What matters to horses is that we are true to ourselves, above all else. When we are true to ourselves our inner world is healthy and vibrant and we reflect that health through our outward expressions to the world. Horses love what it feels like, interacting with a healthy, vibrant expression of life. They seem to find it magnetic and willingly engage with humans who share this quality. The great masters of any discipline embody this truth, but it can be elusive to define and put into practice in our own lives.
Whenever I think about the qualities horses find appealing in humans, I see all these things interweaving and coming together more like a web than a pyramid or a linear progression. This makes it challenging to teach the qualities we see in master horse people because we are so used to being taught in linear ways. Each time I have tried to find a linear progression for helping my students find these qualities in themselves I’d hit a brick wall. We express these qualities holistically, so how do I teach them holistically?
I spent weeks pondering and writing and tossing. Finally, last night, I lay quietly pondering: What matters to horses is who we are – they respond to healthy expressions of self – when it hit me! I would break it down into two general categories: – our inner qualities and our outer qualities – which must be developed simultaneously.
Here’s how I see it:
Our internal qualities – when in a state of health – relate to our capacity to utilize all of our senses to consciously gather information from the world, to perceive, to receive. A healthy inner world is capable of harmonizing with the frequencies, emotions and sensations of absolutely everything in our environment (horses, other humans, wild life, plants, soil, you name it). One hallmark of a healthy inner world is the ability to enter states of deep stillness where we can listen on many levels.
Our external qualities – when in a state of health – relate to our capacity to take our inner qualities and share them with the world. How we carry ourselves, how we move, how we communicate and interact with others are reflections of our inner world taken outward. Our outer qualities are what allow us to have physical experiences of the world and those we share it with. It’s how we take the inspiration and insight our inner world provides, and test it to see how it enhances our experience of being in a body on this planet in relationship to everyone and everything.
I like to think of self-awareness as a dance between my inner self and my outer self, the embodiment of balanced masculine and feminine energy within myself. Johanna Siegmann, in her book, The Tao of Tango, talks about the necessity for dance partners to each embody balanced masculine and feminine energy. In addition, she makes a distinction between masculine and feminine ‘behavior’ and masculine and feminine ‘energy’. When I apply her ideas to my concept, I think of my healthy inner world as the feminine aspect of myself. Healthy feminine energy is receptive, open, nurturing, and so on. My outer qualities represent the qualities of healthy masculine energy being expressed as motivation, drive, aggression (in the sense of having enough aggressive energy to get something to happen). Without these healthy masculine qualities I would simply sit and stare at my navel and never take my inner energy out into the world.
A few words came to mind that characterize my inner and outer selves (no positive or negative connotations attached – both sides are equally important to the expression of a healthy self):
It’s very easy to compartmentalize and to judge. Our life experiences may create a perception that feminine qualities are weak and subservient or that masculine qualities are domineering and hostile. If we prioritize one aspect over another we create imbalance within ourselves that is reflected in how we interact with the world. Part of self-awareness is recognizing the ‘dis-ease’ states we knowingly or unknowingly cling to that inhibit healthy self-expression. Horses recognize this imbalance as dissonance, a lack of structural integrity between our inner and outer selves, and they do not like it.
In terms of working with horses, when we are out of balance with ourselves, they don’t respond fluidly to our requests. We are typically trained to see their resistance, reluctance or escalation as disobedience. We are taught to correct these behaviors, often by any means necessary. The consequences of this are damaging both to ourselves (our own integrity) and to our horses. When we force ourselves to act in ways that are not in line with our inner truth it harms us. When we punish our horses for accurately reflecting our dissonance, we harm them.
The implications and applications of finding balanced self-expression between our inner and outer qualities are endless.
We can change the world if we can master this one thing!