There is a well-known quote in the horse world that horses offer a mirror to your soul. Whether you like it or not, your horse is sending messages to you, reflecting to you what they sense and opening the opportunity for you to face your deepest fears, insecurities, and the emotions you tend to bury. But they also are willing to show you the beauty that is inside of you. You can ignore it all if you don’t want to go there, but they are still going to show it to you. The best part of all of this? Unlike so many humans, horses attach no judgement to these reflections; they just see you as you are. Horses are in the moment and are not concerned about your ego or what others think about you. They just react to what they sense, and they are far more intuitive and tuned in than we allow ourselves to be. You can choose to listen and let them teach you without judgement or you can ignore it—your horse doesn’t care.
What are some common examples we see? From a group of people who have committed to being students of horsemanship, here are some examples.
Patience & emotional control – Are you someone who rushes through life, never wanting to wait on anything, and getting frustrated when things don’t happen right away? Oh boy, your horse is going to give you a good dose of personal growth. They aren’t in a rush, and if you are or if you lose control of your emotions, they will either join the fun and things will really escalate or they will just stop working for you. So, take a deep breath, be in the moment, listen to what your horse is teaching you, and know that you could come out the other side as someone who is more enjoyable to be around if you just take the lesson your horse is giving you.
Confident communications – Horses will ignore you when you give direction as a timid request. That doesn’t mean you need to be demanding, mean, or heavy handed. Instead, they are looking for a confident and clear communication where there is no question as to what you are asking of them, and no hesitation. Think of it as “I would like you to step to your right now please,” instead of “could you maybe step to your right at some point if it feels ok to you?” See the difference? Horses do for sure, and they will hold you accountable to asking the right way.
In tune with your surroundings – Many of us move through our lives not paying attention to what is happening around us. We are focused on what we’re doing and where we’re going. But you miss out on so much when you live with blinders on, and you might also end up on the ground if you do that while riding a horse. Horses are tuned into everything in their environment—from that rustling in the bushes to the wind picking up as a storm blows in. Watch and learn from them, and you might find that there are roses to smell that you never even noticed before!
Acceptance – Do you ever feel broken, or less than, or not enough? Horses don’t see you that way. They just see you as you. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could learn that from your horse and just accept the way you are instead of always trying to compensate, change, or repair? That doesn’t mean we don’t work to do better, but if you are impatient, for example, your horse isn’t going to judge you for that, they just might refuse to work for you until you slow down, pay attention to them, and work with them at their pace. Then they move on, and there is no baggage or resentment.
Setting boundaries – Horses live in a very social world. Their entire survival is based on how they work into their herd and surroundings. Because they are so social, they are constantly figuring out where they fall in the pecking order, as knowing that place creates safety for them. That all sounds marvelous, but it is also the same reason a horse will come into your space, be pushy with you, or disregard your cues. As the leader of the team, you will need to assert yourself, set boundaries, and be 100% with holding those lines. How often do you do that in your life? Probably not often.
The Blame Game – When things go wrong, it’s our first instinct to blame someone or something else. It’s easy to blame your horse when you are not able to get them to do what you want, and they don’t have much of a voice to tell you otherwise. If you’re tuning into this practice of horsemanship, you’ll quickly find out that most likely you weren’t getting the results you wanted because of something you were doing, not the horse. The moral of that lesson? It’s what you do with your challenges, not who or what you can blame for them.
Growth is hard, but it’s amazing how interacting with a horse can simplify how to get there. You can practice it with your horse and create some muscle memory to take out into the much more complicated world of people! We’d love to hear other ways that you’ve learned about yourself from a horse. If you’d like, share with us your experience on this Facebook post below.