It's seemed to me lately that one of the biggest things that gets in the way of effectively working with horses is what I'm calling "chattering mind" - the human mind and the way it tends to operate.
A step back - I try to do a session of meditation every morning - simple stuff, just paying attention to the breath and noting when the mind wanders or does something else. I'm what you would call a "baby" meditator - I'm not very experienced at it and I can't do it for a long time - 20 minutes is about my limit. But even in my beginning meditation practice, it's abundantly clear that my mind is a buzzing, churning, constantly darting around series of random thoughts and feelings, and that the result of this is that I'm only rarely "there" - in the present moment. My mind is full of memories, and plans and thoughts and worries and . . . and . . . and . . . One of the benefits of meditation practice is that it really exposes how cluttered and chaotic the human mind really is, if only we pay attention.
But one of the benefits of meditation practice is that it helps teach me that none of that "chattering mind" is evil, or negative, or to be rejected - it just is. And paradoxically, acknowledging/noting what the mind is doing is the first step towards being able to not be caught up in it.
For me, "chattering mind" is a good summary of how we often are with our horses. Our minds are full of: "will he spook at that?" . . . "what am I going to have for dinner?" . . . "the kids have an event tonight" . . . "my horse didn't pick up the canter when I asked him to" . . . "what is that kid doing with her horse over there?" . . . you name it, we think it, in a constantly churning stream of thoughts, memories, wishes, desires, worries, and guilt.
Is it any wonder our horses often struggle to be with us - or perhaps to even find us to be with?
And we think horses are easily distracted . . .
I believe horses don't have the same chattering mind that most humans do. They don't plan, or calculate, or extrapolate, or scheme or plot. They are almost entirely in the present - they do have memories and learned/repetitive behaviors (many of which are taught to them by humans - any behavior they show with a human is almost always one they have been taught, either intentionally or unintentionally). They are intensely visual beings, and so are we, but they interpret their visual world from the perspective of a prey animal - any change or anything that is uncertain may be life-threatening. They don't apply a rational mind to their perceptions in the way we do.
But they are very, very smart about being horses, and surviving as horses. Their bodies are the physical expression of their thoughts and emotions, and there is rarely much if any gap in time between them forming a thought or experiencing an emotion and it showing up in their body. Their reaction time is much faster than ours - it has to be if they are to survive - and they are much more in tune with their environment and each other - both physically and mentally (almost in a spooky way) than we often are.
I think, in order to work more effectively with horses, we need to be much more present - in our own bodies and in a sensory way with the world around us and the physical/mental contact we have with our horses. Being in our minds, and in the chatter that consumes us, distances us from the horse and the mind of the horse. I'm sure our horses often find us frustrating and overwhelming - like dealing with someone who's always chattering away, often about things that are past/future or unimportant - we're very noisy mentally unless we make a special effort to quiet our minds.
But if we can quiet our minds, if only for a moment, we'll find the mind of the horse there waiting to make a connection with us . . . and that's where the magic truly is.