose to help heal the horse industry.