Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"A Mind Like Still Water": Information

I loved this chapter, Information, in Whole Heart, Whole Horse, by Mark Rashid. I've been reflecting on it the last couple of weeks as I work with my horses, and I've decided, in my mind, this is THE most important part of being a good horsewoman.

I remember back, when I was taking lessons with a wonderful trainer, and she'd taught me a number of what I thought were hard and fast rules about working with horses. In fact, I followed them to the tee or, at least, thought I was following them to the tee. Then, slowly, as we rode together day in and day out, I saw that she was often breaking her own rules. I'd ask her why she'd done this or that thing and she'd point out something the horse did to make her think she needed to do something different.

It hit me: there are no hard and fast rules.

This Chapter is all about letting go of our expectations and prejudices, becoming like still water, and allowing the situation to be just what it is, no more, no less--like a perfect reflection off that still water.

After ruminating on this, I've come to think our advice is often wasted. Someone presents us with a problem they have with a horse, and we want to give them answers, but we're not there. We're not the ones taking in the thousands of pieces of information the horse is giving out which, when put together, may require us to do something absolutely different and even contradictory.

[***addendum later in the afternoon same day as original post. I'm thinking good advice is never wasted--it does sometimes give people a different way to look at the issue. Also, video can be very helpful--as can direct instruction. That second pair of eyes can really open up your own.]

His example is the horse who goes nuts to get to other horses. The solution: take the horse over to the other horses. Goes against everything we're told to do, doesn't it? And sometimes, truth be told, that would not be the right answer. However, it was for this horse.

This is what I love about working with horses--the challenge to develop Misu no kokoro--a mind like still water. (Not a bad frame of mind to exist in, huh?) No one knows more about your horse than you (if you're willing to look with new eyes). It's a completely dynamic and ever-changing relationship. The horse you have today is not the horse you had yesterday. Likewise, the person you were yesterday is not the person you are today. All the good you did. Gone. (Sorry) All the bad you did? Gone. (Congratulations.) The horse will take you where you are now.

Kind of exciting, isn't it?


  1. I couldn't agree more that there are no hard and fast rules when dealing with horses. There are safety basics and manners that should be adhered to. But as for working with different horses or even the same horse every day, each horse or situation has its own set of problems to be dealt with in the moment. We rarely do the same thing day after day and that's what makes it so much fun working with horses.

  2. I agree. My horses are different from day to day, but so am I. They have their basic personalities, but within that framework, there can be a wide variety of reactions. Last night Beautiful was WILD for some reason, but most days she's very calm. Weather? Bad day? Dynamics within the herd? Who knows...but I had to deal with her differently. The same with the pony--for days she was making huge steps forward--then about four days ago--took ten steps back--then the next day--back to huge steps forward. Go figure. Is it her? Me? Weather? ..... Keeps me from patting myself on the back or taking them, and their personalities, for granted. ;)

  3. Horses pick up our feelings so easily. I find the best times with them is when I am in a calm, loving frequency, which isn't hard 'cause I love 'em so.

  4. Spiritartartist--I think you're right. We come to them with our own energy which influences the relationship. I don't think it's much different with people. When I go out shopping and I'm happy and positive, I get good service and everyone else seems happy and I always think--wow, it must be in the air today. It's probably though, positive energy feeding off positive energy.

  5. I think you touch on something very important here- that we need to be flexible. If you say, "Today I'm going to do X with my horse, no matter what" you're already setting yourself and your horse up for failure.

  6. I think one of the worst things you can do for a horse is have it predetermined in your mind how that horse will be. The horse is set up before you even touch it.

    I think good horsemanship is totally about reading the horse and going from there. What's on today's menu cannot be known without the horse doing the telling.

  7. Smazourek--I agree, and likewise, if we think "we're not going to accomplish X because (fill in the blank: it's windy, horse is in heat, horse is grumpy) we might sell the day short.

  8. Mikeael--that is true. It's very windy here today and the farrier was coming by--I thought it was going to be iffy with the horses, but they were fine. They're more nervous than usual, but stood good when it came down to it. Is it windy over your way?!?

  9. It's a very important concept - we need to be receptive to what the horse is bringing us on that day and work with that and not the "horse in the mind" that we may have constructed. Easier said than done, of course, but it's a very important thought. That's why I hate trainers who preach one system of working with all horses - doesn't work for horses any more than it does with people.

    Nice post.

  10. I've had times when I've been so wound up from school that my horses refuse to deal with me! So, I just walk away and come back another day! Yes, I think what you say is true. I'll have to read that book (I have it around here somewhere...)

  11. Kate--I think the one system mindset is all about making money--it always is--even outside of horses.

    Cheryl Ann- At least you know the dynamics and can adjust. That's very perceptive of you to have figured it out.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.