Last Sunday we went cattle sorting. This is the first chance we’ve had to go since last summer. I was really, really looking forward to it. Maybe I built it up too much; I don’t know. In any case, I was excited and enthusiastic, and totally expecting to have a great time. I didn’t.
Probably for a number of reasons, but it started the instant I signed up and gave them my money. I suddenly felt like I would be a liability to anyone I partnered with, and needed to apologize for that. This wasn’t clear to me at the time, but it contributed to me so not having fun. Rod asked me several times, “Are you having fun? Are you having a good time?” And I kept saying yes, I was, but it wasn’t true. And I didn’t know it then.
But Angel did.
As a prey animal, horses are very much in tune with all the nuances around them. They have to be. They have to know if that lion is hungry or just hanging out. Ever watch those nature shows where the herd of zebra is just grazing, and the lions are lying in the sun not too far away? The zebras know they aren’t hunting, so there’s no need to spend their energy in running away right now. Horses ask, “Is that a threat right now?” If the answer is “no” then they can go on grazing or snoozing or whatever.
Horses deal with all the emotions we bring to them: happiness, sadness, anger, fear. What they really don’t like, though, is dissonance – acting one way while feeling another. It bothers them. As the saying goes, “Horses never lie.” Mark Rashid has taught that there is no difference between how a horse acts and how they feel. And they are uncomfortable when we do that.
After we got back to the stable, Angel expressed his discomfort by acting out in ways that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It made me angry. Why was he being so naughty? What was his problem? Well, his problem was that he was reflecting back to me my own emotional state. I kept saying I was fine, and he was saying, “No, you’re not. Let me prove it to you.”
I didn’t get that all figured out until the next day, and on Tuesday evening when I went up for my riding lesson, I made up with Angel and told him I was sorry. Our ride that evening was darn-near perfect.
The lesson for me that day was to just be honest. Be present. Show up and pay attention. Isn’t that what all true religions teach us?