Do you remember the movie “Babe”? This “live action” movie follows the life of a pig named Babe who discovers a kinder, gentler way of herding sheep. I like the movie. I recommend it. I identify with the hero because I have been on a pursuit of how to train horses in a kinder, gentler way.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that “Babe” was not a movie about a real pig. I’ve spent many hours with pigs as a farm boy from Iowa and then, as a memory refresher, more hours with real pigs that I fed and raised on our farm for a summer a couple of years ago. Believe me, I know what real pigs are. They were not anything like Babe, especially the ‘kind and gentle’ part.
The film is deliberately anthropomorphic. The anthropomorphism as employed in this movie is cute and works well to tell a pleasant story. The trouble is this movie may be the closest encounter that most of the viewers get to a real pig other than bacon on the breakfast plate. Unless we have been educated by an experience with a real pig, the powerful image and symbol of this kinder, gentler, cute, mostly human animal creeps into our subconscious as a picture of what a pig is, even though we know the movie is a fantasy.
Because of all the movies and storybooks about horses and the majestic beautiful animal himself, as seen from a distance, horses have become a symbol. Ordinary people have more acquaintance with the symbol of the horse than an actual real horse.
The real living horse Titan is not a symbol. He is an individual, completely distinct in personality, gifting and failings from any other living thing, just as I am. Because Titan and I are completely unique individuals, our relationship is unique-unlike any other horse/human relationship.
I have made it a goal to have resistant-free riding with Titan. Last weekend I rode him as Kathryn was looking on. As often happens with a spectator present, I was able to see myself with new eyes. This time it was Titan’s and my relationship that came into focus. It seemed fractious and at the same time he accomplished everything I asked him.
In retrospect I may have gotten off on the wrong foot at the very beginning of his training. He was a violent stallion, willing to fight probably more than any of the other stallion I’ve had. I felt that in order to be the herd boss (a necessary ingredient in training) and keep from being stomped on (a very real possibility) I had to be at least equally forceful right back. I am not sure of this or any speculations of past mistakes; however I am resolved to build a balanced, friendly relationship between us now. I build and maintain a friendly relationship with nearly all of my horses, but gaining this relationship with Titan is challenging.
Today I rode Titan on our usual one and a half and mile canter. He didn’t push me. It was a pleasant canter for about a mile and then I bumped into a neighbor and paused to visit. I sat on Titan’s back and visited with my neighbor for half an hour. Titan stood quietly. He did not fidget. He was a perfect gentleman. When we were finished visiting, Titan and I left out at a canter and then he pushed. It was the home stretch. It wasn’t unmanageable but I don’t want him to set the speed. If I allowed that we would wind up in Canada in a few minutes. Lately with Titan it has not been a total out-of-control argument, just enough disagreement to take away the harmony. I’m compelled to work that out to harmony and balance.
A real horse is way more fun than video games including even the best movies. A real horse provides a real-life experience. There are real-life outcomes. The successes and failures are real. You can see the successes and failures on the horses. Also there are real dangers. I can prove it by some real scars I carry on my body. Finally, there are real lasting pleasures in being a live human being mounted on a real live horse galloping on the real living Earth.