Love = cookies. Photo Claire Cameron.

In a recent discussion with super sports psychologist Sommer Christie, we were talking about the evolution in my partnership with my mare, The Orange Goodness. There have been good times, bad times, and times neither me nor my horse know what’s going on.

At a recent show, I made some mistakes but then, realized I needed to deal with my actions and my horse’s response right away. This time I was not leaving it for later, avoiding it and hoping it would just some how get better without addressing it.

Around this point in our discussion, Sommer said something like, “it’s really like you are in a relationship with your horse,” at which I answered, “yes! I’m MARRIED TO MY HORSE!”

While this conversation took a few detours, we discussed the similarities between horse-human bonds and parent-child or spousal bonds. Relationships with horses can feel parental or spousal, depending on the pair and situation. See if you can replace “horse” with “child,” “husband/boyfriend,” or “wife/girlfriend” in the examples:

  • There is love, love, love!We have such a special relationship! This is the magic of it all, isn’t it? It’s that instant when you and your horse connect. You share special moments together, moments of trust and unity, harmony in an otherwise chaotic day. It can fill your heart, and leave you totally content.

    Obviously, there’s some love here!

  • We feed off each other. Our energy can sync up; sometimes it’s beautiful and happy, other times it’s miserable.
  • We will fight. At some point there will be an argument. There will be times where you are disappointed, angry, frustrated, frightened, or simply not understanding what your horse is thinking.
  • We need to work it out.  So you and horse have had your fight, now what? Will you just pretend it never happened? Will you expect it to happen again, right away? Will you find a way to calmly and logically work through it, taking the emotion away?
  • I will try to be more clear in expressing myself…  If I’m not totally clear on what I want and what my goals are, how is my horse ever going to understand? My horse can’t read my mind!
  • and I will try to be a better listener. But what if I’m not listening to what she tells me? What if she is confused by me saying too many things at once, putting too much pressure on before she’s ready, or missing her hints that she is not feeling well? What if I’m stifling her development by not letting her be herself?
  • I will sacrifice for you.  If my mare is hurt/sick/frightened, I will put my life on hold to help her.  If this means missing work, anniversaries, dates, going out with friends, or anything else, I will be there and my world will stop, until I know my horse is okay.
  • I will work hard, then spend all of my money on you.For  shoes and clothing needs, doctor’s bills, dentists bills,treats, toys, etc. You need it? It’s yours. You don’t need it but look good in it? It’s yours. My money is your money at the end of the day, darling.

    Hug for a job well done! Photo Brenda Owen.

  • You are the most beautiful creature in the world. No matter if she has bad hair, crooked legs, yellow teeth, a little too much junk in your trunk, a big nose, or a few scars, to me my horse is the most amazing thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.
  • And I believe in you. Maybe others don’t understand what I see and feel, but I know what’s inside there. I know that my horse good and honest, and together we can do anything we want.
  • But keep in mind, if you are really, really bad for me, I’ll give you the boot and move on, even if it hurts like hell. Sometimes, it’s just not right, and you have to make tough decisions (although please don’t do this with your children!).

I’m sure there are more examples, please share any you can think of!

What got me thinking, after Sommer and I started talking about this subject, is how does my communication skills and relationships with my horse compare to those with people? Specifically the points about communication, brought up some interesting reflection.

Normally, I try to be sensitive to how I’m affecting others. Am I fun to be around, keeping those around me happy? Is my bad mood bringing others down? Am I annoying with unintended nit-picking or other bad habits?

One thing my own history of relationships has taught me, it’s that I am not good at expressing my frustration or disappointment, until it gets to a point of no return. Then I’m mad. And if I get scared? Then I’m really mad.

Over the years, I’m slowly learning to understand what I’m feeling and take responsibility for it. If it’s possible for me to explain what I am comfortable with, what makes me happy or unhappy, then maybe I can stop the situation from escalating.

The above paragraph is applicable to situations with both horses and humans, and I’m honestly not sure which one is easier to deal with. But maybe if I can improve with one species, I can also improve with the other. What do you think?

Trying to listen… photo Brenda Owen.