Personal Benefits of Training HorsesBy Jeffrey Rolo
Recently an AlphaHorse reader sent me an e-mail that posed an interesting question: what personal benefits do I gain by training horses? She was putting together a report that focused on how horsemen benefit by training horses, as opposed to the benefits the horses themselves gain.
I have to admit this wasn't really an angle I much thought about in the past. Sure, I was aware of the entertainment I gained and the benefits that could come from training horses, but I never actually considered writing an article about them since as horse lovers we generally focus on the horses. So I thought I'd write an article that outlines some of the benefits that I feel we gain by working with horses.
Okay… yes, I'm starting with the obvious, here, but let's face it: if we didn't love horses we wouldn't own them or work with them! I dare say that even for professional horse trainers, working with horses is not a job as much as it is a passion.
Peace of Mind
Let me preface this by saying I'm not into meditation, Zen or anything like that, but I do find that working with horses (or even just sitting back and watching them) brings me a peace of mind that is often desperately needed. Today's lifestyles are just so hectic and stressful that the return to nature helps balance me and clear the mind. After working most of the day via computers and technology, there's something serene about returning to nature and interacting with horses in a rural setting. It reminds me just how majestic and harmonic God's creations are.
I look forward to mindlessly walking on a treadmill or visiting a gym about as much as I would look forward to asking a dentist to drill my teeth. We'd all agree that exercise is a good thing, but unless my mind is engaged or a result beyond personal fitness is being achieved, it's tough to convince me to give it a go.
Thank goodness for horses! Hours can seem like minutes in the round pen when you're focusing on your equine companions, plus if you're working them properly you're getting a full-body workout. Save the aerobics classes for someone else… I'll stick with horses.
Boosts the Senses
I've saved the last personal benefit of horses for last because I feel it's the most important and also the one that I walk away most with. Working with horses (or any animal, really) helps to fine tune your senses, both physically and mentally.
Horsemen must always be aware of their balance and movement so as not to impair their equine partners. Horses are also far stronger than us, so we have to learn how to use our bodies in a manner that compensates for our disadvantages. This balance and physical maneuvering extends far beyond the round pen, helping us in sports or daily activities.
Even more importantly I believe that natural horsemanship makes us mentally sharper. It's easy to overlook subtle changes of mood, body or tone when interacting with other people since most of us have a natural tendency to be self-absorbed. It's not a bad thing… it's just what makes us human.
That having been said, since horses can't speak our language we're forced to watch their subtle cues in order to learn their "language" and emotional state. We learn that things as minor as the shifting of their weight off one leg and/or how they hold their ears can quickly dictate their mood and likely future actions. Those not familiar with horses would likely overlook them, but we actually focus on these small cues since body language never lies.
The same holds true for people. I firmly believe that horse trainers that practice natural horsemanship develop a better sense of empathy and awareness when dealing with other people. We learn not to judge a situation by words alone, but also by tone or subtle clues, and as such we can become better people for it.
Now obviously there are other benefits to be found in a business sense, such as making a horse more attractive to sell by training him to ride, etc., but I wanted to focus on the personal benefits that all horsemen can experience.
Do you agree with the four main benefits I outlined above? Do you feel I left out any benefits derived from interacting with horses that should be mentioned? Feel free to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.