I spent the weekend facilitating a clinic on Riding with Confidence. The participants were all avid horse people who had, essentially, lost their nerve at some point. All of the reasons were valid, such as physical injury from a fall or a traumatic experience while riding. I heard stories about people landing in the hospital for weeks and having broken bones. Most of these experiences were long in the past, yet still haunting them. The most fascinating part was that all of these women, after expressing how terrified they were, still wanted to ride.
Not only did they want to ride, and were riding for that matter, but they still said things like, “horses are my life”, “horses are my passion”, “horses are my time for myself, to just relax”. Sitting on a 1200-plus pound animal that has had behavior scary enough to physically hurt you does not sound relaxing, especially once they have actually hurt you. So why do they do it?
Here lies the real question. Why horses? We talk about this in the context of therapy as well as in the context of spending all of our spare time and money on them as horse people. Why are people so drawn to horses? If we could answer this question, we might understand better why it is a multi-billion dollar business and why it is so powerful in therapy.
I have a few of theories. One is that horses are big and powerful, yet ninety-nine percent of the time, they allow us to be their leaders. Otherwise, we would never be able to lead them let alone climb on their backs. We all want to be the leader. We all want control over something. And we all have ego. There is something very engaging about being the leader of a horse. Even when it goes wrong, we have tasted the control and we want more of it.
Another theory is that horses are so close to nature, in a way that we can’t even comprehend as humans. I believe that all of us, consciously or unconsciously, are craving connections; to other people, to animals, to nature itself. Horses give us some of that in a very intimate way. They also allow us to connect with them even when we struggle with social norms and have difficulty feeling connected to other humans. Even that “city” person that says they don’t like nature will exhibit symptoms of craving for connection, even if it is in their desire to have a house plant or a cat.
I have one more theory. For horse people, living their life with horses is what they know. For non-horse people seeking it for therapy, it is novel. It is human nature to be drawn to what we know and are familiar with. If we have spent so much time and money and energy on horses, we may not know how to give that up, or at least make it look different than it looks right now. We may not be aware that there is a completely different way to enjoy horses than the way we are doing now. If we are used to showing horses, we may not realize there is the option of buying a quiet horse and just trail riding. We may not realize that we could have miniature horses or donkeys just as pets. We may be so far down the horse showing machine that we truly don’t know there are other options.
And if we are seeking it out for therapy and it is novel to us, we are ready to change. It is also human nature to seek out something new when we are ready for change.
Find peace with your horses, my friends, and know that our clients are finding peace with our horses when we allow them to experience the natural wonder that is the horse. If you are struggling to find that peace, maybe you are ready for a change.