Philosophy and Principles

Mel-&-Faith-web-600I believe that Horses and Humans have evolved to be together and that the union and interaction between the two can be extremely beneficial and therapeutic for both parties at all levels of body, mind and spirit. One of my principles in life is to serve for the “Highest and Best Good of All”. So in the case of my horsemanship teaching, it is to serve the highest and best good of the horses, the students and myself equally. I respect the horses as equals and connect deeply with them – getting to know them individually at their deepest essence. I appreciating them for “who” they are rather than just using them for what they can do. I respect them as the sentient and spiritual beings that they each are, all with their own personalities and life purpose.

Working with horses can be beneficial and therapeutic for their minds and their bodies just as it can be for ours. Most domesticated horses need to be mentally, emotionally and physically stimulated otherwise their life is pretty boring. Many can also like to be physically challenged through sport and performance, if (and it’s a big if),  we offer it in the right way. Horses are very physical beings that really experience and express themselves through movement and physical activity. If we engage with them on the ground or through riding in a considerate and healthy biomechanical way, all of our training and riding can be extremely therapeutic for them, somewhat like a physiotherapy session, a feldenkrais lesson or some other form of bodywork. Likewise when we ride them in a considerate and healthy biomechanical way it is physically therapeutic for us. Good riding, where you allow the movement of the horse to go through you rather than bracing against it, will free your body. (You can read more about the physical aspects in the biomechanics section).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing beyond the physical aspects are the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of horsemanship. It is through the development of these deeper layers that True Horsemen are developed and it is through the development of these layers that the higher levels of physical ability, skill and athleticism come from. Just look at the importance that is placed on psychology in top athletes  or the power generated in focusing the mind and calming the emotions, as we see in martial arts. Everything starts in the mind. It starts with our thoughts. Our emotions are how we feel about our thoughts and our thoughts and emotions are reflected in our physical bodies and our actions.

After all of the horsemanship training that I have done in the last twenty odd years, I have come to the realization that “Horsemanship is more about a way BEING than it is about a way of DOING”. This way of “BEING” is that of being calm, still, focussed and centered. It is about being present and without judgement. This is what true leadership is about.  “HOW” we are in our attitudes, intentions and  emotions is more important than WHAT we do. This way of BEING leads us to have a great quality of DOING and helps us to learn the physical techniques quickly and easily. When we combine this way of BEING with the DOING of correct techniques then we are really going to be amazing horsemen and women.

As much as we need to be the teachers and leaders for our horses, the horses are equally leading and teaching us. Their responses or reactions to us, teach us about ourselves. Becoming a true horseman means developing ourselves. One of my favourite quotes of all times is that of Mahatma Ghandi “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. I like to modify it slightly for my horsemanship teaching to “Be the change that you want to see in your horse “. So if you want your horse to be calm, you need to be calm, if you want your horse to be attentive you need to be attentive, if you want your horse to be soft you need to be soft and if you want your horse to be athletic and balanced you need to be athletic and balanced etc. It is the human who must change, because the horses are our mirrors and the horses can usually only be as good as we are.

I strive to work with horses and teach horsemanship in a way that uses energy more than physical force, talking them into it, rather than forcing them into it and finding the way which is the most harmonious and effortless, as I facilitate  both horses and humans to reach their highest potentials in life.

Mel’s philosophy for horsemanship is a very holistic one, striving to understand all four aspects of the horse and human – the mind, emotions, body and spirit. In many horsemanship training programs the deepest part of the horse, their spirit, soul or individual personality is overlooked as is the vast range of emotions that they can feel. Horses feel all the same emotions that we do, fear, anger, resentment, happiness, sadness, depression, joy, excitement and the list goes on. Horses have their own soul purpose, life paths, learnings and teachings to experience in this life time just as we humans do. They are very conscious and connected to us in more ways than most people realise, and they can be mirrors, teachers and healers for us. 
Connecting with horses is about connecting to the horse at the deepest energetic, mental and emotional levels and working with the individual beings that they are. It is about connecting with your heart, mind and physical body. It is not hard to do and everybody can learn to do it, it just requires us to learn to be still and open our hearts and our minds. We must understand the horse generically as a prey and herd animal but equally as an individual thinking, feeling, sentient being with a mind, heart and soul. We need to connect with the individual being of each horse considering “who” they are and how they feel, not just using them for what they can do.

‘Riding in Synchronicity’ means to ride in perfect synchronicity and harmony, becoming like a centaur where you become part of the horse and the horse becomes part of you. To achieve this we need to understand the horse’s physical body and the biomechanics of how their body’s work. It is vitally important for horses to be ridden in correct posture and biomechanical balance if they are to enjoy the experience, stay sound, be healthy and reach their highest athletic potential.

Being ridden and performing athletically is relatively effortless when horses are in correct posture and balance. Understanding their physical bodies is a key piece to the puzzle of resistance free training and happy horses.  To influence the horse’s balance and posture the rider must learn a lot about their own, so Mel’s teaching includes a lot of body awareness and body balancing exercises.

When the horse engages the hindquarters and frees the forehand, the chest area (heart chakra) and the neck and throat area (throat chakra – which is the place of self-expression) open and expand. This is why horses look so proud, majestic and have a special presence when we see them playing and prancing in the paddock, with their raised up chests and long arched necks – they are expressing their spirit. Seeing a horse play and prance in the paddock in this posture and  state of suspension, is nothing short of magical. To experience the power and magic of a horse in this state and be a part of it through being on its back, has got to be one of the most amazing experiences one could ever experience in  life.

Good training and relationships with horses help them to express their spirit and to reignite it, if has been lost or broken. It leads to the horse becoming more joyous, exuberant and athletic whilst at the same time being calm and centered.

I also love the word synchronicity in it’s meaning as described by Carl Jung. Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner. To put it simply in my own words -“It is the unexplained coincidences of life that give us the idea that there is a grand design or designer and a connection amongst all things that helps pave our pathway.” To live in synchronicity, is to live in flow with all life and in flow with the universe. So our life, is a ride in synchronicity and the horses we are with and the experiences we have with them, are not just by coincidence but are part of the grand design of our lives as they are vehicles, guides and teachers for the rides of our lives.