Thinking Differently: Part 1

I’ve had some pretty big questions rolling around in my mind for a while and I thought I would start a series of blogs to try and discuss some of them.  I don’t know that I will provide much in the way of answers, but I would like to try and ask some questions and draw some connections that will challenge us all to really think beyond what horsemanship typically asks us to think about.

I’m thinking about why we have horses, why we love horses and what we see in horses.  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I’m constantly questioning the notion that horses are important in direct relation to their ability to be ridden.  But instead of just questioning that today, I would like to propose an alternative structure of thought that really guides me as a horsewoman and as a human.

Typically, horsemanship is viewed as a way to prepare a horse to be ridden.  Some people do this with kinder methods than others, but no matter how long a person is willing to “give” a horse to be ready to ride, the goal is still the same.  This is a linear understanding of working with another being.  By this I mean, each step we take in the work with a horse is towards a common and concrete goal, which is always riding.

This challenges the general notion of natural horsemanship, new age horsemanship, thoughtful horsemanship or quality horsemanship (whatever you want to call this idea that horsemanship is about building relationship) because it suggests that this great and altruistic partnership we are all trying to build with a horse is really and completely selfish, and philosophically not that different than any other form of horsemanship.  Perhaps there is less physical pain experienced for everyone involved, but the end goal is still to have the horse do what the human wants, it just makes us all feel better that there is the illusion of choice.

I am really troubled by this idea of using relationship to create obedience.  I’ve spoken before about how it really is in the horse’s best interest to get along because they can’t survive without us and I still believe that.  But this is a different sort of blog today. This isn’t about what is best for the horse, this is about what is right for humans.  And by right, I mean what is ethically and philosophically correct beyond the limitations that this world provides.  I mean what is Right even if nobody is looking, nobody is trying to survive, nobody needs to eat and nobody wants to have fun.  I don’t think that this Right can always match up with what is Best, but I sure as heck think it’s worth thinking about and getting as close to as the world will let us.  And then maybe changing the world just enough to get a little closer.  (To read more about what is Best in my view, within the world we live in, go back and read this blog:

So when I think about this sort of rightness, what I see is a different starting point and a different way of thinking.  Instead of thinking with an end goal “riding” and the start goal of “horse,” I want to think in a way that looks a bit less linear. If I think like this, every idea has a starting point that produces many other ideas, all equally important.  Then each of those ideas are the starting point to a bunch of new ideas, and soon you have a web of thoughts.  If I translate the traditional way of thinking about horses into this format, the center is Riding.  I want to de-center riding and start thinking of Interspecies Relationship in the center.

To be continued….