Yesterday, I went to a horse expo. Overall, it was a fun time, and we saw a really moving demonstration on confidence. I also picked out another session on rider confidence that I couldn’t sit through. It was a tough decision to leave before it was over, and I am glad that I took that road. For me, why I chose to leave had everything to do with the horse.
I was a little uncomfortable watching the speaker work with a horse before the official start of the session. Nothing was abusive, I do not mean to imply that at all. There just wasn’t any sense of honor or connection in the interactions I witnessed with the horse. I pretty much told myself to just give her a chance, and stayed in my seat. Plus, I had two friends and my daughter with me. What if they wanted to stay and watch?
The speaker started with her story of why she’s into the line of work of helping fearful riders. She has a good story, and I’m sure that she’s helped many, many people, in addition to making some wonderful changes in her life. I was hoping to learn some new techniques, or be able to witness some of those beautiful moments when a a person shines from inside. She had a rider who was brave enough to volunteer later in the demo. I was looking forward to that!
As the speaker was giving the demonstration, the horse moved into her space. This was not her horse, so it was very true that she didn’t know it well at all. The speaker demonstrated how she would move the horse out of her space, and talked about how important that was for respect. Then, as she was talking she stepped back into the horse’s space, so that she was right back into the same unsafe position. I realize that theoretically we are supposed to be able to step into the horse’s space, not them moving into ours, unless we invite them in. There was a level of unconsciousness that I perceived about that interaction though, that again, caused me to feel uncomfortable. I told myself again, that I was over reacting and I should give the speaker a chance. Besides, I had two friends and my daughter with me. What if they wanted to stay and watch?
I really, really wanted to witness that volunteer have a moment of joy. I didn’t want to miss out on the prize at the end. After all, labor was pretty excruciating, and there was a prize at the end that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Maybe this was like childbirth, I was over reacting and just had to hang in there?
The speaker was on the topic of respect again. She did make some good points about respect, and trusting the partner you have in your horse. Good words. The prize was looking better. Then, it happened. It was nothing remarkable in so many ways. And, for some reason, it shattered my insides. I really, really wanted to leave now. But, I had two friends and my daughter with me. What if they wanted to stay and watch?
I told myself that I was being ridiculous. The “it” was just that the speaker popped the horse with the popper on the end of the rope. That is hardly an inhumane act. In many circumstance, that action, and even those with much more intensity are appropriate, and won’t cause such an internal reaction for me. What was my problem? Actually, I did know what my problem was. The pop for this horse came in a way that I’m convinced he felt it was out of the blue. Because the speaker wasn’t really conscious of where this horse was, she popped it when it was just doing what it had been doing all along. The part that made it so uncomfortable for me was that she was speaking of respect just before she ambushed him. What was respectful about that? How was this honoring the horse at all? (Just to note, I do not think that honoring the horse means never letting him experience a consequence for his actions. However, I do believe that awareness and consistency must be included in the equation.) The prize was losing it’s allure, in fact, it was all gone. It was time to poll my two friends and my daughter.
Turns out we were all on the same page about our desire to witness this presentation. Crap. Now, we had to leave. Even though I didn’t want to stay and witness what was happening (or not happening) I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the speaker. This was turning into an “choosing Anny” moment for me, where I chose my horse over the voices in my head and mainstream convention. I chose to respect my feelings, perceptions and philosophies and left the session. I could not stay, and feel that I was supporting or condoning the lack of regard for the horse in this demonstration. And, in so many ways, it was no big deal. I had a whole internal war going on. It really was quite ridiculous. I made my choice. I, my two friends, and my daughter do not know how the rest of that session unfolded. We were on the other side of the wall.
Later on, we went to the other demonstration on rider confidence. Let’s just say, I got my prize after all! Thank you for a great experience to the clinician, and thank yous to my two friends and my daughter for hanging with me. It was a good day! Horses are amazing, I am glad that I honored how important that is to me.