Many Tears Animal Rescue Centre column by Katy Kear
"THE horse is the mirror to your soul and sometimes you might not like what you see" — Buck Brannaman.
People talk of horses having a sixth sense. A sense of 'knowing'.
Knowing danger, knowing emotion, knowing their surroundings better than any human. Some say it's just their incredible hearing, together with heightened natural instincts.
I think that's wrong. Of course a horse's hearing is far greater than ours and their fight or flight instincts are always there, waiting for a moment where they may be attacked by a wolf or a lion. But there is more to it I'm sure.
They recognise our moods, they pick up an atmosphere and can feel tension before a hand reaches for them with a head collar.
I feel as though I've already spent a lifetime around horses, although I know that my learning will never stop.
I've studied for months on end, carrying revision cards everywhere I went, I've spent hours perfecting exercise, knee and hock bandages, I've stood in an arena in tears, desperate to feel encompassed by enough understanding to teach fellow students and then pass my exams to become the instructor that I wanted to be.
Years ago I thought that was how to learn, and that's what my education entailed. But the greatest education, the university of equine education, has come through watching.
I've watched horses react entirely differently between riders, and seen relaxed, happy horses turn and rear with a different handler.
Sadly, I've also seen the human response. A horse who bucks a rider off instantly receives the label of being 'bad' or 'naughty' — or a pony who gallops to the back of the ride with a child clinging on is 'uncontrollable' and 'wild'.
Then the horse gets sold, or their label stands and every rider to sit on that horse does so with tension and nerves, causing more difficulties or 'bad behaviour'.
Through my years of teaching, more often than not, people blame the horse, the environment or the other riders around them.
Occasionally, only once in a while I witness someone great. Someone who's had a fall and has gone away and figured it out.
They've realised that when they arrived at the stables, they were stressed and running late. They noticed that their mind was occupied by their day and not by that moment.
Or those that realised that when the other horses spooked, they allowed their bodies to tense around their horse, confirming that danger was approaching and escape was the only option.
Being around horses gives us the wonderful opportunity to learn about ourselves.
Whether you ride once a week at a riding school or own your own horse, please take that opportunity and make it possible for you and your horse to achieve something wonderful.
Your horse is a reflection of you, never forget!