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Gods Gift To Humanity

Posted by Dennis Bright on

Culturally revered throughout the world, one of the greatest contributing resources in the development of civilizations, loved by the followers of the world’s great religions and honored in art, the horse continues to this day to help humans become their better selves.

Horses seem uniquely suited to complement the human form both physically and mentally, with the capacity to learn a shared common language primarily communicated by touch, and to understand, respect, and risk their lives for their human counterparts. Today, the horse continues to be featured in movies, television, advertising and literature. This four-legged herd mate continues to transcend the global divide, symbolically reaching out and speaking even to those who have never experienced, first hand, a relationship with a horse. Humans seem predisposed to be drawn to the horse, as if a symbiotic relationship gene has evolved through the thousands of years of the horse-human relationship and is now embedded in our collective DNA.

At the same time that the horse-human relationship has persisted and transcended the divisiveness created by human tribalism, the barriers created by human prejudices have also persisted. The horse has no bias based on human concepts of gender identity, race or class, seeks fair and harmonious relationships, and doesn’t recognize language and social barriers. In fact, the horse is a true mirror, reflecting back whatever understanding, anxiety, or predispositions comes to them from humans. Just as the human child can learn fear and prejudice, young horses that have a negative learning experience will catalog what happens and imprint it in their minds. Horses who have experienced a negative learning situation mentally create an emotional default link that triggers their instinctive flight response. This is part of their survival memory that will help keep them safe in the future.

We know as trainers that it takes up to six times as long to retrain a horse as it does to train them in the first place. The only way to retrain a horse is to create a completely new training track that circumvents the existing trained experience, hopefully bypassing the problematic default triggers. Conditioned response training is optimized when the young horse is open to input and has the least amount of resistance to a new experience. The optimal window of training horses is the first three years of their life; after that, the horse is much more rigid in thinking and behavior. The effectiveness of behavior modification training declines as the horse ages. The key to successfully framing the learning experience is to minimize the fear factor and protect the horse from painful/negative situations that impede the process.

The equine-centered approach to cross-cultural communication draws on the principles of respect, understanding, openness to learning, and healing that are both essential and natural to building relationships across difference. Bright Ranch in partnership with Saint Mary’s College, is honored to work toward designing a curriculum that fosters deeper understanding of ourselves and a unique opportunity to learn new skills of empathy, communication, and leadership.