What Would the Old Ones Say?
By Ruella Yates
I’ve been thinking of my grandfather, who told me of the old Native American ways with horses, and remembering perhaps the deepest horse knowledge I got from him. Should everyone have access to horses? His answer, and my answer, is no.
My grandfather was a first-generation American, born in Illinois to German-immigrant parents on their way west. The old stories from Deutschland came to him with his mother’s milk, and when he spoke of them to me, they had a mythic quality, knowledge as old as time. He was a man of few words, of great knowledge, profound faith and deep love of horses. He and I shared this, almost as a secret society existing within the busyness and hard work of a farm family.
As we walked the land together, one
day he said, “Little girl, I want to tell you about horses. In the old times
in Deutschland, not everyone was allowed to have horses. It didn’t have
anything to do with affording them. The Old Ones said only special people could
be with horses. You are one of those people. You are only 7 years old now, but
you are one of us. When you grow up, I want you to always remember this, and
learn why you can be with horses—why the Old Ones would choose you.”
And so today, I ponder that again. Why did the Old Ones choose me? Perhaps in reading this, you, too, will give this deep thought. Are you one of the chosen ones? In this 21st century life, are you?
What is needed to truly ‘be with horses?’
Notice I didn’t mention anything about riding or what the horse can do for us. What were the Old Ones looking for?
First of all, I believe that to truly “be with a horse,” one must have a deep spiritual connection to life, to the land, the sea, the sky and all living things. This, for me, has been a circuitous lifetime journey: the more spiritual I am, the more successful I am with being a part of every horse. The more I am with horses on a deep level, the more spiritual I become.
Young children can have this, as well as older people. What I mean by “spiritual” has little to do with organized religion but a complete openness to God, by whatever name you choose to say; it also has little to do with “New Age” philosophies. Horses live their lives in this state of spirit, if humans give them the chance to live naturally. If you join with them in this state, they will know. Perhaps it’s something like the Old Testament referral to Abraham: “Abraham walked with God.”
My horses walk with God. And, so do
Feel for the horse. Know him on a deep level. Often, I refer to this as “having a heart for horses.” My students hear this frequently; I think it’s necessary. I’m not referring to sympathy, which is a good thing, too, of course. There’s nothing syrupy about this kind of empathy, although sometimes the feelings in me cause my eyes to fill with tears, as I realize over and over again just who horses are. Some are born with this kind of empathy; I see this in some young children. To develop it fully requires years of study and simply being with horses. In a nutshell, however, consider the words of poet Robert Frost: “There never was any heart truly great and generous that was not also tender and compassionate.”
To “be with a horse” fully, one’s mind must lose the clutter of everyday life. When I go to a horse, everything else leaves my mind and time stands still. I never know if I’ve been there 10 minutes or an hour. Again, little children often have this, until adulthood “civilizes” them. But it can be relearned. Grounding exercises, along with meditation, will bring this to you if you “have a heart for horses.” I recommend sitting, standing or walking meditation, with your only thoughts horse-like: the breath, the earth beneath your feet, the wind in your mane, the sun on your withers. All thoughts of neediness for the horse, for anything must be released. Which brings me to…
Release of Ego
Turn loose of all thoughts of how you might look to other people, any feeling of power and importance, any goals and plans. Check all that “stuff” at the gate. Volumes have been written on this by great thinkers of the past and present, so I won’t try to re-invent that wheel. Ghandi, Tolle, Chopra are a few names that come to mind. Jesus stated it simply in two words: “Deny thyself.”
Openness to the Horse
Open your heart and mind and listen. I have been called a horse whisperer, but I think perhaps a better term would be horse listener. Listen and be amazed at what you hear. Don’t doubt yourself. If you have accomplished the points above, at even a beginning level— if you have released your horse to live naturally and free, it will happen. If it hasn’t happened spontaneously for you, there are books available with practical suggestions on horse communication. One I particularly like is by Leta Worthington, “Learn How to Talk to Animals.”
Many of the things I’ve pondered about who should or could have a horse—in the feelings of the Old Ones—have brought me to myself as a child and youngsters I see today. I had that quality as a child, kept it with me and find it still deepening with time and wisdom. In this photo, on a horse she loves, a 4-year-old is in deep communication with him. Look at their faces, their bodies. Her grandpa and I stand close for safety, but this is strong. When she was lifted from his back a few minutes later, she looked up at me with wide and shining eyes, saying, “Renn said, ‘I like other people, too, but I love you most of all.’” I believed her. Whatever you hear from a horse, believe it.