Zen Mind Zen Horse

By Allan J. Hamilton

  • Genre : Animals
  • Publisher :
  • ISBN : 1603425659
  • Year : 2011
  • Language: English


M I N D h o r s e This page intentionally left blank M I N D h o r s e The Science and Spirituality of Working with Horses a lla n j h a milton md Storey Publishing To my wonderful Opa who gave me a love of horses and of life I m gonna walk with my granddaddy and he ll match me step for step And I ll tell him how I ve missed him every minute since he left Then I ll hug his neck When I Get Where I m Going by George Teren and Rivers Rutherford The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment Edited by Deborah Burns Art direction and book design by Dan O Williams Text production by Jennifer Jepson Smith Storey books are available for special premium and promotional uses and for customized editions For further information please call 1-800-793-9396 Cover illustration by Yoshijiro Urushibara Interior photography credits appear on page 300 Author photo by Daniel Snyder Illustrations by Elayne Sears Storey Publishing 210 MASS MoCA Way North Adams MA 01247 www storey com Printed in China by R R Donnelley 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Indexed by Samantha Miller 2011 by Allan J Hamilton All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits nor may any part of this book be reproduced stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic mechanical photocopying recording or other without written permission from the publisher The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or Storey Publishing The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hamilton Allan J Zen mind zen horse the science and spirituality of working with horses Allan J Hamilton p cm Includes index ISBN 978-1-60342-565-0 pbk 1 Horses Behavior 2 Horses Psychology 3 Horses Training 4 Human-animal communication 5 Zen Buddhism I Title SF281 H36 2011 636 1 0835 dc22 2011012946 On the cover Yoshijiro Mokuchu Urushibara 1889 1953 was a woodblock print craftsman who helped introduce Japanese art to the world in the early twentieth century His renderings of horses were especially celebrated for their fluid beauty and grace contents f o r e wo r d vi i n t ro du c t i o n 1 days of thunder 11 the two sides of me 22 chi equus 33 grooming as a tea ceremony 46 searching for chi 65 grooming as an act of love 74 the magic dog 90 prey predator the rules of learning 108 patience 124 leading the way 134 now the ocean liner 152 tiny bubbles of chi 156 picking up the pace 178 minding your manners 184 sending out backing up 197 tending to horses 215 side p assing jumping 228 come to me 235 from sack to saddle 244 a leg up 257 stopping spooking 269 trailering or not 278 e p i l o g u e 286 t w e n t y e x e rc i s e s 289 ac k n ow l e d g m e n t s 297 b i b l i o g r a p h y 301 i n d e x 306 foreword I n recent years there has been a wealth of books written about what has become recognizable to horse lovers as Natural Horsemanship and what these authors seem to regard as the path to understanding the mind of Equus Most equestrians learn their horsemanship hands on They are observers of behavior and architects of harmony Some of these authors even address what I call the language of Equus It isn t often however that they fully understand how the mind of the horse functions Most people recognize that body language is the primal form of communication Equus has survived for millions of years through his communication system made up almost entirely of a silent language of gestures This system allows the herd to cohabit successfully with predators My years of observing and working with horses of all kinds have allowed me to put together an expansive lexicon of gestures and postures that has given me insight into the language of Equus Zen Mind Zen Horse explores the depth of understanding and transforms the foundation of my work and concepts into a more probing exploration of the mind of the horse In this comprehensive essay we can gain valuable insight into the reasoning behind the horse s reactions to the intentions we humans communicate through our thoughts and actions We discover that Equus is brilliant in his simplicity of reasoning As enlightened horsemen and horsewomen we learn that it is our responsibility to create an environment in which the horse can learn The round pen is a wonderful classroom in which to use the silent language of Equus Using the lexicon of body language and gestures we communicate to the horse our desire to form a partnership based on mutual respect and trust within this safe enviroment In Zen Mind Zen Horse the author has generously given the reader the tools to appreciate how we can better understand the mind of Equus This in itself can energize us to have a fresh outlook or approach to life not just with horses but with fellow humans as well This wonderful animal called the horse is helping heal our wounded warriors who suffer from PTSD and is changing the lives of autistic and challenged children and adults in therapeutic riding academies We are just scratching the surface of the evolution of equine training by what is termed Natural Horsemanship Thankfully open-minded people have come to recognize how much further we can go to gain optimal vi performance by taking violence out of the lives of our animals through kinder and gentler techniques This book is a wonderful tribute to all the horsemen who have dedicated their lives and are sharing their concepts with other horsemen the world over Monty Roberts trainer and author The Man Who Listens to Horses and other books I was as k e d to do this Foreword because after a lifetime of effort I am now considered an expert on equine behavior How I wish Dr Hamilton had written this book in 1949 I was twenty-two years of age and had just decided that the conventional methods of horsemanship with which I was familiar were not the best ways of communicating with horses Reading books written in past centuries and experimenting with horses allowed me in the subsequent half century to learn some of the information available in this book but by no means all I am grateful for this opportunity Read on and you will learn far more than the author s very interesting autobiography I studied some neurology when I was in veterinary school more than a half century ago The neuroscience presented in this book however was a revelation to me and helped me understand so much more of why and how both humans and horses functioned The information on what we consider to be primitive societies is makes us reevaluate their intellectual capabilities There have always been reasoning curious individuals The voluminous well-illustrated chapters on handling and training horses on the scientifically confirmed facts about equine behavior make reading this book a privilege to all who work with horses The sections on the power of intention the relationship that can be established during routine grooming the all-important virtue of patience and the psychology of learning are invaluable Half of the book is devoted to the art and science of Natural Horsemanship a method that is sweeping the world and replacing and improving traditional methods so much of which was and is unnecessarily coercive For people already skilled in and familiar with this revolution in horsemanship the book will justify and explain their devotion Those unfamiliar with this revolutionary concept will hopefully be motivated to come on board not only for their own benefit but for the horses Robert M Miller DVM author Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal and other books vii Horses seem to have special abilities to connect emotionally with humans Introduction A chilling thought occurred to me could Lillian be trying to kill herself hoping my 1 200 -pound stallion might stomp her to death Was this how she intended to commit suicide Weak frail and eroded by the torrents of chemotherapy she d endured during the last few months Lillian had recently learned that her doctors had given her less than three months to live Her brain tumor was growing too fast to be stopped A novice around horses she was now asking begging me to let her enter the round pen and work with my stallion Romeo Her experience with horses was nil she had been on a few pony rides as a little girl nothing more Romeo on the other hand was not a horse to take lightly As a stallion he could be a handful a potentially lethal one even for a professional trainer Stallions in that sense are a bit like grenades Play catch with them if you choose but just be sure the pin always stays in place To make matters worse Romeo was in the full throes of breeding season half crazed with testosterone and stoked with desire by the nearby mares in heat His stallion s drive to demonstrate his explosive strength and physical dominance in front of the mares seemed barely constrained by the steel railings of the round pen itself Next to Romeo Lillian appeared puny and inconsequential a weakling with matchstick limbs hanging from her diminutive skeletal frame She was virtually paralyzed on one half of her body I could see the groove in the sand where she had been dragging her weak leg behind her to get positioned in the center of the round pen I was afraid this might turn into less of a training exercise and more of a sacrifice Still there was something about her request that seemed compelling She looked like a pilgrim searching for an answer She was going into the round pen to confront something substantive something to which Romeo held the key 1 Normally I would never agree to put an inexperienced person in with a stud horse but my gut told me there was more to this It had a solemnity to it like a deathbed promise So I nodded my consent against every fiber of caution Lillian opened the gate I braced my hands on the top railing readying myself to jump in and pull the horse away from her if things turned violent But it wasn t required In the face of that charging snorting horse Lillian simply closed her eyes and began to breathe After a few moments she gently and patiently focused her gaze on Romeo At first the stallion thundered around the pen but soon he began to slow down growing visibly quieter and calmer with each revolution After five minutes Lillian seemed to have drained all the force and fury out of him Romeo drew closer to her in tighter and tighter circles until he came to stand next to her He stopped there almost at attention Then he sighed and hung his head down next to her She turned and buried her face into his huge muscular neck From outside the round pen I could see her shoulders shake as she wrapped her arms around him and sobbed After a few minutes she walked over to me and said apologetically I felt like I had to be strong enough to calm this horse down or I wouldn t be able to fight this cancer any longer I needed to know I could make myself that strong to keep on living That s why it had to be Romeo Lillian did have the strength to keep living a whole extra year Her ashes are buried in the center of the round pen on my ranch That was her final request Every morning I go out there and greet her spirit and pay tribute to the demonstration of spiritual strength Lillian shared with me that day many years ago Her presence makes my round pen a sacred place It s human nature to want to improve ourselves physically financially emotionally And as we age and mature our efforts seem to focus naturally on spiritual growth as well But that requires new insights and skills we must learn and practice We need to build up karmic muscle to turn the breakdowns in our lives into breakthroughs We must turn into warriors who take up the discipline of spiritual pursuit in earnest But how How do we train for a journey of spiritual transformation alone The truth is that we need a spiritual coach a sensei to teach us to show us how to focus our intention and to demonstrate how to live in the present and how to achieve Zen-like tranquility We need a teacher to show us how to see ourselves not just with heightened objectivity but also with introduction 2 greater forgiveness For that job there is a master a sage who can teach any willing student the way That sage is the horse This animal has been considered among humanity s most revered and sacred companions across many great civilizations To the Egyptians horses were htr pronounced heter Their hieroglyphic depiction for the horse was a symbol for the bond between human and animal a simple intertwined rope see figure i 1 Horse was hippos to the Greeks whose mythological gods lived among equally immortal steeds And the Latin Equus became almost emblematic of Rome s imperial power Why has the horse evoked such deep emotional and spiritual sentiments Because he can carry us physically and spiritually into unchartered territory beyond our everyday worries and distractions The horse is a symbol of transcendence For most of us the overarching problem in our lives is time itself Our schedules no longer seem to belong to us Our waking hours and many sleeping ones too seem allocated to issues other than our own deep personal needs and values Happiness and tranquility do not receive high priority in our daily regimens Instead they drift out of sight in the fog of daily routine Our internal voices seem to be constantly yelling at us to pull harder at the oars to go after more They suggest that we re losing out or giving in or being passed over These voices become like a broken record endlessly droning on about regrets in the past and worries in the future We know listening to our ego s exhortations is not how we are meant to live We admit our lifestyle isn t working for us but how can we change it There is one single key one secret to undertaking transformational change It is the same in every great meditative discipline or self-improvement practice Get that inner voice to shut up Until we create inner silence literally peace of mind we are unable to transform our lives into more peaceful and purposeful ones Why are our inner voices so ubiquitous and incessant Think about this at the very moment we are reading these words on the page we are also hearing them echo inside our heads When we think we hear a voice Our thoughts take shape as words To the extent that we even exist this voice seems to occur in the context of what Dr Antonio Damasio has termed the autobiographical self This entity our identity is constantly thinking aloud inside our head Later I will discuss in detail why this autobiographical self is a unique and necessary byproduct of our left cerebral dominance But for now it suffices to say that this self emerges from our own species unique dependence on language introduction 3 i 1 Egyptian hieroglyphics the symbol for the horse was an intertwined rope The Power of Gesture and Glance Th e r e as o n t h e h o rs e can become such a gifted teacher for us is because he does not need an inner voice He doesn t think in words at all He feels He experiences the simple energy of his emotional state of being More than thirty million years of evolutionary pressure have turned the horse into the quintessential prey animal Rather than using words or vocalizations to communicate sounds that help a predator pinpoint its prey horses learned instead how not to talk how not to make sounds and how to make sense from being not thinking Horses infuse emotional meaning into every body movement They pour this vital emotional energy chi into every gesture and glance lending them the nuances of tone accent and value By sensitizing themselves to chi horses can not only convey the meaning of what they want to share with other members of the herd but can also feel the palpably sharp energy emitted by a stalking predator eyes locked intently on its prey see figure i 2 Evolution has driven equids to the farthest limits of nonverbal right-sided brain function i 2 Zebras on savanna being stalked by lioness in foreground Evolutionary pressures exerted by constant predation over millions of years put a premium on equids development of nonverbal communication skills that allowed them to avoid detection introduction 4 Evolution of the Super-Predator The human species went in the opposite direction Selective biological pressures coupled with a rapid increase in cranial capacity see figure i 3 permitted hominids to leave behind an arboreal existence and take to the savannas Our ancestors became foragers and eventually keen predators Homo sapiens sharpened the skills housed within the brain s left hemisphere We flourished as a species using language to coordinate our movements as pack hunters And we became storytellers sharing tales about the game species we sought creating mythologies building cultures and even establishing empires In the process we became a new kind of super-predator an unimaginably successful killer species playful with our wits and lethal with our intellects but eventually no longer in touch with the secrets deep within our own hearts i 3 The evolution of hominids was marked by the most rapid growth of skull size ever seen in any archeological record This set of skulls covers a remarkably short span of only a few hundred thousand years It is hypothesized that the rapid development in language and speech function may have required dramatic expansion of brain size The Rise of the I and the Fall of the We The success humans derived from left-hemispheric dominance came at a price Just as the horse surrendered its vocal abilities to gain herd identity the human species forfeited its intuitive powers for the benefits of language We became outcasts from the natural world because raising the function of speech to its highest level of expression required the emergence of a separate consciousness Speech demanded a me to be the inner introduction 5 i 4 Carl Jung the father of modern psychoanalysis voice The expression of language gave rise to the autobiographical self an identity separate from the world at large Carl Jung the father of modern psychoanalysis wrote The source of numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties occasioned by man s progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation i e by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious he forgets himself in the process losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being Carl Gustav Jung The Undiscovered Self 1957 So an I was born in each of us conceived from the neuroanatomical development of our species And it owns us lock stock and barrel because once it emerges it seizes control of vast territories of brain function of our very self-perception and self-awareness There is an intracerebral coup and the existence of a singular internalized identity is the party line we are told to accept But our left hemisphere armed with its overwhelming power of speech remains wary of its reticent emotive and mute counterpart on the right The left brain demands absolute loyalty It zealously safeguards the supremacy of its creation namely our ego The left knows that if an uprising were to start it would be sparked by the right half of our brain Though this side has no voice it has the power to remind us silently of the union we once enjoyed with all life around us The right hemisphere offers us the hope that a sense of unification might be more important to our spiritual well-being than a sense of identification Inevitably the hemispheric struggle becomes a battle of consciousness of a solitary monolithic me implacably opposed to the notion of a communal interconnected we We need opportunities to lead with our right hemispheres We need to practice being connected without worrying about an explanation of why we are connected Our innate longing for connectivity and the profound warmth peace and happiness that we derive from it requires us to rely on our right hemisphere For most of us that right-sided function has atrophied It s weak feeble shaky We re unaccustomed to what the right side feels like because of the overbearing presence of the left To hear the silence of the right we must strengthen our intuitive nonverbal powers introduction 6 Partnering with Equus Interactin g w i t h h o rs e s does just that We glimpse nature from a radically different perspective a view of the world drawn by the right brain Relating to horses provides us a unique opportunity to mute our left hemisphere To force it into silence Horses provide us with a respite from thinking about ourselves a chance to escape from the prison of being ourselves by ourselves Because horses function from the premise of a herd identity they see relationships as partnerships They struggle to include us in their concept of a herd a huge leap considering they are the ultimate prey species and we the ber predators As humans it is almost inconceivable to us how dramatically different the equine perspective of inclusivity really is For illustrative purposes however imagine waking up on Christmas morning As you sit down to open your presents you suddenly discover an 800-pound Bengal tiger seated next to you on the living room sofa And your response You are scared out of your wits you want to scream run and scramble for the nearest rifle or tree limb Imagine instead you strive to include that tiger in a communal context Rather than flee you rack your brain to figure out how to hang a stocking on the hearth to make the tiger feel at home a part of your family This gives us an inkling of the enormous emotional achievement horses accomplish each day to include us human predators as an integral part of their daily working and emotional lives It s a remarkable spiritual statement about the capacity of the equine heart and soul As horses derive their very essence from inclusion in a herd so they struggle to extend that relationship to us as shared being When a horse is with us we become a part of his herd As far as time is concerned horses live only in the moment There are no expectations for the future or disappointments from the past to cloud their relationships with us Without such agendas horses don t know how to lie cheat or deceive Horses thus offer us a unique opportunity to see ourselves in divine mirrors reflecting back the chi we give off in our own emotions to show ourselves in the moment Horses react to what lies in our hearts not in our heads They are not confused by the words we use to lie to ourselves or hide from others Horses awaken the dormant right half of the human brain Because the output of our right hemisphere has been largely suppressed since early childhood it takes time to feel comfortable as a right-sided we instead of a left-sided me Eliminating the voice of our egos creates a silence that introduction 7 is at first frightening but later we learn also enthralling With that silence comes breathtaking power and clarity of thought As Obi-Wan-Kanobi in Star Wars encourages Luke Skywalker to trust the Force so horses exhort us to trust our intuitive right-brain abilities Working with horses gives us the opportunity to return to a primal nonverbal state of awareness Without the interference of language we reconnect with the energy shared among all life forms The connection is palpable and immediate We learn how to find it focus it and let it fly We explore how to apply chi for the purposes of asking our horses to move naturally effortlessly and respectfully wherever we wish them to go We discover by direct personal interaction with the horse that we are equal parts body and spirit half chi half DNA Theologist John O Donahue wrote Beyond the veils of language and the noise of activity the most profound events of our lives take place in those fleeting moments where something else shines through something that can never be fixed in language something given as quietly as the gift of your next breath Horsemanship as a Spiritual Path Training horses with emotional energy with chi is an evolution of the concepts of pressure and release used in natural horsemanship All of us who work with horses owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers of this discipline Because of their contributions we gain a better vantage point from which we can see that horsemanship can lead us deep into the realm of self-awareness In this book I have relied in part on concepts borrowed from different cultures religions and philosophies that have inspired me These teachings or symbols offer beautiful ways to conceptualize and integrate the personal impact of training horses I have included inspirational writings and scholarly interpretations from such diverse sources as Confucianism Taoism Zen Buddhism Hinduism Native American folklore and Yaqui shamanism But nothing about training or interacting with horses using chi is meant to be esoteric or academic The methodology in this book can be used by anyone with or without prior equine or scholarly experience Novice or expert we can all find a comfortable setting in which to be around horses to play with them and most importantly to learn from them I have taught individuals ranging from nine years old to ninety from nationalcaliber athletes to the disabled from the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies introduction 8 to hardened criminals What I teach here is not magic I am no magician only the horses possess magical powers By sharing their nonverbal abilities with us they show us how to amplify our inner strengths values and energies First and foremost this book is for those individuals who feel a certain mystical curiosity The spiritual itch It describes an approach to the training of horses that gives us a new way of seeing Wayne Dyer the popular psychologist says If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change By altering how we visualize our relationships with horses we discern a pathway leading to self-improvement fulfillment and awareness Horses connect with our souls the part of us that links us to everything Horses help us find those bonds The connections become as real as the ground we walk on I hope my book will be an equine atlas showing us another way to find ourselves Crossing the Threshold Tr a i n i n g h o rs e s however is a path not a destination Becoming a horseman or a horsewoman is not some elevated summit to reach but a journey to be undertaken The way of the horse is a prescription for engaging the Universe It serves as an algorithm for finding a more fulfilling life maybe even a shot at peace and happiness too Ray Hunt one of the great sages of natural horsemanship summed it up My goal with the horses is not to beat someone it s to win within myself To do the best job I can do and tomorrow to try to do better You ll be working on yourself to accomplish this not your horse Every time you step into the round pen with a horse remind yourself that today you may stand on the threshold of a great new personal discovery Each horse in his own way is ready to coach you And when your resolution to change to work on the person you want to become becomes heartfelt and sincere then the horse will reveal his next great secret his next great gift to you Horses are like a band of legendary Zen masters They are perfect teachers because they uncover your real motivation They tell you when you re wholeheartedly committed or faking it when you re making a sacred vow or just paying lip service Horses see what s holding you back And when introduction 9 i 5 Ray Hunt you find the courage to confront those shortcomings horses will always reward you with a way to overcome them Just as Romeo did for Lillian If all this begins to make horsemanship sound like a religious experience I can accept that analogy Describing how to work with horses as a way to access spiritual lessons is one of the goals of this book I hope to encourage people especially novices not to feel intimidated by a lack of experience None is required Working with horses on the ground is a simple easy and safe way to see and feel spiritual concepts at work I also want to elucidate a new method for training horses based on the Asian concepts of manipulating chi I hope the language and writing style are accessible to horsemen and novices from every walk of life and style of riding Finally I pray this book can help convey the power of what horses can teach us about the nature of spirituality French literary figure Anatole France wrote Until one has loved an animal a part of one s soul remains unawakened Horsemanship is another way another vehicle to achieve awakening What is spiritually and developmentally significant in that pursuit is different for each of us An automobile can take you and me to different locations yet the method of driving and rules of the road for cars remain universally applicable Mastering horsemanship is no different A common set of skills is required before we are ready to seek our own destination Happy trails Note The term horsemanship is unfortunately not entirely gender neutral This is regrettable in the modern world of horses where so many of the individuals fiercely dedicated to improving the lives of horses are women I employ the term with its historical constraints to signify the pursuit of furthering the knowledge and understanding of the skills of riding managing and training horses and gaining insight into equine behavior introduction 10 chap ter one Days of Thunder The youth walks up to the white horse to put its halter on and the horse looks at him in silence They are so silent they are in another world D H Lawrence The White Horse 11

Author Allan J Hamilton Isbn 1603425659 File size 76 5 MB Year 2011 Pages 321 Language English File format PDF Category Animals Mindful work with horses says neurosurgeon Allan J Hamilton can enlighten the human handler as much as it benefits the horse Evolving over 30 million years to become the quintessential prey animal equines have developed acute right brain survival skills such as leadership awareness empathy and cooperation In particular the horse has finely honed abilities t