It has been suggested that one of the things that sets humans apart from other animals is our ability to think of the past and of the future. It is certainly true that we do spend an enormous amount of time doing this. Animals appear to live more in the present moment.
A horse will respond to something that triggers a memory from the past, so their present behaviour is affected by past events. But they are having their response and their thought process in the present. Unlike us they don’t stop and dwell on the past experience. Similarly a horse is aware of possible future events, e.g. if I stand here at the gate in the evening there’s a good chance food will arrive, but again they’re not thinking about all the possible future outcomes, just the one they know from experience. Once again they’re in the present moment having that thought, not lost in some musings of possible future happenings while being oblivious to their surroundings. This is where most humans are most of the time.
We become so involved with our interior thoughts that most of the time we’re missing the moment we’re actually in. We remember what has happened and wonder about what it all means and we think and plan and worry about the future. Both these activities keep our minds so busy there’s no room left to be here. Now this can be a big problem when we are around horses. If they are in the present and we aren’t it becomes very difficult to communicate, we’re literally in different worlds.
There’s an old saying, ‘leave everything at the paddock gate’. What this means is that from the moment we open the gate to go to our horse we need to leave all our thoughts about our lives right there. If we can allow ourselves to be in the present moment with the horse then it’s possible to have open communication.
Now for many of us it’s not quite this easy. With busy lives and the constant need to stay on top of everything we often don’t know how to find the off switch. Meditation and yoga and other mindfulness practices are wonderful ways to learn how to do this. But also out there in the paddock is one of the most amazing Zen masters ever, your horse.
This is definitely one area where the horse can become the teacher and us humans the students. Spending ‘being’ moments with your horse will change the way your horse views you and bring you into the same world as your horse, the present. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I like be near my horses, either standing or sitting still and then I tune into my body and settle my eyes on a single spot. The constant motion of the breath is wonderful to follow and brings you into your body. Feeling the earth beneath you and the breeze on your skin does the same. Listening to the sounds from the outside world, the birds, wind or any sound that’s in the environment brings you into the place. As with meditation, if thoughts arise just watch them but don’t engage, and they will soon pass.
Even five minutes spent doing this near your horse regularly will be of enormous benefit and the more you do it the easier it becomes. A state of non-mind when working with horses allows you to receive the messages from your horse without all the clutter. Being present also calms you and calms your horse, making your time together even more enjoyable and fulfilling.