Recently, my attention was caught by the following quote attributed to the psychologist and philosopher, William James,
“Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.”
This is a good way to think about relationships and communication between two people as it can account for a lot of the misunderstandings that can occur in an encounter with another.
This quote, altered slightly, is also useful when working with a horse. If we think about this, when we go to work with a horse, we’d see that there might be six of us. There is the way we see ourselves. The way the horse sees himself. The way we see the horse. The way the horse sees us, and each of us (horse and human) as we really are in the moment. If we are aware of this when beginning to work with our horse each time, we can make sure that we are focused on the present, where we are seeing only the horse as he is in the moment. If we meet him here each time we work, we can eventually quiet our communication to just the two of us as we really are together in the moment.
I may come to work with a horse doubting my abilities or presuming I can show the horse what he needs to know. I may feel like a powerful leader or an inadequate companion. None of this will be helpful. It will only make my energy in the moment wrong. To get my energy right, I must stay present and read the horse in the current moment and, from there, adjust my own energy to meet his.
The Horse Judging Himself
The horse may be a herd leader. He may be a follower. Among his own, he knows his place in the herd. When he meets with us for the first time or before he feels his place with us has been established, he may present from his place of status in the herd. But, since horses live in the present, the horse will quickly try to understand his rightful place with us in the moment.
Judging The Horse
When we begin to work with a horse each time, we must be certain not to judge the horse based on an incident in the past, or a story, or a label, we are telling ourselves about the horse. We must see what the horse before us is communicating in the moment. Nothing else about the horse matters but what is presented in the moment. The horse in front of you is the horse you have.
The Horse Judging You
Your horse probably doesn’t hate you. He may not love you either. He is looking for comfort and security. If you aren’t a safe and effective leader, he may try to be the leader, or not wish to follow you. Over time he may have formed an association about you as either presenting comfort and security or their opposites (constant pressure or weakness). Luckily, horses think in the present. If you respond to a horse in the present and meet his needs there, you can reset the association he will have about you over time.
Each As We Really Are In The Moment
Each encounter is an opportunity to dance with your horse in the moment, to understand what the horse is presenting and how you should respond. To see how he is responding to what you are presenting and what you can do to help him help you. You need to be aware of yourself, him, your environment, and your relationship. You can twirl towards a goal but never race towards an agenda. The relationship between horse and rider is about how the horse and the rider really are, together in the moment and in environment around them.