The Power of Intention When Interacting with Horses

Commonly referred to as the Power of Intention by modern-day gurus of new-age retail, this phrase is usually about manifesting what you want, from money to relationships to personal actualization. BUT

New-age spiritual gurus such as Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle, while their messages are to be respected because of their sources, repackage the original ancient wisdom of the Buddha, with a little Christianity, Sufism, Judaism, Islam and other traditions thrown in when they fit. It’s no wonder their thoughts resonate with so many people. Picking and choosing and creating a whole new world view based on eons of teachings is tempting. It has been suggested to me that because of the powers of modern marketing, the messages of these gurus reach many who might ordinarily be closed to such ideas. I understand that. It doesn’t stop me from distrusting anyone who benefits financially from doctoring up old ideas, distancing them from their original context, and disseminating them as their own. The Buddha never made a dime from showing the world how to awaken from misery.

Ok, now on the the real content. Sorry for the pedantic rant.

There is a Lojong Slogan (no, not the Chariman Mao-type Slogan, just a thought to bring you back to your intent for living each moment) that says, “All activities should be done with one intention.”

Of course, this slogan refers to the intention of awakening compassion to all living things. On a more practical level, we as horse people might apply this slogan to a given work period with our horses. When I go to the barn to spend time with Maira, I will often just go. I haven’t formed in my mind any special intent, other than to love her, and to ride, or to work in the ring.

This lack of forethought does us both an injustice. For my part, I haven’t nailed down what I need to get out of this interaction. Bonding? Improving a particular skill? Working on Maira’s skills alone? Clear formulation of my goals will prevent me from feeling that amorphous sense of failure I often get after a session. This feeling of failure comes from not having met equally ill-defined goals. Maira will feel a similar sense of dissatisfaction. Horses know your intent. First and foremost they must feel our delight in being in their company. Our acceptance of them at whatever stage they occupy on the training scale. When we are clear with them about what we want, and equally clear with them when they have achieved it, they feel safer. They understand the boundaries of the session. A horse who understands the boundaries is more likely to enjoy the session and to achieve the intended skill.

Given that you never know what will come up when you work with horses, you may be presented with something altogether different from what you planned. For instance, I might enter the round pen hoping to work on some speedy backing up. But I may have to postpone backing up because Maira does not see the wisdom of yielding her head to me, which must occur first. I will, in effect, have to be okay with starting over.

Number one on my list of intents for any session should be: a willingness to start at the beginning. Start where you are, no whining about missed opportunities. Each day you get a new horse, with new issues.

Number two on my list of intents for any session should be a single, all-encompassing goal of working with the horse I get. Accepting the situation that is. So Maira is a little bullish in the round pen. “What do you mean, yield my head?” I have to be willing to accept that this is what is. No “You knew how to do this yesterday and you will do it today!”

Number three on my list of intents is to follow through on my original plan, to the best of my ability. If I’d planned on working on backing, I will stick with it until I get a good, solid back up. Once that’s done, it’s all I need. Mission accomplished. Even if I’ve spent the last hour working on the steps that lead to a clumsy reverse gear on the ground, I will still get a back up. Accept the gift of a few steps in reverse and call it a success. It is amazing how many people do not know when to say when. It’s because they haven’t clearly defined their goals beforehand, and thus cannot see that they have reached them. Open minded compassion for the animal and their relationship with it goes by the wayside as they keep pushing. It’s easy to turn this around once you have established your goal and stuck with it. Quit while you’re ahead.

On a plane that encompasses the practical and the spiritual, the underlying intention of all work with horses should be to see them for who they really are and to cooperate with them to build a working relationship. Manifesting your intention becomes second nature when you stay open to what occurs, and to all possibilities. Remaining mindful of the fact that you are working with a living, breathing being full of power and mystery, with whom you cooperate in achieving any goal you set out, will keep you grounded and ultimately lead to greater success.

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