advice equestrians

Spirituality and horses - how to use your equestrian practice for self-growth (Part 1)

[It’s going to be a long post. I am not going into specifics, feel free to message me for more technical info.] LINK TO PART 2

Horses are very spiritual creatures. They are living in the physical and the invisible, both at once, without prioritising between them. They can be of great help, whether you are an accomplished horse-rider or a simple human seeking contact with them. They are magic.


Communication with horses in general - being near them

- They are encouraging intuitive communication. Even for those who have no idea - they send mental images and feelings. Experienced equestrians know this feeling: we know when they are hungry, or when they are anguished without even looking at them. And they listen, too.

- They are really open towards human (exception: when they had very bad experiences, it can take some work for them to connect again). They are curious. Go sit in a field and meditate, they’ll come and meditate with you.

- They are extra sensitive. If your energy flow isn’t right, they’ll reflect it at you and sometimes, heal you, nuzzling you gently with a kind and profound souldeep look. - Their energy is both wild and centered. They are masters at grounding. Staying with them can help you reconnect to the Earth. Simply put you hand on a horse and breathe ; feel how effortless they live on earth and are a part of it. 

- They invite us to be aware of the moment. They don’t care for the past or the future, they only worry about what’s happening right now. Even if they just had a stressful event, as soon as they feel the menace is gone they go back to grazing peacefully. They don’t dwell on things that have no impact to them anymore - and they don’t worry about what they should do or think, they just ACT when it’s time. To be truly in synch with a horse, you have to meet halfway and let go of what’s keeping you elsewhere. With them, it’s only about NOW. They love to just hang out, doing nothing together (their favorite activity), and most of the time, us puny humans need to be reminded of just that - to feel, to share, to BE, without seeking for more or craving for achieving something. Easy way to happiness. Enlightened creatures.


Story time (as an example):

Last year, a new mare arrived at the stables. I had to train her for a month. Her owner was at a loss: it had been months since she dared took her out of the pasture. She was afraid because she couldn’t control the mare. The owner was young and inexperienced, the mare wasn’t dangerous per se but they both had taken a dark path towards fear of the other.

On the first day, I sat in her field, at a distance the mare found confortable enough. She grazed, keeping an eye on me in case I would get up and bother her. I didn’t. I reached mentally for her and to my surprise, she answered.

“I don’t like Whips” she projected, with a clear mental voice full of determination.

“Okay, that’s fine, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I don’t like Reins. And Bridles. I want to be Free.” And she projected the feeling of being trapped and desperate.

“It’s okay” I whispered out aloud and mentally at the same time. “I am here to help. We can figure it out together. I want to work with you, not against you. And I can help change your owner. But you have to let me - I can’t do it without you.”

She mentally nodded.

Two weeks later, she was metamorphosed into a kind, joyful and patient mare, ready to reconnect with her owner. She never lost her fierce attitude (she’s a princess at heart), but accepted humans could give something to her she couldn’t find alone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the first step for both of them.


Training a horse on foot:

When you want to train a horse, you have to use your body as a means of communication. To do that, you have to be conscious of your body, centered, grounded and relaxed. You have to know how to project energy. If you don’t, you’re going to run after them a lot. If you do, you’ll be much more efficient and they will understand you clearly - first step on the path of getting them to do things. Energy work, yoga, Alexander method… every tool at your disposition can be useful on that topic. Being in one own body is an important part of spirituality - helping align your energetical body with the physical.

Story time:

When I work on foot with my horse, I usually “project my consciousness” halfway between him and me. As a result, I can help him move his body in the right way with the slightest indication - sometimes, even a simple mental clue. It feels like our bodies and minds are connected. It’s only possible when I am entirely HERE and NOW with him. View it as a subtle dance with a partner that is half a ton and can get scared easily - you have to stay just but it’s so rewarding.


Part 2

Intro to Upper Class Culture, Part 2: Equestrian Sports

Ahh, equestrianism. It’s a topic I reluctantly know more about than I ever cared to because my boyfriend is obsessed with horses. He owns seven of them now: two Thoroughbreds, two Arabians, one Andalusian, one Appaloosa, and one Quarter Horse. They’re all fairly versatile breeds and pretty popular breeds, often used in equestrian sports. If you’re like me you’ll probably think “A horse is a horse, does it matter?” and the answer is that it matters greatly as horses come in varying sizes, shapes and have different talents specific to their breed.

Although horses have been used in everything from plowing fields to herding cattle (and still are!) I include equestrianism in “Upper Class Culture” because horses are a very expensive investment. I asked D how much it would cost at the very minimum to take care of a horse per year and he estimated at the very least three or four thousand dollars. I asked him how much he spent per horse every year and he laughed and declined to comment, but when I asked if it was more than ten thousand he laughed and said, “A lot more”. I did a little research online and found some sources saying 15K was a decent chunk of change to spend on a horse, so I’ll assume D is spending more since spendthrift isn’t one of his many good qualities. Let’s estimate he spends 20K/year on each horse. That’s $140,000 per year on a hobby. When is the last time you dropped over a hundred grand on a hobby?

So, now that we’ve established how grossly expensive this is, it’s time to learn what people do with these walking money pits! I’m going to focus on a few different activities you can do with horses that are particularly “upper crust” and there are a lot more but as it is this is going to be a pretty lengthy post. The horse industry in the US alone is a $102 billion+ industry so there’s just a lot of facets, and if I don’t cover one you’re interested in message me and maybe I’ll do a “Equestrian Sports Part 2”.

Horse Racing

The one that’s on everyone’s mind right now! For the first time in 36 years we have a Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, the beautiful thoroughbred who beat the odds and won it all. Horse racing is a massive industry, mainly because of the gambling that goes along with it, and is probably America’s favorite equestrian sport. There are thousands upon thousands of horse races across the US per year but they vary from very seedy to very classy, and I’ll assume if you’re reading this you’re going to the latter.

Horse racing is pretty straight forward. The gates open and horses, ridden by a jockey, run for a certain distance. Races are generally limited to one different breed of horse (or a couple types) because otherwise there would be unfair advantages between breeds. The most common types of race horses are Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Quarter Horses. The Triple Crown, a set of three races that begins with the Kentucky Derby, then goes to the Preakness and finally Belmont Stakes, is for Thoroughbred horses.

Now, if you’re attending a big fancy horse racing event such as a leg of the Triple Crown, you’re free to dress up like you’d imagine people do. Colorful Lilly Pulitzer sundresses and over the top hats are completely acceptable. For men, tailored suits, bow ties and flower lapels are always classic. If you’re with someone who is upper class, generally you won’t be sitting in the stands but will be seated somewhere more comfortable, so although everyone will be cheering at the end of the race, don’t get too rowdy lest you scare the bourgeois.

Polo

Nothing says preppy quite like Polo. It evokes images of men on horseback, bright grassy fields, and, if you’re like me, Ralph Lauren. Polo originated in Persia and was brought to India where it was eventually taught to British military officers and brought back to the UK and via the UK much of the rest of the world. It’s most popular today in Argentina, the US and the UK. Polo is played on horseback with a small, solid plastic ball on the ground that is hit by riders armed with wooden mallets who try to shoot the ball into (weirdly large) goals. There are four players on each team (3 in arena). The riders ride “Polo Ponies” who are frequently rotated out and look absurdly small to be carrying full grown adults. It’s more fun to watch than you’d assume, and actually really fun and a little bit scary to play (10/10 would recommend).

Event Dress: Dress nicely, but don’t look too fancy. A nice sundress, trousers and a good blouse, something flowy, light and summery is all good. Keep it classy, preppy is always a good option. And for all that is good and decent in this world do not come dressed as stereotypically western or British-no top hats or cowgirl boots. No. A word about heels: don’t wear stilettos. Wear wedges. Why? You’ve all seen “Pretty Woman”, don’t feign naivety with me. During the halftime and at the end of the game, it’s tradition for the public to be called onto the field to help fill in the holes left by the horse hooves. If you’re in stilettos you’re going to make walking in the grass harder on yourself, one, and two, make the grass even worse, and three, not be able to participate in the fun part of the game for the spectators. Also, no big crazy hats. I saw some American women do this on a British reality show and cringed. Don’t be those women. Keep things simple and classy, fashion wise.

I’m going to limit this post to those two things because I think those are the most important to touch on. If you’re ever being brought to another equestrian event (dressage, eventing, show jumping, etc.) then you can never go wrong with a nice tight pair of jeans, riding boots and a good cashmere sweater. If you get invited to go riding with someone, do take the opportunity because it’s a lot of fun and less scary the more you do it. Horses are wonderful, very loving and intelligent animals so it’s easy to see how people get roped into pouring their hard earned cash into them.

A little vocab and then we’ll almost be done

Foal: A baby horse

Filly: A female baby horse

Colt: A male baby horse

Suckling: A baby horse still nursing

Mare: A female adult horse

Stallion: A male adult horse that isn’t castrated

Gelding: A male adult horse that is castrated