by Berenika Bratny, Wolne Konie
As humans we have to learn all our lives. How to survive, how to communicate with others, how to have a happy relationship, how to express our emotions.
In order to train ourselves and our children we need a playground. Before we go into our adult lives we have to practice our emotions first — to try all we know on someone — animals.
Animals are human playground. It is good to have a pet for a child, many say, as it helps him to socialize with people later, as it teaches him to be responsible. As it gives the joy and sorrow of relationship.We experience the love of our pets, we learn how to take care of them, and others, too. We experience the sadness and the grief of illness and finally — the death saying farewell to them when their time comes.
Let’s be honest — we also practice killing. It might be the direct experience (how does it feel to kill a toad, a snail, a mouse? How does it feel to see a chicken killed by your grandmother?) or we might practice it as a denial (where do those lovely little piglets and calves go?).
The ways we treat others is often the result of what we have been taught by the use of animals. We build a wall between us and the rest of the nature (and animals), we learn how to kill, how to control, how to use and how to discard what is “useless”. We do it all the time with all kinds of animals. And we are still surprised that our lives are getting worse and worse, we loose communication with one another, we loose contact, we loose the ability to love. But do we practice love? Do we practice compassion? Our playground is often to practice kill and misuse, to experience terror, fear and power, nothing more.
How many times do we see a young boy “madly in love with horses” who carries a whip with a proud smile on his face? Or cute little girls with pink helmets tugging on the reins of their ponies? My friend’s 12 years old son was so crazy about horses that she bought him one. Beautiful sorrel mare. I was the “aunt who has horses” so when I paid a visit I was literally dragged to the nearby stable to see “the love of his life”. We entered the clean sport stable, all horses locked in their stalls. Sorrel beauty was lying asleep. We stood for a while in front of thick bars and looked at her. “Isn’t she beautiful?” — he whispered. Then opened the door and... kicked her. When I asked him about it he said he did it because she has to stand up when “her master is coming”. This is what he has been taught already. This is how he expresses his feeling of love. Do you think you’ll be surprised if, ten years later, he would have problems with his girlfriend? How would he express his feelings? Will he respect her? Or is it a cruel beginning of an emotional life full of misunderstanding and pain?
As children we really love our pets, how could we not? They are so cute and nice, they share our sorrows and happy times, they are our real friends. But during that process we are taught by adults how to treat them. And this is especially true with horses. They are big animals, seem dangerous to many, so adults feel the need to explain how to control them. And so the mad circle of sorrow and pain begins. And it does not end when the child grows up and the pony is sold like old shoes which were too tight. The feeling goes with the child into his adolescence and into his adulthood. It is always there, at the back of our minds – does love mean the need to control? Does love mean the need to use? Yes, it does — this is the lesson we are taught by the use of horses.
“What happened to the old mare who taught me the first steps of canter?” — I asked my aunt once. “Well, she was too old to carry a rider so we had to give her away,” — she replied with sorrow. She didn’t know that she planted a seed in my mind and one day, when she will grow old I will feel the burden of her presence and think about giving her to the retirement house. With sorrow, of course.
But there is also the other side. The moment when our emotional lives are such a disaster that we face the wall. The bottom. We realize — either we drown or we try to save ourselves. And then we look at our horses and see them as a mirror of what’s happening in our personal lives — obsession of control, fear of letting go, the lack of ability to trust. We make the first step, the smallest but the most profound — we open our eyes.
The road is long, sometimes dangerous, sometimes we think we’ve lost the way. We struggle with all the things we learnt before, all the reflexes, all the emotions and fears. But one day we will be there. Safe and sound. And saved.
But it could have been otherwise. We could be spared from the torments of emotional pain, misunderstanding and chaos. It could begin early in our lives, the day we get the first horse. Imagine — you are five, the pony you dreamt about approaches you, sniffs your hand and the only instruction you get is to respect it and listen to your heart. Later you’ll be able to experience something which you will express with such words:
“She is not here to follow or to learn from me. She is here to live as herself. When not wearing anything she is most beautiful. Giving her control is what I believe to be my biggest moment as a human. I have never done anything with so much meaning and love before. The gift i got in return was a friend, whom I love and treasure more than anything. She gives me love, but not in the way many wants. She won't follow me anywhere. She won't listen to every command I give. There is no way I can touch her everywhere I want whenever I like, but I know she cares about me and sees me as another living creature. […] When I do my work in the stable she will stand behind me with her head close to my back just nibbling my jacket. There is all those small things nobody else sees that makes me so sure I am important in her life.”
Aren’t these words of love? Wouldn’t you like to be loved this way yourself. Imagine…