My sister has offered me a job – kind of. It’s the unpaid variety and involves updating the Horses for Causes social media outlets. She and Malc help people of all ages, abilities and disabilities to deal with difficulties that life throws up. They have a happy herd of horses to help them.
I kind of know what she does. What I used to do to some extent in the classroom using a laptop, a whiteboard and a row of desks, she does in a field or a stable with a horse and a person the world has knocked the stuffing out of.
I kind of know why she does it too. There is a compassionate streak that runs through our family. We want to help people. We want to make the world a kinder place and we want to use the talents and gifts we have to do it. There is nothing more encouraging than putting someone back on their feet and teaching them strategies to cope with the world.
What I don’t really know is why it works. My experience with horses is limited. Saturdays see me coughing up a little money to put a lucky fifteen on a few horse races. I have been to a few race courses – won a little, lost a little. My sister assures me that if a horse really didn’t enjoy running around a course and jumping over a few fences they just wouldn’t do it.
I really don’t know how horses can help people – not the way my sister knows. I found an article on the web that had this to say:_
“Horses make great companions for psychotherapy because they can mirror and respond to human behaviour. Being herding animals, they rely on an acute stream of sensory data to sense safety or danger; they can also hear the human heartbeat within four feet, and research on heart-rate variability indicates that horses have a profound ability to synchronize their own heartbeat with that of human beings. When people are introduced to the herd environment for therapy, horses respond within the same spectrum of physical and emotional responses that govern their own behaviour, allowing therapists an insight into the inner psychology of the client.”
I wondered whether we as a species ever had the ability to hear a human heart beat within four feet. Were we ever able to synchronise our own heartbeat with the beat of another person? Did we lose it all when we left our caves and trails, and built houses and roads? Did we just lose connection as we became more sophisticated? Could we, by becoming still, rediscover these things?
I’d love to think there is a sense that every good friendship, every good marriage has a tiny bit of that talent somewhere. Maybe it’s not so much an obvious ability that can be tested in a laboratory. There a lot of unexplained stuff about the world – intuitive rather than a taught thing. I’d like to think that - but it’s probably not the case. Maybe with twins perhaps, but not the rest of us.
I suspect that we never had the abilities in the first place. There is such a variety of life out there and it makes sense that not every species on the planet can do everything.
There is no denying that for most of us the connection to the planet and the variety of life out there is almost second or third hand. We live vicariously through Blue Planet 2 and such like. Another newspaper article I read, before I got the job, was about the lack of connection to nature. The suggestion was made that if we walked barefoot on grass, through the soles of our feet we could access microbes and stuff that help and heal. We chase our children around with a wet-wipe and deny them the chance to connect with the natural world. Not everything out there is out to get us. Johnston and Johnston have trained us too well. We are taught to fear nature and trust their products for a healthy life. I’m not saying that we abandon essential medicines, but nature was there long before a bottle of pills appeared. We have just lost our nature-knowledge.
We like to think that we can do anything if we try hard enough. I think it takes a little bit of humility on our side to admit that there are some things that others do better – not just other human beings, but in this case, horses.