Friday, October 23, 2009

Compassion and Honesty - a Meditation for a Rainy Day

It's raining, it's pouring, and there are puddles and mud everywhere. So, no work with horses is likely today - instead here are some thoughts I've been having.

Here's something I found this morning in one of the books I'm reading: "When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic." How often are we sabotaged in our interactions with others - people and animals - due to that interior, nagging, critical voice, that says that we don't have the skill or ability to accomplish something, or that says what we're doing isn't, and can't be, good enough? I know that interior voice surely affects me - and it's hard to pay attention to what your horse is doing or trying to say to you when you're listening to that negative voice. I know for me, a lot of the times when I'm frustrated with my work with my horses - which can turn quickly into frustration with the horses themselves - it's really because I'm failing to treat myself with compassion. I think, in order to be effective in my work with horses, I have to truly "be there" with the horse - this to me is what compassion really is - sensing and perceiving all the subtle things that happen in the interaction, the conversation - and if I'm having a conversation instead with my negative interior voice, it can block the ability to have a conversation with the horse. I also believe that, to the extent we can stop the internal stream of self-criticism, the more clearly we can evaluate what we're doing and its effectiveness, and then, without emotion, make the adjustments necessary to improve the interaction. At least that's how it seems to me.

To me there's an element of honesty involved as well. Have you ever been tempted to "make nice" on your blog - to omit some of the bad stuff that happens, or present a rosier picture? I know I'm tempted, particularly when I find what I have to say embarrassing. Or conversely, are you likely to beat up on yourself and express that interior self-critical voice? So far I've mostly been able to be honest about the ups and downs I experience in my work with horses - I only know what I know, and have been able to accomplish what I've accomplished, and that's the truth. I think that nagging, self-critical internal voice can also motivate us to present a face to the world that isn't the real thing. Sure, I need to know more, or sometimes work in more effective ways, but I'm bringing what I have to the table, right now. I think it has to be the real me that is with the horse for our interaction to be effective - the horse can tell if the real you has showed up or if it's some sort of facade. Horses don't have facades - what they present to you is the real horse - and I think they're deeply suspicious of people who are pretending to be something they aren't. I have to be willing to engage with the horse, honest face to honest face, with the abilities and limitations I have, and I have to remember that I bring my whole life, and my whole self, to my work with horses.


  1. There is no one harder on me . . . than myself. And sometimes, that gets in the way of things.

  2. About six years ago I had a lot of my own junk I brought to work with the horses--and that was about the time I got Cowboy. He was a life-saver for me because work with him insisted that I focus on the moment (he's a sneakyish fellow). A lot of people wondered why I liked him so much since he had these obvious character flaws, but I needed him just the way he was. Today, he and I know each other so well it doesn't take as much, but I love him so deeply I can't help but think about him whenever I'm in his presence. He's a good, good friend and has helped me calm what was a very negative inner voice that had me living in fear.

  3. I'm very hard on myself and, yes, I often think that what I'm doing can't be right. As I'm getting older I have a little more patience with myself, but I still get very frustrated both with myself and my horses. I'm learning to handle it and I try to be myself and be honest with my horses. I'm develloping a relationship with my youngster which I think is honest and it gives me great joy.

  4. Kate, one thing you said really rang true with me:

    Horses don't have facades - what they present to you is the real horse - and I think they're deeply suspicious of people who are pretending to be something they aren't.

    I ended up blanketing Panama myself last winter because he would NOT, under any circumstances, allow the owner of that barn to catch him. And I think what you said in this post was why: Panama saw through that guy much faster than I did, and knew he was not to be trusted.

  5. Great post. I enjoyed your deep thinking and meditations.

    Sometimes, I think we keep some doors closed, even from ourselves, so as not to have to deal with the skeletons inside, too. We can keep things simple and basic on the outside, while a turmoil boils within. We think we are keeping things safe, but really we are just putting the lid on the volcano....

    Sometimes we have to open that door or lift that lid and allow some of that steam to escape so we can reevaluate and become introspective. The door is also a safety barrier of the heart, from having to deal with tough questions that may or may not have any answers at all.
    This is sort of where I am right now.

    Every day I've been letting that door inch open a little bit. And I think my horse must sense this, too. I've been afraid to let her in, only giving her superficial affection, which in turn, is all she's been giving me, I've come to realize.
    This past week, I've seen some amazing changes in my horse, and I think they are happening because of the changes I've made.......


  6. It's an interesting post. I've noticed that there are some days when I come out to ride, get Izzy all tacked up, get on, and then get off again. Even if she's being good, if I know I can't deal with her issues in the mood that I'm in, then it is most beneficial for us to do nothing at all. I certainly don't want to take something out on her that isn't her fault and she has no power to change.

    And yes, there have been a couple times when I don't blog about a bad day, but it's usually because I'm frustrated with myself for not being able to find an answer and I want to think things through before looking for input. Such is life.

  7. Kate, I think it is very easy for all of us to be self critical and can sometimes be tempting to make things sound rosier than they are, or 'omitting' bad stuff. However I think you just need to be sure the reasons for your blog as well as does it really truly matter if you screwed something up or was not perfect. You are human, we are all human and it takes much courage really show yourself. Most people never do and it is a matter of self preservation.

    I think, from what you have shown to us on this blog, that you are a very thoughtful and caring horsewoman, mother, friend. I believe that you are correct in thinking that horses see that in humans. They have an innate instinctive sense for, their own welfare and protection, in whom can and cannot be trusted.
    We cannot hide who we are from them and we cannot pretend with them, one way or another they will make it transparent.

    I think that is one reason why when I have been looking for a new trainer that I have gone to observe them working with horses. Feedback from other clients and records of achievements can only show so much. Watching people work with horses always give me the most insight into that person.

    I hope the weather clears up here sometime soon! it is going to be a long indoor season this year.

  8. I will admit I have thought hard more than once about putting certain things on my blog. Like when Ivan had his colicy incident last week, or the time when my horse rolled right by the fence and got herself stuck underneath it, or back in the spring when Poco the pony was going through everything. Sometimes I think that someone will read this stuff and think I don't take good care of the horses or whatever. But you know, life happens, and horses get sick or hurt every day regardless of how immaculate the care and facilities are. It would be stupid for me to pretend that everything is always roses around here. Mostly it is but this is a farm with a lot of living creatures on it, things go wrong.

    If I blogged more regularly about my riding (which you will recall I have been soundly criticized for doing in the past) it would be mostly about my mistakes. I wish I could get things right all of the time but I am a mere, flawed mortal and my horses are experts at pointing that out!

  9. On my horse blog, yes, I know I am tempted to gloss over the harder stuff. But I haven't yet, because I swore it would remain true to what is happening.

    On my personal blog though, no, I rarely gloss.


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.