The Real Value for the Horse
About the Home Tree and the Tip of the Iceberg
This is how it's done. When people are sitting on shit that you want,
you make them your enemy. Then you're justified in taking it.
- Jake Sully, 'AVATAR'
Before the movie 'AVATAR', James Cameron made a romantic movie about the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic was a great and mighty ship, a steam boat and an Olympic-class ocean liner, designed to take hundreds of people across the Atlantic ocean. The Titanic sank, after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York on April 15'th 1912. The Titanic sank to the ocean floor, over 3'000 meters below, taking the majority of people on board with her.
The problem with icebergs is, they are hard to see. Especially at night, as was the case with the Titanic. But even at daytime, icebergs are tricky and deceiving, because 9/10'ths of them, a little over 90%, are below the water line and therefore invisible. The appear smaller above the water than they really are. You can literally only see 'the tip of the iceberg', if that, while their true size and bulk is hidden below the water.
What applies to icebergs and the Titanic also applies to horses and to our respect for horses, to how we handle and treat horses. Or rather, to our, to human disrespect for horses. Especially the part about the 'tip of the iceberg' and that 9/10'ths of an iceberg in the water are always 'below the water line' and therefore invisible. You just don't see it from a distance. If you're lucky, you'll see its tip. And then it's usually too late.
In the last 20 years a big fuss has been made in the equine industry, about being more gentle to horses. About being in harmony with them, about keeping, riding and training them better and more naturally. And most of all, about respecting them, their needs and their nature more. Rightly so I would say, because that's a good thing. Not only for the horses, but for people, for the human race as well.
However, disrespect is an ugly thing. And it doesn't like to rear its face in plain view. Like the proverbial iceberg, it likes to hide its bulk 'below the water level'. Outside of plain view and below the level of consciousness. And unfortunately, human beings, especially around horses it seems, are very good, not only at fooling others, but also at fooling themselves.
Most people around horses really believe they truly and honestly love horses. And many do in their own way. It's just that love is not necessarily respect. If you know horses and believe what most horse whisperers are saying, then you know that respect really is probably the most important thing in a relationship, in any relationship, including that between man and horse. And, quite often when things don't work out with horses, lack of respect is involved in one way or the other. Lack of respect for the horse in question. Lack of respect for animals in general. Lack of respect for one's own fears of the horse. Lack of respect for the horse's nature. Lack of respect for the horse's will. Lack of respect for the horse's own needs and interests or lack of respect for the horse's gender or race, etc.
The problem with all these forms of lacking respect is, that quite like an iceberg in the sea, they are almost always almost impossible to see, to realize, to become aware of, to admit and to perceive. At least in their true extent and meaning. I believe 90% of what goes wrong between horses and people does not truly and initially originate in a wrong riding style, in the wrong shoes or spurs, the wrong training technique or the wrong stabling or keeping. Although all these things can aggravate a situation, they are usually just symptoms of a bigger cause: Lacking respect. Lacking respect for the horse, for its true nature, for its body, its needs and its dignity are the real culprit.
Despite this seemingly simple cause, we are not aware of it, because just like the 'tip of the iceberg', lacking respect is well hidden. And this not just from the public and when others are watching, we'd catch on to it if it were just that, but much more gravely, from ourselves, from our own consciousness and awareness. And just because we are not aware of it, does not make it or its effects go away. That's why it's so hard for so many people to track down the true culprit of problems between horses and people. Lacking respect and not being aware of it.
Now what does all this mean? Where am I going with this?
It means, that to improve the relationship between horses and people, not just superficially in a clinic, where people train their horses to 'bow to their command', one must improve respect of the people for the horses. Lacking respect after all, is also the cause for animal cruelty. This, as said, isn't anything new. The equine industry and horse people have picked this up and are talking about it since about 20 years now. And animal welfare, as a social cause, supposedly developed around the treatment of horses.
The point is, it is hard to improve respect, when disrespect is not conscious. When we are not aware of it ourselves. It is hard to improve someone's respect, when he or she believes, truly believes, that he or she supposedly has respect. In other words, the problem in improving respect is not just respect itself, or the lack thereof, but the lacking consciousness about it. People just don't know. The fact that most people who don't respect horses enough, are simply not aware of this and believe the opposite, is the real problem.
Although the horse industry and horse people have learned and are learning every day that respect for the horse is of great importance for the relationship with the horse, very often, people cannot improve this relationship, because they simply don't know where or how they could improve their respect. Or in other words, they don't see the million little forms and manifestations of disrespect, which happen on a daily basis and which are simply invisible and unperceivable. Like ice below the water line. Many people don't see their disrespect, they are not aware of it and thus, they cannot fight it or change anything about it. It is invisible, like the majority of an iceberg in the sea. If work, life and recreation around horses were an ocean of millions of little interactions, decisions and activities that happen every day, and disrespect of the horse were ice, 90% of this ice would be below the 'water line', below the level of people's consciousness. Poor people. And poor horses.
What can be done? What can we do to change this? We really, truly must improve our respect for the horse, if we really truly want a better relationship with it. One that is based on true friendship and trust.
So how can we become aware of disrespect, when that disrespect is hiding outside of our awareness and our consciousness? How can we become conscious of that which we are not?
The answer is of course, not by 'magic' as so many people are desperately hoping and looking for among 'horse whisperers', and horse trainers or riding instructors, but by acknowledging (and respecting), first and foremost, as a first small, but direly important step, at least that 'ice', those forms of the most obvious disrespect, which are detectible and undeniable! If we can't see the bulk of the iceberg, then let us at least look out for, and strongly and vehemently react to the visible tips of icebergs, which are sticking up most prominently into our awareness and consciousness. Those that are the most hardest to suppress and ignore, even for human beings! Let us not suppress and ignore that, which we know, know for a fact, is disrespect. By acknowledging and respecting at least that little bit of the proverbial iceberg, which is clear and undeniable! We must start in our search for our own disrespect in that which we can see. And we must react, and react strongly, first and foremost, to that tip, at least to that one, which we don't need 'magic', a sixth sense or as a matter of fact, even true horse knowledge, to notice and to know it is disrespect. On a real personal and deep level.
I am stressing this allegory of the iceberg so much, because to improve the relationship with horses and the status or horses in our care, from slave to an equally respected being and thus a possible true friend, it is really direly important, to become aware of our own shortcomings in respect for the other. Especially its unconscious side and it's true extend and size, which are much bigger than we think at face-value. And therefore much more influential on our relationship, on our ability to reciprocate in kind and on equal grounds, than we think. To engage in a true friendship with another species.
It is the true bulk and size of lacking respect, that is - despite all the good talk about more respect for horses, and 'horse whisperer's, etc. - still hiding below the level of our consciousness. And the only way to really fight disrespect, or lacking respect if you prefer that, in all its forms, including its hidden, invisible or suppressed forms, is to start fighting it there, were we see it an perceive it. There where we are - or can become - aware of it. In other words: We must start, if we are to be in any way successful at all in this endeavor to increase our respect for the other, at the 'tip of the iceberg'. We must start with that, which we can see and which is the most obvious.
Now, to end this lecture, what could possibly be the 'tip of the iceberg' when it comes to disrespect of horses? What is the striking, bloody manifestation that renders horses to the status of slaves and, by its continuation, cements and reinforces that status every single day? What is THE glaring, THE most obvious violation of horses' most basic rights, such as to bodily integrity and their own interests and ultimately will? What is undeniable bloody mutilation and the cutting off of entire body parts of horses?
I don't mean the killing of horses, although that is a problem as well, when it is done by people who claim to love and respect horses and it isn't necessary. Nor do I mean those few instances, when horses are clearly abused and clear cases of animal cruelty are committed, where everyone screams out and the perpetrators are punished or publicly denounced. Such cases, dire as they may be, do not enforce our perception of horses as beings, with which we can do whatever we please. Quite the contrary. I mean those silent forms of mass-mutilation and massive disrespect, which we all accept, because we still treat and see horses as slaves. Slaves with which we can do whatever we please.
Do I really have to say it? Are you so blind, that you cannot see? And with this I don't mean 'See' as it was used in the movie 'AVATAR'. It's obvious that most people are incapable of that. 'AVATAR' symbolized that disrespect for the other with the felling of the Home Tree. And the original script on an even more personal level with Tsu'tey's queue. No, I mean just see with our own eyes, as a normal, natural human being? What more than the spilling of blood do you need, to see?
Many people nowadays talk about 'respect' for horses. Or about horses being teachers and guides to people. About how people supposedly could learn from horses. They don't understand the meaning of the word.
Have you ever had a teacher whom you really, truly respected? Someone who really taught you something invaluable in life? If so, did you go on and cut off his sexual organs?
You cannot respect someone or something who's sexual organs you cut off.
Truly, given how blind so many people are, particularly and especially in the horse industry, it is no wonder that ships the size of the Titanic sink every day.
The value of this project for horses is not only to prevent Titanics from sinking and taking whatever is onboard with them, but to show people how to steer around the iceberg. As a start, at least the biggest one. By showing them and bringing to their attention, to their awareness, the tip of the iceberg, which they have been ignoring forever so long. And thereby to help them understand, realize and respect its true extent. - And meaning for ocean navigation. To help them understand, how important icebergs and avoiding them is. Especially the biggest ones. And this project does this in a mild manner, without lifting any kind of accusing finger, or even lecturing them. Just by showing how horses are, truly are, when you remove disrespect. And that, I believe, will have a positive effect, at least in the long run, for many horses.