We occasionally get questions from readers who love learning about this more intimate, spiritual way of being with horses, but they find it very challenging to try and have a similar experience – or even exploration – because they don’t have their own horse. And of course, horse stables and riding schools are not set up to offer or facilitate this kind of relationship with an equine.
This recent query is a great example of the dilemma horse lovers can face…
READER QUESTION: “I have long been a fan of your beautiful way of being with, and interacting towards, horses. I would absolutely LOVE to do what you do with your beautiful creatures, the only problem is that I am 15 and don’t own or lease a horse.
The only opportunity I have to be with horses is when I go for riding lessons at the riding stables, unfortunately, they use bits, saddles and other forms of metal and leather control. What should I do, should I keep using these metal devices whilst learning to ride or should I quit riding altogether and hope that some day in the future I will be able to have my own horse? My heart aches to be near horses every day. – Eliya”
JINI: Oh I hear you and yes, it is very difficult, if not impossible to have this kind of trusting intimacy with a stable horse that is under someone else’s rules. And in some ways, it might even be better that way for the horse.
For example, if a horse has always been enslaved, then it has become used to a life that is all grey and has always been grey. However, if you wake that horse up, and show it blue, green, yellow, pink… then how is that horse now going to feel when 98% of it’s life is STILL grey, but, now it KNOWS that it lives in grey? And it knows that there is a more beautiful, invigorating, thrilling way to live. That horse is now going to be more unhappy than before you woke it up.
But now let’s take a different viewpoint: Let’s say the stable horse lives a life of grey and it has given up (or maybe never even attempted) to communicate with humans. And then you show up and you are the one rider who is kind, considerate, who does not pull on his mouth, who does not continually dig at his belly, who takes him out to hand graze before or after every ride, who actually listens to how/where he wants to be groomed. Who massages his sore back and walks him around the arena to loosen up before getting on. And so you become the place of grace in his life that he looks forward to.
WHICH scenario is real? That is for you to discern. Connect with your own gut, feel into the horses you ride, see if there are any ways you can help them, or make their lives better, which are allowed by the stable.
Your other option is to volunteer at a horse rescue. These are places that are always grateful for reliable, consistent volunteers. And once they know/trust you, you will be able to pursue a more wholistic relationship with the horse(s).
The other possibility that may give you more freedom is to lease or half-lease a horse (which works out to a similar cost to riding lessons). But you would also have to find out the parameters of what’s possible for you to do with the horse. Can you take it out for walks and grazing? Are there trails you can ride/hike on? If you’re confined to an arena, can you focus on games, ground, or liberty work?
Your last option – which one of our horse listeners in Italy did – is to just keep an eye out for a field of horses. Then approach the owner and offer to do chores in exchange for being able to just groom and hang out in the pasture with them. He has since developed a wonderful relationship with the herd and the owner is delighted to have him around.
KESIA: I have been exactly in your boots!
I was crazy for horses growing up in the city and longed for real connection. I started riding lessons when I was about 17 and they totally horrified me. It was the mare I rode, then leased, and eventually bought, who pushed me to keep growing and learning and changing until I could create the life I intended for the horses I loved (she’s still with me on our very own farm!). Without the responsibility I felt to get her out of the miserable life she was born into, I don’t know if I would have had the strength to come this far. At fifteen I imagine doing things on your terms can feel really far away, but the amazing thing is how many more people are out there with unconventional ideas and practices. I would say, reach out, like you just did! I contacted the first alternative horse person I found as a teenager, and she invited me to study with her. Keep reaching and finding more like-minded people – most of us are delighted to hear from a passionate young person and very willing to help. Maybe there are even lovely horsey people in your area that you haven’t found yet. And if not, at least you can make those connections and travel to learn with people you trust when the opportunity comes.
In the meantime, you’ll have to trust your gut on whether to continue where you’re at. If you keep riding, you’ll learn a lot about what you don’t want to do, and you may be able to make some small but meaningful differences in those horses’ lives – I worked, rode and boarded at all kinds of places and left a wake of changes behind me, from getting my boss to switch to slow-feeding hay, or showing another girl how easy it was to go bitless or treeless, to teaching people about barefoot trimming, and so on. But if it feels too oppressive, or too far from what you dream of, that is your call to make. No one else can make it for you. I, for one, learned a ton and gained a lot of confidence weaving my way through the hardship of – and pushing back against – the traditional horse world. But for the sake of the health of your sweet soul, I think Jini’s last suggestion holds no matter what you choose. Find a way to be with horses on their terms, without an agenda, and they will teach you all you need to know and guide your life in all the right directions.
If you have any other ideas we haven’t covered, please post them below!
Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Lazer Tapping instructor. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
18 thoughts on “How to Be a Horse Listener When you Don’t Have a Horse”
Volunteer at a therapeutic riding program for the handicapped. We have a family who has dedicated their entire farm to the benefit of equine relationships to the disabled. They welcome volunteer church groups and individuals.
Particularly timely article for me, horseless since the death of my beloved Arab mentor and companion. Feeling the lack of “Vitamin H,” as vital to me as air and sunshine. Yet, I don’t have the wherewithal to acquire a pony of my own, and going to a stable feels awfully like dancing with somebody else’s wife — it may be pleasant for the moment, but there’s no future in it.
There are also questions of imposing unfair expectations on the horse, doubting that I will ever again have the intimate friendship I was blessed with, and also some reticence to love deeply because loss will be commensurately deep.
But one of the many lessons my familiar taught me was this: take time to grieve — but keep moving.
Ah Adam, I’m so sorry to hear that. Sounds like a trip up to Vancouver to visit with this herd might be in order… You have my email if your soul calls you this way xo
I feel you too Adam. Sunday was the 2 year anniversary of my beloveds passing. 3 months later his herd mate was put down and I was no longer caring for or living with horses. I have horses I can go visit but 25 minutes away.
I don’t see myself in a position to own a horse again and trying to figure out if I should plan to move closer to where my friends horses are.
I got to spent 6 hours with them yesterday and while perfect and souls filling I’m often in a kind of horse hangover the next day because I feel so sad and miss the nature and daily interaction with them.
I’ve said good-bye to a lot of friends, canine and feline. But the connection to a horse — and the loss — is different.Only another homo equus knows what that loss means.
Thanks for your comment.
Oh Adam I too, feel your loss.
Thank you, Erin. Very kind of you.
ELIYA….Just putting out there I can be your California horse person! Our herd is here for you and if at anytime your path flows in this direction…you are welcome to visit! I also strongly believe in putting the energy out into the world to create the future you desire! I have felt very isolated about some of my unconventional views and ways that I choose to be with the horse that I share life with! But the house across the road sold a while back and I put so much energy into hoping and wishing for a like minded horse person to buy it! GUESS WAHT SHE DID! Her name is Zarrie…and she (& her family) have the kindest souls and spirits! She knows nothing about horses but has longed for and loved them all her life….she is now 39! She rescued/saved/came together with a beautiful soul of a horse that needed a kind human and now she and I are slowly building a relationship with him and each other and I am so grateful. So putting your energy out there like you have already done…to create and manifest the path you desire with people and horses is IMO the first step! Follow and live your Dreams to the fullest and try to always stay true to your authentic self in that moment! ✌🏼❤️🐴
I love your website. For one year now, I have two Haflinger horses on my property that I purchased. It’s a lifelong dream come true. Your site has opened my eyes to a more natural way of interacting with my horses and caused me to get interested in equine therapy. Can you refer me to a study program? Even though they are trained to ride and drive, I’ve decided to use them in a different way and haven’t ridden them yet. Thank you for more direction.
This should give you some really good ideas Suzy:
Post a pic of your Haflingers if you can – I adore the breed!!
WOW Michelle… thanks so much for the offer! that is a really amazing story, and i will try to put that energy out there!
Another suggestion is to join a group like the Holistic Horse Network which is trying to start helping like-minded horse people find one another. There MIGHT be someone in your area who you are not even aware of! There are more of us out here than it seems on the surface. We are just not well-connected yet and the traditional horse industry does not consider us worth recommending (if they know about us). 🙂
Wow – they look great! Thanks for letting us know Kim 🙂 Here’s the weblink for anyone else who’s interested:
Eliya, I rehab senior horses and started out with traditional riding lessons, and then natural horsemanship training, and now rehabbing seniors from a holistic perspective. Everything I have done with horses I learned something, even from traditional horsemanship. I did this for many years before I took in my first horse, a senior on the verge of being put down. I recently formed a non-profit specifically for rehabbing senior horses and to offer opportunities for people like you to learn and get hands on experience in rehabbing from a holistic perspective. It is then that people can see for themselves the transformation from a shut-down horse to a fully engaged one over the course of a few years. My hope is that within the next year or two I will have a location and funding to bring in more horses and then have volunteer opportunities. Thank you for sharing your dream. It gets me moving on mine.
I too would welcome this young woman who so wants to listen to horses. I am currently in MA – in the process of moving to TN. Jini, feel free to give her my e-mail
Don’t think she can leave Australia yet, but when/if the time comes, I sure will! Thanks Chris 🙂
Dear Eliya,,I honor you and admire you,, you are a very dear and wise old soul in such a young, sensitive human body. you are a Way-show-er and a brave, brave Heart, in this big, not so sensitive, not so sense-able world. . i know that the unseen energies and spirits are with you in legions,, and that ‘they’ are assisting you by moving the pieces, the players, of the world-game board around , so that you will arrive in exactly the places with exactly the horse beings and human beings with whom you are already aligned… life unfolds for you, and with you,, in service to you, and brings you to your heart’s desire. I can’t wait to hear about it all! lots of love, from my heart-herd to you xoxoxo