Tania Kindersley
286 supporters

The Basics.

May 14, 2022

I have a friend who is a supreme horseman. He just put up a fascinating piece on how what most people think are the basics with horses aren’’t the basics at all. 

The traditional basics are things like tying and rugging and picking out feet and loading onto a trailer. My wise friend’s basics are connection and trust. From that, he believes - and daily proves - all else follows.

My big thing is that everything your horse teaches you can illuminate and enhance your human life. I used to be quite good in the field, but I’d pick up all my old baggage at the gate and take it back to the house with me. I learnt to be a better human for my red mare, but this betterness seemed to come to screeching halt whenever I left her. I’d see people who followed the kind of horsemanship I was learning to practice, and they’d be dancing about saying ‘I am a much better mother’ or wife or husband or daughter or friend. And I would shake my head and not feel it. What was wrong with me? Why could I not translate the person I was with the red mare to the other aspects of my life?

I don’t know the answer to that interesting question. What I do know is that one day it started to happen, quite naturally. And once I felt the change, I started working on it, consciously.

If I’m in a tricky human situation, one of those ones that would once have pressed every single one of my buttons and sent me into a tailspin of insecurity and angst, I just pretend the other person is a horse. 

I don’t have any unrealistic expectations of my horses. I don’t blame my horses if they do something I don’t want. I don’t have a sense of entitlement with my horses and I don’t take what they do personally. (They are just being horses, after all.) If you do this with complicated humans, everything instantly eases and softens. Who knows why that person is being grumpy or demanding or intrusive? Maybe their dog just died or their marriage is faltering or they are terrified of running out of money. Maybe they fear that they will never realise their dreams or they are looking after their sick mum or their best friend just packed up and went to live in Australia. 

I’ve learned to assume that other people’s behaviour is almost never anything to do with me, so I let them be a horse. They can have their drama over there and I’ll just sit and breathe over here. 

This stood me in marvellous stead lately, when I encountered a very difficult person. I tried all my usual tricks - jokes, charm, relentless cheerfulness - and nothing worked. So I opened my shoulders and let my breath out and looked benignly at the Difficult One and said, in the lovely silence of my head, ‘You are a horse, you are a horse, you are a horse.’

In the old days, that encounter would have ruined my entire weekend. Now, it was a fascinating experiment in stress-testing my faintly kooky theories. There’s the change, as the great Buck Brannaman always says. 

Anyway, as I read my friend’s piece about the basics, I thought: what are the human basics? What makes up the building blocks of trust and connection for us? With a horse, you build those foundations by listening, and being consistent and empathetic, and never asking them for more than they can give. You respect them and you learn their signs and you never, ever ridicule their feelings. You let them express themselves and you make yourself into their place of safety. You are their Rock of Gibraltar: unchanging, reliable, always there. 

You show up, with as much of your best self as you can find. If you’ve run out of best self, because the world has come and got you, as it sometimes gets all of us, you are honest about it, and you apologise, and you don’t take it out on them. You are absolutely authentic, in other words.

Can those translate directly? Would my basic human checklist be something like - Am I seeing and hearing that person? Am I being fair? Am I being honest? Am I being reliable? Am I being kind? Am I walking a mile in their shoes, before I judge them? 

And could I do all those things for myself? 

I once had a wild idea that I would run an experiment. I would treat my own self precisely as I treat my red mare, for a whole week. I would love myself just like I love her. I was giddy with this notion, and I never did it. 

As I write those words, I think: why on earth not? And a kind, humane, gentle voice comes into my mind, instinctive and strong: ‘It’s all right,’ it says. ‘You’re not quite there yet.’

The gremlin voices, the ones that judge and get fearful and tell me I’m not quite good enough, are still with me. They come from the dark spaces of my past. They come from the old wounds that all of us humans pick up, as we go through life. I know them now, and I’m pretty good at dealing with them (‘Full cash bar in the next room!’) but they are still there. So I’m not at the red mare level, not yet. But the beautiful thing is that I’m moving in that direction, a little further every day. 

And one glorious, bright morning, I shall get there. 

Enjoy this post?

Buy Tania Kindersley a coffee


More from Tania Kindersley