I met Sadie on June 30th of this year at Irish Manor Stables in Stockton, NJ . I couldn’t wait to start learning to ride, knowing that I had a conference to go to during the second week of July and that the stable was going to run a horse camp the week after. So, in order to get at least two weekly sessions in before all this happened, I had to start at the end of June.
This whole horse experience was brand new to me. With the exception of taking one or two trail rides as a “greenhorn”, including the donkey I rode in the Holy Land, being around horses was a novel experience, and being around horses on a regular basis was something I was looking forward to.
Why a horse? Among all the choices of activities, why choose horseback riding? First, it involves communication with another living thing, a horse. Today, we are so used to dealing with machines and technology, which we expect to behave a certain way when we issue clear and easy instructions. When the machine does not respond in the way we expect, we consider that machine defective. Sure, it is possible for us to issue mistaken instructions, but, like us, this horse is another living being. We treat living beings differently from machines.
Secondly, down through its history, the horse has always been a prey animal. Their behavior is geared toward self-preservation, because many other animals, particularly carnivores, see the horse as lunch or dinner. So, we need to reassure the horse that we are not a threat to them.
They are also herd animals, they are fundamentally social animals. They thrive in a community. In that herd, there is always an alpha member, a leader from which the rest will derive their cues. As a rider, I must be considered that leader, giving clear instructions in a way that the horse will understand. And consistency in giving understandable instructions will establish me as the leader in the horse’s mind.
As humans, we are also basically social beings, because we are created in the image and likeness of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a community of Divine Persons. We do not live in isolation, and our communication with one another must be clear and direct. Where miscommunication with a horse can end us up in the wrong and potentially dangerous direction, miscommunication among humans and be just as – if not more – destructive, both physically, emotionally, and in terms of our reputation.
There are so many life lessons that can be gleaned from horseback riding. These are but a few examples, and these don’t even scratch the surface.
Feel free to come back for more …