Art and Horses

*On Saturday, we attended the first stop in the 2006 USA Tour of renowned horseman, Pat Parelli. Inside the cavernous arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, Parelli ably demonstrated his uncanny skills relating to horses in a natural way. Pat Parelli’s trademark philosophy of “Natural Horse-Man-Ship” is one of those seemingly complex methodologies that amount to elaborations of the simple facts of human beings’ interactions with the rest of the natural world. The difference in results between acting from states of insecurity, fear, stress, and competitiveness and acting from relaxed, confident, cooperative states of mind is evident in Parelli’s work with horses. When the human learns to “think like a horse” and act in ways that involve and reward the animal’s natural senses of curiosity and play, the horse responds with predictably positive behavior. A creative and illuminating relationship replaces the volatile and unpredictable master/slave dynamic that often creeps into the repressed (and inappropriate) predatory response of humans.This method of working with – rather than against – the ways of nature brings the power of millions of years of evolutionary knowledge, responsiveness, and creativity to bear in situations requiring skill of execution. Instead of needing to learn countless individual disconnected behaviors by rote, one is encouraged to draw upon one’s innate abilities to move and act in harmony with the natural way of things.Taking in the inspiring events of the day, I was struck with the way in which this teacher’s ideas are quite similar to those of particular teachers of a wide range of subjects, including my own. We all bring a sernse of “naturalness” to the study and practice of human interaction in the world. Much of mastering these diverse activities – from meditation and martial arts to animal husbandry and artistic endeavor – is achieved through “unlearning” the many useless ways in which humans are acculturated to think and behave.Gazing out over our vernal pasture, seeing our horses live their awesome and inspiring lives, grounds me in the knowledge that to be a member of the Animal Kingdom of Planet Earth is even more significant and valuable than my position in human society.It is a beautiful thing to experience the energy, harmony, and creativity of the natural world. It is even more moving to experience these boundless states within oneself.

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