Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Joshua is a 10 year old OTTB. A tall, stately gentleman, he raced until just a year ago. Having had 88 starts at the track, Josh has been exposed to a lot and experienced a lot in his lifetime so far. One might think he’d be pretty ok with anything and nothing could ruffle his feathers, but this is not so. Witnessing how Josh interacts with other horses is teaching me much about human relationships and discernment. Though he dislikes being alone, I’ve learned he is particular about who he hangs around with. He and Tiara came from the same place and had previously been turned out together, but he was not really attached to her. They’d initially stay near one another in the pasture, being the first 2 members of my new herd, but it was more like “Well, if I was stranded on a desert island and had no other company...”. A few days after their arrival at my farm, Josh discovered my neighbor’s “Plain Jane” old Quarterhorse mare over the fence, and suddenly Tiara was out in the cold. Josh didn’t let her anywhere near him, and he’d pin his ears and go after her with his teeth, leaving nasty bite marks on her rear end and driving her away before returning to the fence to stare adoringly at “Wizzy.“ Whether or not Wizzy may have been in heat is unknown, but Josh’s behaviour towards Tiara remained consistent for several months so it is unlikely that he was simply responding to hormones. So, what did Wizzy have that Tiara didn't, making Josh so drawn to her? Calm energy. Horses are authentic; they trust what they feel no matter what you try to tell them, and they respond honestly to someone’s energy. In this case, Josh was making it clear that he much preferred being around a stable, grounded energy than a fractious, flighty one. Nothing personal. Simply discerning for himself what felt good to him and what didn’t, and acting accordingly. As far as appearance goes, Tiara is gorgeous, graceful, and elegant, and Wizzy is no comparison. In the human world we are so caught up in appearances, status, and external perceptions, we have lost our ability to perceive what really matters, much less to honor our inner mechanism that always knows what’s right for us. But in the horse world, its not about looks, not about the superficial stuff. Josh showed this same preferential bias when my third horse, Monica, joined the herd. Monica, like the neighbor’s mare, is a steady, calm presence and Josh took to her right away. While he’d charge at Tiara if she came within 20 feet of him, he’d let Monica do whatever she wanted, even allowing her to shove her nose into his bucket as he ate. Interestingly, as Tiara has become more grounded and stable, with our work together and settling into her new life, Josh has changed his behaviour towards her. No longer chasing her away, they often eat from the same hay pile or groom each other. She no longer has bite marks on her rear end. He’s let her into his space because she’s more pleasant to be around. In observing how this has played out, there are two take-aways for me: one is a lesson of Discernment, the other is Energy. Discernment isn’t judgement or rejection. It’s simply a matter of recognizing what resonates for us and what doesn’t, and giving ourselves permission to honor our truth. Sometimes the greatest act of acceptance, in fact, is to recognize that someone or something isn’t a good fit for you. It’s nothing personal. The other key point Josh and Tiara demonstrated here is that others are always responding to our energy (as we are to theirs). “You teach people how to treat you,” by what kind of energy you are emitting. If we don’t like how someone is treating us, it is likely that there is a pattern in us that‘s inviting and attracting that behaviour, like Tiara's energy evoked certain responses from Josh. When we tend to our own inner needs, supporting ourselves so that we are more happy and balanced, we attract experiences that match that. When we are calm and grounded, pleasant to be around, others feel good in our presence and are more likely to be kind and helpful. It’s nothing personal.