This morning I was busy scrubbing out a big water trough. The wind was gusting around me as I stood armed with the hose nozzle in one hand and a big scrub brush and a sharp knife in the other.
The horses were finishing their breakfast tubs in the barn, and as they finished, my daughter let them out their back doors so they could head out to the pasture and their hay.
As you might imagine I was suddenly the center of attention. Keil Bay came up, then the pony, and then Cody. I was literally surrounded by 3000+ lbs. of horse.
Keil Bay was standing with one hoof on either side of the hose I was holding. I was trying to keep the sharp knife out of the way of curious noses. I was hoping they would decide that nothing interesting was happening in the empty trough and move on out to the field.
Suddenly Keats our black cat jumped into a pile of leaves a few feet from the water trough. She came out of nowhere but made a loud noise doing it. Horses, pony, and human did one huge spook in place simultaneously. I mean, literally, all 14 feet went airborne and then landed with one loud smack on the ground.
"What?! Oh, it's Keats!" I exclaimed. And we all relaxed.
One by one the horses walked on to the field, leaving me to finish my chore and to marvel at what had just happened.
That they all spooked in place was pretty remarkable. Not one of them wheeled or bolted or even moved any part of their bodies except straight up in the air and down again. Had they moved even an inch, I would likely have been knocked down, cut with the knife I was holding, and maybe gotten kicked by a fleeing hoof.
That I spooked with them, without even thinking, was even more remarkable to me. I've written before about incidents when I have been in the midst of the herd and moved with them without thinking. I've never had it happen in such incredibly close quarters. I was brushing horse shoulders on each side and three heads were leaning in around me. I didn't even get a bump from any of them.
When these kinds of things happen, it's impossible not to think about the power of connection we can have with our horses. And if their presence is capable of pulling us into the herd mind, what does our presence do to them?
And what is possible if we give them our full attention and our focus, along with permission to them to be exactly what they are - exquisitely gifted with the ability to read and respond to the tiniest sound, gesture, or cue, even those that are silent to us?
When I think about this, I become even more convinced that a huge percentage of what gets done to horses is too loud, superfluous if not downright traumatic.
I want to say to everyone: take off all the excess gear. Loosen the too tight straps. Stop asking the horse to DO something. Stop talking. Just stand still, shoulder to shoulder, and see what happens.
My guess is you'll be pleasantly surprised.