by Missouri Mule
I have been volunteering at a therapeutic riding center five years now. Today, a doctor with a microphone is was describing how hipotherpy is a prescription he will write down on a pad, just like an antibiotic, it can be good for so many ills, they still haven't cataloged them all yet: autism, cerebral palsy, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, afflictions of the heart and body both. I watch as he talks.
The horses have just come off the jumping course; this is a first for them. The two little girls have cerebral palsy; they cannot walk. Each joins together with a horse to form one being. The human borrows the horse's locomotion, and for the first time her body experiences the sensation of moving on its own, the spine undulating, the muscles and bones rocking and rippling. (The wheelchair may move her from place to place, but in it she herself remains motionless; only the horse allows her to get this feeling into her bones so that they may come to remember it, perhaps into her bones so they may come to remember it, perhaps so to replicate it.)
As they go around the ring, tiny packages of flawed flesh perched atop massive beings of perfect form, the doctor is saying how horses are such excellent therapists that if they could become doctors, he'd be out of business. You can tell from the way he says it that this is not meant as a joke.
The literature is in fact filled with anecdotes amounting to as much proof as you could want: the child who for years has not spoken and up there on top of a horse says her first word; the boy whose neuromotor damage causes him to twitch almost continually, becomes calm and stately on the back of a horse. Miracles and more miracles, the parents say. The horses are silent, going bout their work. Everyone agrees, though, they, too, are somewhat transformed: They instantly, intimately, identify their cargo through means known only by them. Take even the ornery mount, watch him become gentle and slow, but only for the damaged ones. He will still kick YOU, strong predator, in the teeth. They can hear you breathing, and they know your mind.
Horses have taught me so much. For me , the way you ride, amounts to nothing short of the an entire philosophy of living. People who are not horsepeople are simply unable to understand a very important part of me.
When you ride, the ways of relating that you depend upon, and in fact cannot be truly accomplished without, the following, absolute free flow, the removal of internal and external impediments to both mind and body, honest and sure communication and complete trust in the horse's ability to reverse the flow of information back to you so long as you listen with an open, reflexive mind.
With a horse you must mean what you say--that my demands are unequivocal, that I don't fuck around. I mean what I say because that is the way you talk to a horse, the way you must talk to a horse. I don't do so well with the humans, but with horses the path to illumination, the way to attaining a moment of limpidity, leaving confusion behind. (As much as to say ; leaving most of life behind.) You simply can't be confused on a horse, or it all goes to shit. Amazingly fast. They can hear you breathing and they know your mind.