As I rode by the mirror this week, I checked to see the outline of the horse I was training - had he hidden behind the vertical or did his frame match the one I had in my head? Although he felt soft in my hands and forward in his trot, I’ve come to realize that what I feel doesn’t always match what is.
In life, horses, people and circumstances can act as mirrors to reveal character in me that needs changing. Mirrors reflect the best and worst in us. A frustrating training session can bring attention to other areas of life where our patience and knowledge run out at the same time… we just don’t know what to do so we start jerking, kicking or swearing. When we’re left standing in the lineup after the class is placed, the green monster of jealousy can rise up, along with our tendency to start blaming others to hide the shame we feel. A client who disagrees with a policy can reveal an arrogance in us that repels others, keeping us from deep friendships.
Interacting with horses and humans has sanded off a few of my rough edges over the years. I’ve developed empathy – considering the point of view of the other. Horses are not humans with fur. I’ve got to learn to think like a horse in order to train effectively. When I consider an equine point of view as a grazing, herd dependent, prey animal, phrases like “He’s just being ignorant” “She’s such a mare!” disappear. Instead, I take a hard look at the “code” I’m using to communicate what I want – are my cues conflicting or vague? Seeing other people as uniquely created, gifted and loved by God entrenches the fact that it’s not my way or the highway! Avoiding the mirror because we’re afraid of what it might show doesn’t make the flaw go away. Challenging horses and humans are an opportunity to learn and grow!