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Horses Help Us Be Human
By: Jiffy Read On March 21, 2013

A friend recently posed an interesting philosophical question. “Why horses?” she asked. A simple enough question, and one horse lovers often ask themselves, especially as they write yet another check to the farrier, or stay up all night with a colicky horse, or experience the disappointment of learning it will take at least six months for that suspensory ligament to heal.


Yet despite all the time, money, and heartache, we keep giving our horses our all because they make us feel good. Which begs the question “why?” Why does being with horses feel so good? The answer to that question, it turns out, gets to the heart of what really drives us.


Horses let us be ourselves We live in a world of judgment where we’re constantly exposed to messages telling us what’s okay and what’s not, and where we constantly judge in those same terms. Those judgments create an impossible and often contradictory standard that erodes our sense of self-worth, and drives us to be something we’re not as we search for acceptance.


Horses don’t set standards. They don’t care what we do for work or what kind of car we drive. Without that judgment we can be who we really are around them, without worrying that we might not have, do, or say the right thing.


Horses empower us The fear of judgment often causes us to renounce our own power. We may feel called to do something, but don’t because we fear what others will think or say about us. As a result we stifle ourselves, and don’t lead the lives we’re called to lead.


Horses in the wild rely on a savvy and dominant alpha mare to make decisions that are in the best interest of the herd. They want that same leadership from us, and will offer us their allegiance when we gain their trust and make our intentions clear.


Horses help us feel connected We’re happiest when we feel connected, but the hurts we’ve experienced in our lives often create a sense of pain and distrust that makes us reluctant to lower our guard and let others fully in.


Horses seek connection. Being connected to a herd in the wild was their best bet for survival. As such, they’re wired to connect with us. And because horses don’t peddle in guilt or shame like humans do, we feel safe opening ourselves to a connection with horses.


Horses help us be cooperative Sometimes we act willfully, even coercively, to get what we want. It can be an effective strategy, but always at the expense of those we’ve coerced or been willful toward. While willfulness and coercion can initially feel empowering, we’re ultimately left feeling manipulative, which doesn’t feel good.


Horses are willing and cooperative by nature. They’ve had to be to exist in a herd. They help us find our own willingness by being cooperative when we offer our own cooperation, and turning uncooperative when we don’t.


Horses allow us to care Caring for people can be scary, because it requires we face our sense of inadequacy in the face of suffering, as well as our own vulnerability.


But we do care, because caring is inherent in who we are. Horses give us a way to express our caring in a way that feels safe.


Horses help us feel part of something greater than ourselves Each of us has our own set of skills and abilities, but when we combine them with those of others to achieve something more than we can on our own, we experience being part of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we often get into battles over who contributed more, or who didn’t contribute enough. Those battles are designed to make us feel that we’re better than the others, but all they really do is prevent us from experiencing the joy that comes from being a part of something larger than ourselves.


Horses don’t seek personal glory. Because of that, we don’t have to contend with those battles, which leaves us free to enjoy the pleasures that come from achieving something greater with our horse than we could ever achieve on our own.


Horses help us live in the present and just be We’ve become so busy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by life. We’re constantly running here and there, doing this and that, trying to get everything done. In our feverishness we tend lose sight that we are not what we do, but rather the being behind what we do.


Horses don’t know about all those things that need doing. They live in the present, dealing with what’s right in front of them. And because they’re incapable of understanding the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happened to us or what might happen to us—our hurts of the past and our fears of the future—they clear the way for us to drop those stories, and join them in the present moment.


Horses help us live from the heart We know in our heart, but attempt to understand with our head. But the head isn’t capable of understanding what the heart intuitively knows. When we align our head with our heart, the world comes into focus, and our way through it becomes clear.


Most of us bang our head against the wall attempting to align our heart with our head. It never works. Fortunately we have horses. They help us abandon our false ideas, and align our head with our heart.

. . . .

This list is by no means complete, and all the items on it overlap with one another. Breaking down exactly why we’re drawn to horses isn’t something that fits neatly into a list. And it’s not something that can be explained. It can only be experienced. But the experience is one of feeling grounded and happy, because horses take us beyond the foibles of so-called human nature to something deeper and truly noble within ourselves—the human spirit.


Understanding this, we can become aware of what prevents us from having that same experience in all our relationships—human as well as equine—and develop the courage and confidence to set aside those obstacles, and be grounded and happy not only around our horses, but in the greater world as well.


Jiffy Read is a clinician and counselor who helps people uncover and change the thoughts that get in the way of attaining their goals. 


© Jiffy Read 2013. You’re free to copy and/or share this material. Just let people know who wrote it.



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Bioline Image Jiffy Read is a second generation horsewoman and former international competitor who helps riders know their horse's heart and mind...and their own.


Love your words and the feelings behind them! Horses help our hearts, our minds, and our spirits. Thank you!


By: Ellen Quinn , On March 22, 2013
  Beautifully said
I don't ride horses, but I can still relate. Your words move my thoughts beyond horses and ring true when associated with any animal that is loved by a human being. Unconditional love is so much easier to experience with an animal than with another ego-addled entity! Thank you, Jiffy.
By: Pam D'Ambrosio , On March 28, 2013
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