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Smoothness

I give the horses some extra fodder, usually every morning. And almost every morning when I drink my morning coffee indoors, I see the horses waiting in the corner of their pen, right behind the window. Both of the horses stand next to the fence, sometimes looking at me through the window, and sometimes just patiently waiting. Then, when I come outdoors with bowls of fodder, Raiku often nickers. And as I approach them, they move away from the fence, thus opening up space for me to enter. And there they wait, we enjoy a moment of peace until I put the bowls on the ground for them to eat.

Well, yesterday I forgot to return to collect the bowls when the horses had emptied them. So, after an hour I realized that they have been playing with the empty bowls, effectively smashing one bowl. I went to collect the bowls, one intact and one badly damaged. And for an unknown reason Raiku showed me an angry face, even preparing herself to stand on her hindlegs - which would be a rather dangerous combat move. A horse standing on her hindlegs and stomping with front legs is pretty much able to scramble a human just like a plastic bowl. There I was, with nothing but a said bowl in my hand, facing a potentially dangerous horse. I felt cautious, but somehow I felt that my horse isn't actually aggressive. She offered me nervous and uneasy energy, and I replied with peace and safety. Instead of joining her nervousness I managed to stay calm and smooth, just gently showing her that there is no reason to go aggressive. And that was enough, she stayed away from me, working hard with her emotions.

Soon after that I came back to the horses, with a halter and a side-pull bridle in my hands. I peacefully haltered Velmu. And Raiku was all peacefull, letting her head hang low while I put the bridle on. At first I was leading both of them, we left the yeard and went on a small road which takes to some lakeside cottages. But instead of walking just back and forth, we left the road and went into the woods. Without a saddle I can't use stirrups to get on horseback, so I asked Raiku to stand next to a knee-high rock. Because of the shape of the rock Raiku couldn't stand right next to it, so standing on the rock I still had to jump a little - throwing my right leg over her hindquarters, ending up riding without a saddle. It would be extremely easy for Raiku to refuse; just taking a quick step away would be enough to make my attempt fail. But there wasn't a slightest trace of nervousness in her, patiently and willingly she stood still allowing me to secure my balance before we went riding.

The horses seemed to enjoy it very much - as there was not a clear path to be followed, they had to pay more attention to the terrain, and all the time we were kind of a discussing which way to go. Sometimes Velmu waited for us to cross a difficult place, like a dry stream - then he peacefully followed our tracks as that route was proven to be safe. And when the terrain was easier he was pretty much picking his own way. When we got to the lakeside he paused for a moment to gaze over the frozen lake, apparently enjoying the scene. And this is the way I like it - instead of just using a horse as a vehicle there was a strong sense of being together with other living creatures, actively communicating our emotions and intentions. It is very rewarding to see how the horses aren't just passively listening to my cues, as they might also tell their opinion to me.

We arrived to a place where there is a smallish cliff next to the lake. In between the lake and the cliff there was just small passage of flat land. My idea was to take that passage, as I knew that it would take us back to the road near the cottages. I have been walking there so many times, and I know the route. But Raiku thought that it is not a very nice path for a horse; the terrain is full of dog-sized stones, making it difficult to find safe spots to place ones hooves. And on top of that there was a thicket of trees. So, after getting one of her feet slipping on a moss-covered stone, Raiku offered to turn back instead of continuing further. I agreed, as I understood that her point of view is valid. I didn't want to try walking on the ice, so the next option was to climb on the cliff. I asked Raiku to go there, which she did. But we didn't make it to the top of the cliff. As the cliff-side got steeper Raiku stopped. We tried another place, but saw that the slope is equally steep. I encouraged Raiku to give it a try, but she stomped the ground with her front leg. It was not an angry nor a nervous stomp, just two stomps to say: "Hey, I think this slope is too steep for me to safely climb while carrying you on my back." Once again, I agreed. I dismounted and climbed the slope with my own feet, leading Raiku who willingly followed me. Standing on the cliff-top we waited for Velmu to join us. I kept on leading Raiku until we were close to the road. There I again asked her to stand next to a tree-stump and got back riding.

Ah, and while riding I tried to take some pictures with my mobile phone camera. Some of the pictures came out pretty psychedelic - there aren't any filters in use, it is just the movement of the horse which causes the terrain to blur. And sometimes the effect is quite artistic.

Now all of this made me remember a childhood story. On our holiday we stayed in an old cottage in our grandmother's place. Our father asked me to clean the floor with a broom. I did, but my father got angry at me. "Look at this! There is a lot of dust and dirt left every here and there! You should do it properly and not in such a sloppy way!" I did my best, and I got yelled at. Soon after that he settled down, continuing: "Oh well, you modern kids only know the vacuum cleaner, no wonder if you don't know how to properly tidy the floor with a broom. Let me show you." And he went on showing me the proper techique. That was very helpfull, only that I still felt bad inside. Like, why didn't he think of it beforehand, first showing me how to use the broom? I felt that it was somewhat unjustified for him to get angry at me for not knowing something he had not showed me how to do.

I think that to some extent this is also the case with Raiku. When she was a foal her mother didn't teach her all the ways of being a horse. How to handle fear, how to find comfort, how to be together with the others. To me it seemed that all of the time her mother was somewhat distant, seldom being emotionally present for her foal. So Raiku was mostly left alone and that was all she learned. Now it is of no use if I get angry at her for not knowing how to handle her emotions. Instead, I do my best to help her learn. And to offer her a solid experience that I'm here to be with her, that I listen to her and respect her point of view, and that my peace of mind is stronger than her fits of nervousness.

This is what I feel that has been almost totally missing in the traditional western moral philosophy. There is so much philosophical studies on how to tell right from wrong, how to determine what one ought to do. This is the 'what' side of it, but where is the 'how' side? Especially when raising up children - I think that it is not enough just to tell them what to do and what not to do. We also have to teach them how to handle emotions like disappointment, frustration, fear, anger, wanting, willing, lust, loneliness, safety, being-together. And all this comes down to emotional presence, first-hand emotional communication with the kids. For example, if the parents never quite stop to listen to the kid's point of view, how is the kid supposed to learn how to listen and to respect the others? And vice versa - if the parents always do what ever the kid wants to be done, how is the kid supposed to learn how to compromise and to go smoothly with the others? Recently I read about a study suggesting that if a mother is emotionally distant, the child is likely to develop many kind of emotional and behavioral disorders. So, I'd say that it is unethical for a parent to cause emotional disorders for the child - but the trick is that it is not possible to just mechanically obey a rule like "As a parent you ought to be emotionally open, honest and present for your child, offering warmth, safety and smooth communication." No, if the parent has difficulties with these things, mere "you ought to" is of little help. What is required is emotional work, learning and growth. As I firmly do believe that it is never too old to re-learn emotional skills, to develop new ways of dealing with life. And this is pretty much what we are doing together with Raiku.

Well, of course I can't be absolutely sure of what is going on inside Raiku's mind. Or what I should do to keep things safe and to succesfully train her to work together with me. I admit that I don't know for sure. Still, I have to believe in myself, otherwise I end up just showing uncertainty and self-doubt when Raiku is asking for reassuring peace and clarity. But that's the way it is. In the actual situations with my horse I have to make quick and firm decisions and to believe in them without wavering - yet being ready to make a new decision if the situation changes or if new evidence suggests I'd better change my interpretation. Today I don't know how to better describe this, but somehow I feel that this is my version of rortyan attitude of irony in effect. I'm well aware that my interpretation and understanding of the horse, myself, life, universe and everything is always finite and partial, there is no absolute certainty to be found. Yet I have to listen to my reason, intuition and heart, and kind of a feel my way onwards in this life.

our way
our way
Velmu's way
Velmu's way
Velmu enjoying lake-side scenic view
Velmu enjoying lake-side scenic view
Discussing which way to go
Discussing which way to go
tags: 
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horses
philosophy
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