It is dark, raining and cold. The mud is deep enough to suck boots from feet. The damp seeps into your bones.
The winters are miserable in the UK. It is interminably grey even when it is light outside. We have currently been experiencing more rain and wind than “normal” – even for our little island. It is truly unpleasant to be out before dawn and yet many thousands of women get out of bed , step into old clothes and venture out hours before they actually need to leave for work.
The reason for this? They have an equine connection. The question is why? What is it about horses, and why is it that women in particular work so hard to include them in their lives?
Is it a romantic notion? Were dancing ponies the stuff of childhood dreams?
Talking to colleagues, friends and clients, most speak of being desperate to be around ponies when they were very young. Their daydreams revolved around them. Horses emerged out of the mists on an early morning; they drew horses on scraps of paper. They had aspirations of looking as elegant as the riders they saw at the seaside or in Hyde Park. Horses were truly seared into their minds to the point of obsession.
But this doesn’t explain those who “joined later” or those who were frightened of horses but came to be addicted nonetheless.
Having extensively thought about this for many years and then actively researched the question over the last 3 months the answer is still not very clear to me.
What we all agree on is this – pick the right horse, the right time and place and you start to realize that a life without horses is impossible.
The connection between humans and horses goes back thousands of years and throughout history horsemanship was exclusively a male domain. Royalty and nobility would use horses to further ennoble them. This is clear from the many equestrian statues found throughout the world.
If horses did not change their subjects perceptions of the rider, or serve to increase the riders influence on other peoples’ lives, they would not hold our attention the way they do. The connection between men and horses has changed radically over the last hundred years; horses are now more often associated with women and in fact very few men continue to be involved with horses into mid-life-and those who do tend to be professionals rather than “amateurs.”
What can be recognized is that with horses in our lives we have a better chance of having the “life well lived.” I put this down to the qualities we need as riders – empathy, consistency, perseverance, dedication, and a quest to continually learn how to improve the connection. Without these qualities, horses will only ever be a fleeting part of our lives.
Personally, I am drawn to them by a set of complex emotions and memories, and I am not the only one. That sublime moment which just happens to be equine related – it could be a memorable sunset evening ride or the whicker as your car pulls into the yard on a dark day. The surge that happens when your horse responds to a request that you have been trying to teach him for months.
It is inexplicable, unexplainable and a have-to-be-there moment. In the end, it’s that moment when we (as the yogis say) “are present” with our horse that explains everything.