The first time I rode a horse was almost 10 years ago. It was in a very nice landscape in La Calera; a village in Colombia where people usually make horse rides with groups. Champagne was the name of the horse that was taking me. She was white and had a beautiful blondish hair. After a few minutes, Champagne started to run really fast, having me on top of her back. She had bolted and I could no longer control her; thus making me lose stability.
After this experience, I hadn’t had the chance to be close enough to any horse; and to be honest, I didn’t feel like searching for a second time either. That was until the past two weeks when I arrived at Richmond Vale Academy; a place where nature is the main character of the scenario. Among other animals I found horses. Not one, but five, and the first thing that made me curious about them was that they were out in the garden, like pets. They didn’t have bridles and they were totally used to people, dogs and cats, all going around. That called my attention and I decided to have a one on one class with them and Stina, from whom I had heard the special relationship and language she shared with them.
Taken from La Bitácora Vicentina, a blog by María Alejandra Olano
When the day finally came I felt anxious and nervous. We went to see the girls: Magic, Moonlight and Elena. At first it was quite intimidating because the three of them started to walk towards us and I didn’t expect that. But after making them know who had the control of the situation —without inflicting them any harm or making any aggressive gestures— I realized the importance of using a proper body language.
Elena was my favorite. She behaved like a princess: polite and discreet. She made eye contact with us and approached us in a very nice way, ready to smell my hand and recognize who was standing in front of her. Then I understood the importance of having a mutual empathy with animals. Just like it works with humans, we both have a specific energy and feeling with the ones with whom we interact, and they also need to take time to feel you and accept you, no matter if the interlocutor turns out to be an animal or a human. It works like a mirror effect: if you introduce yourself diplomatically, the horses will do likevise. But if you present yourself aggressively and challenging, the payback will not be quite good.
After this first approach, we went even more bold: pamper her. At first it was quite intimidating because her head was huge. I’m a petite person whose height is 1.50 meters, so I felt really small compared to her. But when I started to tickle her, she showed the joy with her mouth just like when a child gets to see a candy. The way she reacted when I stopped rubbing her hair was mesmerizing and unbelievable: she asked for more twisting her head towards Stina’s chest.
And as if that was not surprising enough, the class finished with a ride around the gardens atop Elena. She was put a collar and a rope on, just like an owner who takes his dog to the park; and started walking. At first she wanted to make a stop every two steps to eat some grass, and it was fine. But after a while, Elena and I were falling behind Moonlight and Magic; that's when Stina told me that we have to show them who's in charge of the situation and who should follow whom. Elena understood that easily and then she continued the path without any problem.
After experiencing the horses' rite of presentation (hand smell, tickles or rubbing, and walking), I understood the importance of introducing ourselves and making a calm first approach with animals, especially horses. Now I understand that I probably did something incorrect the day I met Champagne and that’s why she reacted aggressively. Finally, I also understand the importance of giving second chances; especially when it comes to animals like horses, who have a heart as big as their physical body.
Reprinted with modifications from La Bitácora Vicentina, a blog by María Alejandro Olano V.
María Alejandra gave herself the opportunity to rekindle her relationship with horses. Her second contact with these wondrous animals helped her understand how important it is to approach horses and all animals with love and respect.
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