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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

A Reflection on What Matters
by Mary D. Midkiff

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - December 2005

I am always looking for universal images to help demonstrate the deep bond that can develop between people and animals (especially horses). I was pleasantly surprised to find a few beautifully realized in the new movie remake of "King Kong."

Aside from personal reactions to the movie itself, most of which were very positive, I thought Peter Jackson did a wonderful job expressing and visualizing the emotions and feelings of two beings for each other. The relationship I saw develop between the giant gorilla and a human female was familiar to me, and I found myself thinking, "That's what I see in my horse!"

The film should especially be seen by anyone who does not understand or believe there is a deep connection between people and animals; anyone looking for that special bond; or anyone who has trouble explaining their feelings about animals to others. The beauty and pain it evokes and the sensitivity shown when the woman and gorilla look at each other is pure and honest. After seeing this movie, you, your friends and family may naturally remark on how special your animal and human relationships are. And those who are skeptical may open up to take a look at a potential animal friend in another light. (They may also consider a major theme of the story -- how nature and animals are often the casualties of human greed.)

What kind of relationship do you have with your horse? Is he/she an employee, a dance partner, a friend, a significant other, a lover, a mother or father, a child, a distant relative, a co-worker, an acquaintance, a protector, a slave?

Being a lifetime horse person at age 50, I have had a long time to observe and experience what I believe matters to horses and how our relationship with them makes a difference.

Some people might think that human concerns alone have meaning, that what matters to horses (or any animals) isn't important. In this line of thought, it follows that we do the best we can for horses in domestication and that should be enough. Horses are there for us to enjoy and ride and drive on occasion; they should behave properly when we are using them and not eat too much or get hurt when we are not around. This is the way people may approach a relationship with a horse. Some of them (the people and the horses) will get by with this, and some of them won't.

I have a different view of our relationship with horses. As we round the corner toward the New Year, I'd like you to take some time and re-evaluate your approach to your horse(s).

The horse-human interaction is a life experiment that is always being tested. Through your one-on-one work with your horse you bond as partners. Any horse can be rigged up with gear and forced into doing his or her work for you. I consider this a very shallow, impersonal relationship with an employee-employer or master-servant dynamic.

My brother, a cowboy-type who lives in Dallas, looked at horses in this way in the past. During his formative years, horses were a physically fun and active way to enjoy some time around the farm or ranch or get some work done. He would go get and drag the horse to the barn area, maybe knock off the dust, throw a heavy saddle on his back, get on and go. When he was done, he'd dismount, take the saddle off and drag the horse back to the pen.

I saw a change in him this Christmas. He came to visit me and we went out on a ride together on Christmas Eve. He borrowed a nice old Quarter Horse from one of my friends. He brought the horse into the barn and he actually listened to some thoughts on how to treat the horse, how to carefully groom and saddle him, and all the little details that would make the horse more comfortable. He took some time saddling the horse, who was a sensitive and "cinchy" type. He talked to him, stroked the horse's neck and gave the horse the time he needed to be cinched up slowly and carefully. When he rode he was much more sensitive with his hands and listened to what I explained about stopping and turning the horse.

My brother talked to me about the incredible feeling horses gave him and that he actually felt a certain spirituality around the horse. When he dismounted, he spent a good 30 minutes or more toweling the horse's long wet coat and brushing him and giving him carrots and talking to him, thanking him for the ride. Even turning him out, he was slow and careful.

What an incredible transformation I had seen the horse create in my brother. He allowed the horse to come into his body and mind and received the great feelings the horse could give him. He has always had a good heart, but this particular horse experience brought it out even more. Now we, his human family, will feel it in our relationship with him. I am so proud of him and thank the horses once again for presenting the mirror my brother needed.

If you show up as your horse's boss, prepare him for work, go to work, work hard, give him a hand shake and say "see ya tomorrow, maybe you can do better," you are only creating a robot, a machine, and the horse will not want to partner with you or perform for you. He or she will only see you or humans as taskmasters and not as a herd mates. I perceive the horse to be thinking "Why am I working here and for this person? This human obviously does not care about me and my needs. I'm here just to help her get ahead and look good. When I am hurt or laid up, she hardly ever visits, or she ignores me altogether. I guess all she wants me for is to perform for her. I hate my job. I'm bored, I am not getting anywhere in life or having fun! I think I'll just quit dealing with these people."

Aside from the obvious mental disconnect, this scenario sets up tightness and tension throughout the horse's body. The nervous system is compromised, affecting all systems of the horse. Ulcers form, toxicity heightens, colic is probable and lameness a sure thing at the first bad step. Another horse for the trash heap of life? It doesn't have to be that way.

Does any of this sound familiar or resemble someone you might know? I see it around me all the time, and it hurts. The horses are miserable, the riders are miserable because the horses are miserable, and it goes on in a vicious circle."

I meet horses people say are mean or angry or just plain jerks (they use stronger words and names I won't) or like Kong, "just a dumb animal," and dismiss them as just being born that way. Like they are some sort of sub-set of sentient beings. Many of these horses are very smart and sensitive and just won't stand for the way they have been or are being treated and handled. How else can they express themselves? Are they supposed to act complacent and pleasant when they are miserable and out of sorts? As I have said before, I have only met one horse in my lifetime that was unrecoverable and he apparently had brain or nervous system damage that was irreparable."

These horses are mad or frustrated with their human interactions, relationships and the negative environment that they are living in. They deserve a chance to be who they are; a pretty special, sensitive soul and a tremendous athlete.

Your relationship with a horse is animal to animal first and foremost! The fact that you can ride him and dance with him is a pure gift!! Your first responsibility is to his or her psyche, their well being, their mental health, their self-image, their need for air, space and light, their need to be a part of nature, their need to be around other horses and graze.

I am all for "using" horses and do not want to see them go the way of the extremists who want no human interaction with them. I believe horses and humans help and save each other. If we honor them, listen to them, give to them, appreciate their needs and place first what matters to them instead of what matters to us, they will have very happy, fulfilling, long and sound lives.

In this crazy, hectic, overcrowded world we live in, horses are the one vehicle that takes us to a safe, calm, peaceful, restorative and healthy existence, even if it is just for a few hours. What would our lives be like without them and what they do for us? For me, life would be very empty, and this is not a slight to my husband or to my friends and family.

My horse fills me up as if I were a car going to the proverbial fuel station every day at the barn. When Kong finds Ann Darrow in the dark, cold city at the end of the movie, he feels whole again. Life's meaning is restored. Animals our horses do this for us every moment we are with them. Whether we perform with them or not, they deserve our compassion, our time and attention to their needs.

When they do receive all the life-force nourishment they need, they are the most amazing and beautiful dance partners in the world.

Here are a few beneficial websites for you to check out for you and your horses. www.purplechanges.com and www.healerswhoshare.com

I received a Sony Handycam from my wonderful husband for Christmas and plan to use it a lot on my website. Stay tuned for helpful photos and video downloads in the New Year. I am also looking into creating DVDs with my lessons for you and your horses.

"The Dynamic Rider System" went to the printer last week. Watch the website for the release of this helpful female rider program.

I am getting some amazing testimonials about the benefits of the W&H Essential Oils. They are being published on the website.

Happy New Year to You All!

Mary

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