Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings

"...a horse is a thing of such beauty...none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor." -- Xenophon

"The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire." -- Sharon Ralls Lemon

"A horse gallops with his lungs, preserveres with his heart, and wins with his character." -- Tesio

"Horse thou are truly a creature without equal, for thou fliest without wings and conquerest without sword." -- The Koran

For thousands of years humans have existed in awe of our equine counterparts, filling our poetry and prose with laudations for the heart, grace and spirit that flows so freely from them. Horses are both wild at heart and gentled in hand, and anyone who has wiled away hours aboard an equine companion, trekked with them through the countryside and enjoyed the synergy they provide us with the natural world, or watched them gallop unfettered across a springtime pasture, has likely shared the recognition that these creatures provide us glimpses into what it means to be truly free.

It is hard to encapsulate this feeling into words, what it means to thrill and wonder at the complexity and spirit of the horse, and yet I have run across an article that just might have done it. It is written by Klaus Ferdinand von Hempling, a widely known practicioner of balanced and synchronistic horse training (his book Dancing With Horses explains natural horsemanship at its most elemental level). The article asks what exactly differentiates our bond with the horse from that we share with all manner of other animals that humans have domesticated into their service. His answers are concise and lyrical at the same time.

He explains that it is the horse's inherent wildness, existing within it regardless of its level of domestication, that keeps us in awe and in respect. Unlike elephants, or camels, or other beasts of burden that we have taught to carry us humans around, with horses " we have wildness under us, with us, beside us, forever untameable...Being with a horse means that you are 100% with nature, 100% wildness, timeless wildness beside you . And then you have the chance to cope with these ever-wild animals: this is the fascination of the horse. It is fascinating to train this kind of animal because you are with these timeless, ancient principles. Sitting on top of the animal, you are absolutely depending, like a storm on the ocean, like it's minus 40ยบ in Greenland or Antarctica. So this means I have to cope with 100% wildness, 100% nature."

"Wildness under us, with us, beside us, forever untameable." Our horses allow our spirits to return to freedom and disinhibition, and for this we remain forever in their stead.

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