This post is the first of ten posts we call the Precepts for Horsemanship.
1. Your Body Reveals What Your Mind Thinks
Several years ago we were watching a magic show on T.V. For one of the tricks, the magician picked a volunteer from the audience and had them hold a piece of string that had a key dangling from the other end. The magician instructed the volunteer to hold her hand very still but concentrate on getting the dangling key to move. After a few moments the key slowly started swinging back and forth. As she concentrated harder, the key swung higher and higher and faster and faster. The magician then asked her to imagine the key standing still. The key began to slow and finally came to a complete stop. The volunteer was flabbergasted. She had controlled an object with nothing but her mind!
You are now probably wondering what in the world magic tricks have to do with horsemanship. But was this really magic? Not at all.
What the swinging key shows us is that, as humans, we are subject to our thoughts. Our minds and bodies are not separate entities. For a more mundane example, one of the first things any young driver is taught is to never look directly at the oncoming traffic. Why? Because the minute you focus on the car coming towards you, you end up crashing into that car! It is our imagination that is the awesome power here. It is us imagining the two cars crashing that forces our bodies to cause the crash.
Consider this scenario for a moment: say you mean to invite me into your home, but rather than focus on the idea of me being inside your home, you think of the fact that I am currently not inside but on your doorstep. Instead of displaying the subconscious body language of your futuristic idea (me in your home), your body would unconsciously turn to face me, effectively blocking me from coming inside and communicating without words that you wanted me to stay where I was. I, as a respectful listener, would face you in return, probably wondering what we were stopping to do or talk about, or even if you had in fact changed your mind about inviting me into your home.
Now insert a horse in place of myself and something like a trailer instead of a front door. If the scenario played out the exact same way, the natural human response would be to enforce our unarticulated desires with one of our handy poking, prodding, pulling, whipping, whacking, smacking devices horse people always have readily available. My thinking (as a horse) would then change to “Man, when this stupid person says ‘let’s stop and talk’ they actually mean ‘get in the trailer.’” I would probably also think that you would be more enjoyable to be around if you weren’t so violent and incompetent.
Don’t think that this is the only form this particular precept can take. It is probably the most common mistake we see people making, and a regular frustration hampering your communication with your horse.
Think about your communication with your horse while riding. If you wanted a canter depart, instead of picturing yourself cantering off peacefully, most people instead focus on the thing they don’t want: a frazzled, trotting race into the canter that looks and feels atrocious. And why do they get that? Because that is what their body unconsciously asked for. It is inconvenient and frustrating for you, but it’s the poor horse that gets smacked for it.
Here is the point we want you to take home: to communicate a direction or action is to be fully attentive to the futuristic event desired. What you want to happen must fully encompass your thoughts. Your imagination is a powerful thing, and as some wise person once said: with great power comes great responsibility. But once you harness this power-this responsibility-incredible things can happen; things that can almost look, well…magic.