We all own horses for different reasons. It doesn’t make one reason right and another wrong. However the equine world is a tricky place to thrive if your equine dream is different to those around you. I often hear how people suffer peer pressure to be doing stuff with their horses that isn’t their bag. They feel uncomfortable and struggle to justify what they want to get out of horse ownership. Some feel guilt for not wanting to engage in traditional equine activities, riding, driving, dressage, jumping, hacking etc…. Others feel judged by the horsey people around them. A few have been led to believe they are letting their horse down by not conforming. As a result of this pressure, more than once, I have had people tell me they have considered selling their horse. This is when I ask them fundamental questions – Why did you decide to get a horse? What do you love about horse ownership? Then they reflect on their very personal reasons for getting a horse and their personal equine dream.
No horse is born with tack. Equestrianism is a human agenda. When I say to clients a horse won’t miss being ridden, some are surprized. What horses may miss is meaningful, rewarding interactions with their humans. For me what matters are permissive, empathetic and ethical interactions; with no compromise on physical and emotional welfare. This topic is vast, and often a hot bed for passionate debate. Some folk’s thinking maybe entrenched in a particular direction which is opposite to your direction. Each of us is on our own personal journey. What should fuel us all is the constant desire to learn and evolve. For me it is the pursuit of finding a better, kinder and gentler way and never losing sight that the only opinion that matters is that of the horse. This opens the door to interactions and activities that mutually you and your horse enjoy. So yes, with this outlook it is ok to own horses for other reasons than mainstream equestrianism.
The relationship between a horse and human can be magical. For so many of us it is the number one reason we own horses. Horses offer us the opportunity to connect mentally, spiritually and physically. What horses need from us make us better people. Horses need us to listen to understand, be trustworthy, respectful and engage in a relationship that provides safety. Horses are highly attuned to our emotional feelings and energy. To engage in a meaningful relationship with a horse they desire us to be in a calm balanced energy. Being calm and relaxed is the polar opposite to stressed and anxious. Too many people lead fast paced and stressful lives, being with a horse provides opportunities for our emotional wellbeing. They see if we are masking issues and our incongruence rattles them. They reflect to us the issues we need to address from within. Horsemanship is a journey of self-development. Horses have the ability to influence us in profound life changing ways. Horses are amazing teachers and healers. Importantly we all crave love and affection and horsemanship can provide mutual unconditional love. Horses have the drive to pair bond and form lifelong bonds, as do humans. People will often have lifetime bond with their horse that outlasts those with other people. Horse ownership provides us with stability in an uncertain world, consistency, a routine, something to look forward to each day. Owning a horse can be therapeutic and for some life changing.
Caring for a horse keeps us physically active. Day to day care of a horse requires you to keep moving and to burn calories. Wheel barrows of muck, lifting hay, filling water buckets, carrying equipment, etc… Exercise is essential for bone and muscle health. Like me if you are getting on, strong bones are the best defence against osteoporosis. Exercise is good for digestion, something as simple as walking with our horse stimulates our internal organs. Being outdoors, when the sun is shining is great way of getting natural vitamin d, something that many of the population is deficient in. Engaging in some fun, physical exercise has been proven scientifically to reduce stress as the feel good as hormones such a serotonin and dopamine are released.
Horsemanship is a bridge to cross the species divide. True horsemanship is dialogue, a partnership with so many benefits. Listen to your horse, together you can grow in confidence by engaging in fun and rewarding activities. Horses have the ability to shape our character as horses love to pose us questions. You learn about looking at problems from outside your own perspective. You get creative about solutions. They teach us to listen to understand, with patience and commitment. True horsemanship is taking on the full responsibility of care, being prepared to make hard and difficult decisions, putting aside our own selfish wishes and desires. Horses also give us opportunities to practice just being, not doing, to slow down, relax and live more peacefully. Horses provide us with social opportunities, we meet like-minded people with a shared passion and lifelong friendships develop. The benefits list goes on and on….
I know plenty of people who have chosen not to ride and own horses for lots of other reasons. Non mainstream horse owners have not failed their horses and often peer pressure makes them feel guilty. They are not eccentrics; mavericks maybe. They should not have to justify the value of owning their horse. Their horses are not pasture ornaments that they have little or no interaction with. These horses have rich rewarding lives, with plenty of meaningful and rewarding stimulation, with shared fun adventures. They are part of a family, loved, treasured and cherished. These people deeply connect with their equines. Horses can be soul companions and earth angels that give us so much for so little in return. Horses as pets, friends, companions? Why not?