by Susan Gordon
We acknowledge that by the acceptance and practice of the 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation, we are on the path to becoming Compassionate Global Citizens and extending the message of The Compassionate Equestrian to the entire world.
In the early 1990s I literally lived in a computer lab, surrounded by engineers and pioneering tech geniuses who were building the infrastructures for what are now common consumer products. The mantra of the CEO and staff was, “Content, Process, Storage, Delivery,” describing the exciting rush to of the “dot-com” era. It was like having a front row seat to what has become the greatest influence on humanity’s ability to connect everyone around the world at the same time. It has brought out the best and worst of humanity, manifesting in a crowded and noisy world of bandwidths and platforms.
Before the internet, it was international-level events that brought the world together, and many of those events had something to do with sports. As it became possible for horses to travel overseas efficiently, equestrian events introduced horses and riders from other parts of the planet to the general public in ways that were only previously known through television or print.
I was seventeen in 1977 when I moved my Appaloosa stallion, Top Canadian, to the newly-opened Spruce Meadows facility in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Little did I know what awaited someone who had not travelled outside the country. There were often consular vehicles on site, the occasional dignitary landing by helicopter, movie celebrities, spectacular parties and show jumping events. For the much-anticipated Masters competition in September, many nation’s flags fly alongside the International Arena as competitors and spectators attend from every corner of the world.
But what was most important were the lessons I learned through small, personal gestures that came from the founders of the spectacular venue, Ron (deceased) and Margaret Southern. Their approach was one of high integrity, eloquence, attention to details and inclusivity. They made it seem as though everyone who visited or worked at Spruce Meadows was important to them and valued. If there were problems, they were handled without drama or involving the others in the barns. I always felt safe and appreciated, even though I was very young and had the most unusual horse in the stable compared to the imported Hanoverians and beautiful Thoroughbred stock.
From those early influences, I thought being part of a global community would be a thrilling and productive lifestyle, along with opportunities to be helpful and charitable as many of those of means seemed able and willing to provide. The lessons I learned at Spruce Meadows, well beyond that of exceptional horsemanship, stayed with me long after I moved away from Calgary in 1980.
As the internet began to take hold and the ability to connect instantly via new technology became a reality, I still held that vision, as did many of the engineers and inspired developers working in that direction. Imagine the excitement when we ran the first beta-site tests of real-time delivery of video over telephone lines in 1992!
Perhaps the experiences with discretion and friendlier equestrians in Calgary’s show jumping community left me with a bit of naiveté as to how the trajectory of becoming a Global Citizen might shape up in the real world, especially as digital communication rose in its availability and capability. I will never forget the words of one of the engineers at Village Labs in Phoenix when he was referring to the infancy of the internet; he said, “This is the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to mankind.”
The potential was there. Perhaps it still is. I’ve used my personal story to illustrate the value of mentorship for youth. Authentic people with high values and a sense of compassionate, mindful living are still critical to the development of society. For example, involving youth-at-risk and traumatized adults with horses, matching them with caring practitioners of Equine Assisted Mental Health and Equine Assisted Services has proven to be an excellent model for helping heal and inspire those who are vulnerable and in need.
For those who have the means and access to horses to ride and show, there is still the old-fashioned opportunity to be a compassionate example for those who are young or new to the equine field as adults.
While the global connection may not exactly be the “most spiritual thing that has ever happened to mankind,” if we change our perception of what it could be, and use our voices for good, then that story might still come true.
The Southern family opened Spruce Meadows in 1975 and invited the world to their first tournament in 1976. I was fortunate to have been there to witness how this all happened from the ground, up. While the patriarch and German-born riding master, Albert Kley, have since passed away, the family retains operations and have introduced the international aspect of equestrian sports to generations of Canadians and taught thousands of children about the beauty of horses, good sportsmanship, and how to be kind to others who are from different backgrounds all over the world.
This is Global Citizenship. You have the ability to connect with others, through horses, all over the planet. Choose a cause (you’ve already wisely chosen Concordia Equestrians!) and find others who support the cause. But, be kind. Attract and inspire others by the examples you set. Shaming, blaming, and ostracizing those you disagree with or whose practices are not healthy for horses does not work. Choose words carefully and mindfully, and let practical solutions be the center of your conversations.
We speak of the morphic field (see pages 296 and 381-382) in The Compassionate Equestrian, which may offer a clue as to how horses (and other animals) can be affected by human consciousness. Imagine for a moment that this is true, and re-read the paragraph above. Now, how will you enact your opportunity to become a Global Compassionate Citizen?
“The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?”
Jack Kornfield, Author and Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society
(p. 385, The Compassionate Equestrian)