”In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for the truth and have begun striving for ourselves.”
- Abraham J.Heschel
I am ashamed to admit, that I have, in the past, lost my temper while sitting on a horse. Not only once or twice, but several times. I want to believe I never was what I now call “The Angry Rider”, but I certainly was an unpredictable one, from the horse’s point of view. I have hit a horse with a whip out of frustration; I have yanked at a horse’s mouth because I was angry at myself. I am not proud of what I have done.
Anger is very closely linked to expectation; when we don’t get what we expect, we get angry. When we get angry, we start looking for someone else to blame. And how conveniently the horse is right there, not doing what we want it to do, not performing the way we had planned, and most importantly – not talking back at us. What an easy target for anger...
If you see someone hitting their child in the supermarket, do you walk by without even thinking about it twice or are you horrified by the act? Do you intervene? What about when someone is hitting their dog? Yet people hit their horses every day, some just a little bit, a smack-smack-smack to keep the trot going down the long side of the arena and some really hard, with serious intent. All this happens in competition warm up arenas, in riding schools where our children ride (and witness such acts), in private barns where people train their horses. And it is accepted widely as a normal practice: it is alright to get angry at a horse.
Sadly, not a week goes by that I don’t see someone getting mad at their horse, usually because “the stupid animal” is not getting what the human wants. Pretty unfair, especially when it is easy to see that the human is not exactly being clear about what is wanted. Bringing anger to the table when you are trying to communicate, especially across species, never brought about anything good.
Me on the other hand, I am no longer angry. I have a plethora of emotions when I’m with horses, but anger is not one of them. Frustration? Yes. Sadness? Yes. Joy? Yes. Humbleness? Yes. It’s all there, because I am human and us humans, we have all the emotions, don’t we? But anger? No, not for quite a while. Now I know that if things go wrong when I am with a horse, I have only more to learn.
And learning never hurt anyone.