Tag Archives: equestrian sports

The Spiritual Side of Training

The Spiritual Side of Training

Anything that starts with spiritual can sound a bit woo woo, but spiritual can just mean having a relationship based on a profound level of mental or emotional communication.

When I was a girl I clearly remember being told to imagine what it was like for the horse, to think about things from the horse’s perspective; but how do you tune into the horse?  How do you connect on a level where you can listen to what he is saying?

In order to have such a relationship with either human or horse, it’s necessary to be fully present, to be light, to clear a space inside of you for them, to give energy, and probably most importantly, to listen.  Then to know what to say or do, you have to trust your intuition, which you might call trusting your instincts, or trusting the angels, or giving up control with absolute certainty and trust that your good intent will guide you. Reading that back, it sounds kind of nuts, but really it’s just about finding your own way to connect with others, be they human or animal, to be on their wavelength.

Personally, I just think of it as listening to my heart, trusting my intuition to do what feels right at the time.  Always with the wellbeing of the horse first.  I don’t believe that it’s possible to tune into either the horse or the rider, without listening to your heart, and that it’s the mechanical and ego based training that has done (is still doing) so much damage both physically and mentally to our horses.

Of course we need the knowledge first, and we have to coach within our level of experience and expertise; but once we are confident in our ability we can trust our intuition, we can feel what is right in the moment. You may have a great training schedule, or lesson plan written out, but when you tune in, when you listen to the horse, or the horse with it’s rider, those plans may well be put on a back burner, you teach what you see and feel on the day.


Giving Energy

As a coach this may be seen as an important skill to master, as giving someone energy without having to say a word has got to be a great start!  If you focus your attention on something you can fix your intention to direct your energy to it. Thoughts are energy. Think loving thoughts, when you look at someone, their energy levels increase, think nasty thoughts then their energy levels drop. This works to such an extent that when muscle tested, the person who is sent love is strong, and the person who is sent bad thoughts is weak.  Just by thinking good thoughts about a person they feel good, they feel strong, good intent may be enough to give energy, and therefore to give strength to both human and equine alike.


Through Me

To-Me   >   By-Me   >   Through-Me   >   As-Me

In his model of the levels of consciousness, Shore Slocum describes through-me as the point beyond by-me.  Through-me is the place where we lighten the ego and give up control; this is when we stop making it happen, and start to allow it to happen.

Through me, is about getting out of the head and into the heart, acting from instinct, trusting that love will always lead in the right direction.   Having sought the knowledge, the right questions and answers will come from the subconscious if we just allow them to.

(For interest; the person who is a To-Me is a victim, things happen ‘to’ them and they have no choice or responsibility. Something or someone made it happen to them, & something or someone made them feel that way. In order to move to By-Me a To-Me has to give up the blame.  Of course, the greatest examples of As-Me are Jesus, The Buddha & the Prophet Muhammad . At this level, everything is as one. These great leaders see themselves in others, there is no judgement, there is no separateness.)


In conclusion 

Spiritual coaching may sound to some like something done by slightly nutty people whilst dancing naked under a full moon; but really, it’s just a way of talking about tuning in, and listening to those who we seek to share our knowledge with.


“How do we train for a journey of spiritual transformation alone? The truth is we need a spiritual coach, a sensei to teach us – to show us how to focus our attention & to demonstrate how to live in the present & how to achieve Zen like tranquillity. We need a teacher to show us how to see ourselves – not just with heightened objectivity but also with greater forgiveness. For that job there is a master: a sage who can teach any willing student the way. That sage is the horse.”    Allan J Hamilton MD



What is Ethical?

What is Ethical?

To be ethical means that you are doing what is morally right. But the ‘right’ way to interact with our horses is open to personal and fashionable  interpretation.

Within the huge range of what ‘might’ be deemed acceptable my view is still far from ‘super ethical’.   At this point on my journey, I think that in principal, if the horse is comfortable, and the rider is considerate, then it’s probably okay to ride, I even like to think that it might be possible to have a relationship with a horse whereby the horse likes being ridden! But lets consider a couple of examples of views from one end of the scale.

“all sentient beings, have a basic right not to be treated as the property of others”   The Abolitionist approach to animal rights.

“…the horse is not designed to be ridden.  The horse should not be ridden at the cost of their health and well being”.  Academia Liberti

The views of both the Abolitionists and the Liberty trainers may seem extreme to the vast majority of horse enthusiasts,  however if we are to count ourselves as ‘horse lovers and carers’ as opposed to ‘horse users and keepers’, there are elements of their beliefs that must surely be given due consideration. Personally, I have huge respect for these views  (see their websites) and admire these people who live by their super high values.

For millennia we have practiced speciesism,  presuming our superior intelligence to animals and our right to dominate and exploit them because of their inferiority.  But researchers from all over the world are making remarkable discoveries about animal intelligence.  Just one example is  from the University of Adelaide, where researchers argue that humans really aren’t much smarter than other creatures — and that some animals may actually be brighter than we are, in fact Dr. Arthur Saniotis, a visiting research fellow with the university’s School of Medical Sciences, says  “science tells us that animals can have cognitive faculties that are superior to human beingsand Professor Henneberg (also from that faculty) says that “The fact that they may not understand us, while we do not understand them, does not mean our ‘intelligences’ are at different levels, they are just of different kinds. When a foreigner tries to communicate with us using an imperfect, broken, version of our language, our impression is that they are not very intelligent. But the reality is quite different”  

Now… it is also widely recognized that, just like us, animals feel pain.  But horses are stoic creatures, they have to be, if they acted like footballers every time they got a knock, then they would historically have been eaten!  Then there is the concept of animals feeling emotions, however controversial this may be, any empathetic person will tell you that animals most definitely do have feelings, we recognize in our horses emotions such as excitement, depression, contentment, and anger… to name but a few.

Given that horses are intelligent, sentient beings, what right do we have to use them, or to use force to make them perform for our entertainment?  

We should question every part of our training and ‘use’ of horses, and we should allow horses to live as closely to their natural condition as it is possible in this crowded world.  At this point on my journey, I am not suggesting that we all stop riding horses, and  I want to believe that there is a way to interact with horses in a respectful and mutually beneficial way.

But how would you like it?  If we accept that horses can feel, just like we can, then all we have to do is imagine ourselves in their place. How would you like to be kept in your bedroom (no matter how comfortable your bed is, or how smart your wardrobe is) 23 hours a day? and how stiff and unfit would you feel if the other hour you were made to work hard in the gym? What would work better for you, Pilates and Yoga or having straps and draw reins to make you stay in ‘the right shape’?  Would you be happier running towards pleasure, or away from pain?  If  someone insisted you had a piece of metal in your mouth, and you opened your mouth because of some discomfort, would you want someone to listen to you, and look to remove the discomfort for you, or would you want a crank cavesson, or tightened flash to stop you showing your pain? And where does this pain originate?  Generally from ignorance on our part.

As long as horses are part of an ‘industry’ they will be open to abuse.  Industry is all about money, there is no room for sentiment in business.  But horses need time and understanding, and as long as we accept that horses are part of any industry, they will be bred in huge numbers, ridden before they are mature, forced to perform, broken down, and then discarded.   So it is paramount that the governing bodies of ALL equestrian sports have welfare, and the constant improvement and implementation of welfare at the very top of their agenda.  At the present time, it is my belief that most of them just give lip service to welfare, they are still governed by the need to make money, please sponsors, and make the sports more spectacular! But sports are the theatre of horsemanship, what the elite show, the masses will believe is right, and will follow… sports governing bodies have a huge responsibility for equine well-being.

The best horse people listen to their horses, and they feel their pain.  Oh my dear God, I am SO far from getting this right! I am human, but I hope that I am learning from my mistakes, I hope that the horses forgive me and continue to teach me, and I pray that humankind wakes up, and we become kindhumans.





The cake is poisoned…

The cake is poisoned…

The cake is poisoned… and sadly, we are arguing over the icing.

Thousands of horses are ‘culled’ each year because they didn’t run fast enough*. Thousands are broken down, and slaughtered because they are worked so young. In so called civilized countries, horses are still left to starve, they are still not fully protected by the law. The FEI and the governing bodies of our competitive disciplines only give welfare lip service. Horrendously tight nose-bands are the norm, rollkur is ignored, valuable horses never get to run free in a field, double bridles and spurs are sometimes compulsory. Ignorance in horse training and welfare is widespread. Our waste horses are transported over continents to be slaughtered. Pregnant mares urine is used in HRT, tens of thousands of foals (byproducts of the PMU industry) are sent to slaughter. Here in the Uk the Princess Royal suggests publicly that we should eat horses… surely encouraging a new ‘industry’, another animal to factory farm.

Horses are commodities to be used and abused, and I could go on (and on!)… as there are many, many more (accepted or ignored) outrageous abuses of horses. But my point is this…

People who genuinely care about horse welfare are arguing with each other. What one person well meaning person thinks is ‘right’ may well be vastly different from another well meaning person’s views, but we need to look for our similarities.  We may well be at different places on a journey, and maybe we are all looking for a slightly different destination.. but we are all going in the same direction.

The enemy is out there, and they don’t need to divide and conquer.. we are doing the dividing bit all on our own.  There is so much work to be done to truly ‘make a difference to horses’, please… lets look for what binds us together.

Lets find ways to work TOGETHER for the greater good of the horse.

*Also See Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Horse Slaughter by