The Horse—A Gift For All Seasons
Tim and his horse Austin 2015. Courtesy of Tim Hayes Collection.
By Tim Hayes
When I set out to write Riding Home ~ The Power of Horses to Heal I wanted to share the profound emotional healing one can experience from today’s equine therapy. I also wanted people to discover the joy, empowerment, and self-awareness they could receive by simply having a relationship with horse. In both cases these personal transformations occur not by sitting on a horse’s back but by being with them on ground and from their heart.
Having had a wondrous relationship for almost 20 years with my horse Austin, I thought it might be meaningful at this time of year to share both my gratitude, as well as what I’ve learned, from the amazing gifts I have received not only from Austin but from every horse I’ve met.
For many of us, the holiday season can bring feelings of happiness that often come from fun, thoughtful, and exciting gifts. As enjoyable as these feelings can be, many of them disappear when the season ends. If my happiness begins to fade as I start to get scratches on my new iPhone I might ask myself what else might give me more sustainable happiness as time goes on? There is another kind of happiness that does not come from material things, but comes spontaneously from inside us. For me, this kind of happiness has usually come when I’m both feeling good about myself and my relationships with others are working positively. What can I do to feel this way inside?
The answer is found today in the same guidance I was given when I was a little kid: treat others the way I would want them to treat me and treat myself the same way. If I have a happy relationship with myself, I have a very good chance of having a happy relationship with others—spouse, partner, father, mother, son, daughter, friends, boss, etc. When my relationships bring me happiness, I feel happier. It’s the ideal win-win situation. My parents called this the Golden Rule.
The greatest teacher of the Golden Rule I have ever known is the horse. From years of studying how horses treat each other in their relationships I have discovered their herd dynamics possess the same 12 qualities found in the Golden Rule—acceptance, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, trust, consistency, honesty, justice, respect, compassion, and forgiveness. They treat each other the same way they want to be treated and they treat humans the same way. I also believe it is these 12 qualities that constitute the best and most accurate definition of love.
My horse is a prey animal whose survival depends on getting along with others. His natural world is living outside with his herd-mates. When I show up he accepts me as I am, never questions my race, my gender, or my age. He’s kind and doesn’t seek to hurt me. If I get bit, kicked, or dumped it’s because I haven’t taught him to respect my vulnerability and not to play or communicate with me like another horse. If I am clear, consistent, and patient in my requests he always understands me. He’s a generous soul who never complains if I ask him to let a little kid pet his nose or sit on his back. He’s always honest with me and consistently tells me the truth about what he thinks and feels whether he’s scared, annoyed or happy. He’s fair and just with me. If he tries to ask or tell me something and I don’t listen and acknowledge him, he let’s me know I’m being disrespectful by resisting my requests of him.
Finally. with great compassion and forgiveness he continually tolerates all my mistakes and inadequacies. If I allow my horse to help me become a better person then all my relationships with both horses and humans will improve. This will bring me the kind of happiness I could never find in a store. My horse; love in its finest form. What a gift.