Can we really change the perception of the horse as sports equipment to sentient being?

Graeme Green, our new mindfulness columnist, gives us hope.

This article is published in Issue 7 of the CONCORDIA INTERNATIONAL EQUESTRIAN MAGAZINE – the current issue and archived issues are free to download and read online.

The diarist and writer Anais Nin famously observed that “we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. I would like to use this concept here as a jumping-off point for the first of a new series of mindfulness-inspired columns for the Concordia Equestrians magazine.

Nin (above) is inviting us to consider the lens through which we view the world and how that shapes our perception and experience, and so often then drives our actions and behaviour.

In context, “how we are” might simply reflect how we are feeling, is it a good day, or a more challenging one? But it can also be a statement of our beliefs, values, and priorities, or even personal skills or professional practices. As we explore the idea we will see that it forms the framework within which our interactions and experiences are coloured and shaped.

As the saying goes, if the only tool we have is a hammer, then every problem is a nail.

On the other hand, seeing and engaging things “as they are” is about letting go of these frames of reference, these forms of shaping. In mindfulness and Buddhism, there is a concept of clear comprehension, it refers to seeing things with non-judgemental objectivity and authenticity rather than being shaped by our individual perceptions. This is no easy task, we start with ourselves as we are and then we peel away a lifetime of experiences, interactions, opinions and learning.

What has this to do with horses?

Well, let me paraphrase Anais Nin and suggest that we do not see the horse as it is, we see her as we are. When we stand before a horse, how often do we really see her?

Yes, we see a horse, but our tendency is to see it within the frame of our personal interest, coloured by our own delusions as a Buddhist might observe. We might see ourselves and the horse in the show jumping ring, gently hacking together in the countryside, excited by the anticipation of a little flutter at the bookies, or celebrating the receipt of a rosette in the dressage arena. I could go on.

Considering the world around us with clear comprehension is about peeling back layers of our individual distortions, learned perceptual filters, often inherited from others without any question. Within our various equine disciplines, it is too often a case of ‘the more we learn the less we see’. Our learning focuses our attention on details, things such as paces, movement, physiology or performance, and increasingly away from the horse herself.

Developing clear comprehension is a meditative process. It starts within ourselves and as we develop the practice, we learn to watch what our mind is up to and where it leads our attention. We learn to set our intention as a guide for our actions, retraining our focus. A transferable process that starts with our breath and expands to the world around us, including the horses.

This is about developing a different perspective, one that is more objective and authentic. One that respects not just the nature of the horse, but the horse herself.

Within these pages, there is a collective call for compassion in our equine interactions, and approaching our horses from the perspective of clear comprehension is a great act of compassion. In freeing her from the framework of our intentions and interest, we just see her. We respect her existence in her individual beauty and authenticity. In doing so we give voice to her being.

What will you see next time you visit your fields or stable? What will you see in our performance horses?

Click HERE for a simple breathing anchor meditation that anyone can work with to start this personal exploration.

This article is published in Issue 7 of the CONCORDIA INTERNATIONAL EQUESTRIAN MAGAZINE – the current issue and archived issues are free to download and read online.