Serena Williams will never try to “understand” her racquet! Jordan Speith will not be trying to develop a “spiritual relationship” with his putter. Manchester United is a team made up entirely of humans who can speak to one another and be spoken to by their coach. The relationship between a horse and rider is completely different from any of these. This is a team made up of a human and an equine. Two different species. There is no other sport in existence that is like this.
If you are not a rider and not even interested in horses don’t click the “back” button just yet. There maybe something for you here.
Riding is not just about putting your leg here and your hand there and expecting the horse will respond like a machine. That is the road to frustration and disappointment. So how is the rider to go about communicating with the horse?
‘Beyond the Mirrors’ by Jill Keiser Hassler is a book that looks into the relationship between a horse and rider in way that goes far beyond a “how to ride” book. In dressage arenas, there are mirrors; mirrors so the rider can see how he looks on the horse, is his position correct, and how does the horse look, is the frame right, the poll high enough etc. etc.
“The rider must journey beyond the image he sees in the mirror in search of his ‘inner harmony’ and a spiritual unity between himself and his horse. It is only when he finds it that the image can approach perfect beauty and harmony.”
This small book is a treasure trove of suggestions and ideas that will help the rider attain the goal of harmony and understanding with their horse. Jill Hassler starts with goals both mental and spiritual and then moves on to discussing the “two creatures”; horse and man. She gives the reader the resources needed for this journey: observation, love, energy, commitment, patience, forgiveness and concentration.
Then she outlines the things necessary for the “Journey to Beyond”: attitude, awareness, expectations, confrontation, humble superiority, communication, responsibility relaxation and trust. Finally, the last section “Beyond the Mirrors” talks of inner-harmony, spiritual unity, and natural beauty.
To give you an idea of the style of this valuable little book here are some more quotes.
“Commitment to your horse assures that you will give him your total attention, understanding, care and love. Your commitment to your horsemanship goal will be meaningless unless it is accompanied by a commitment to your horse.”
“Your attitude is your point of view toward yourself, your horse and the world. Your attitude determines whether you can learn and grow from your experiences. Having a positive attitude toward life is a necessary first step along your journey.”
“Learn to live for today, keeping in mind your future goal. Do not worry about the consequences of any incomplete or negative past experience. Even a negative experience can lead to positive growth if you evaluate it and record the results positively in your brain. Remember, your horse lives for the moment. His mind is not cluttered with the past or the future.”
“The horse’s beauty, given to him by God, must be maintained. It is not our right to destroy this beauty to create a creature of our own design. As we develop our own inner-harmony and our spiritual unity with the horse, we come to recognize that the horse’s full, natural beauty can emerge only without most tactful, understanding and patient care. We are the custodians not the creators, of his beauty.”
This small book is a gem and I think that it would have value for any reader, horse person or not. But for those of us who are riders and want to do our best for and with our horses this is a book I cannot recommend highly enough.