Horse Sense #4 – Forgiveness

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about forgiveness. I’ve learned a lot over the past year about forgiveness from an unlikely friend: the beautiful horse I’ve been spending time with.

A few months ago, I leased Ileeah, a lovely Arabian horse trained in the horsemanship method I was learning. My lessons were frustrating at first, but I began to see how responsive this horse is and just how much I could learn from her because of her extensive training and experience. What I found most humbling was her ability to forgive me when I did something wrong. One day I was taking her halter off and accidentally poked her in the eye. She immediately jumped away from me. But in the next moment, as I was apologizing profusely, she walked right back over to me as if nothing had happened.

Along the way, I have had to forgive myself over and over again―when I gave her conflicting messages about where and when I wanted her to go; when I got angry with her and nagged at her rather than giving her a quick, direct instruction to stop what she was doing; and when I didn’t have the ability to let go of my negativity toward her when she defied me.

Horses have an amazing ability to forgive. They don’t seem to hold onto resentment or negative emotions the way humans do, and it allows them to deal with whatever is happening in the moment rather than reacting to something that happened the moment before. They always seem willing to try again with patience and persistence. I think these qualities have helped horses survive for thousands of years. Even though they are prey to other animals and have had to work for humans, they have persevered and their presence with each moment has allowed them to react appropriately when they sense danger.

In playing with horses (and I use the word “play” because it really isn’t work), I have learned more about how to forgive myself. I have made many mistakes with Treasure, Ileeah and Winslow―the three horses I’ve played with over the past year―and I suspect that I will continue to make mistakes with horses as I continue. But every time they forgive me, I have an opportunity to forgive myself. Buck Brannaman, the famous horse trainer and a leading practitioner in the area of natural horsemanship wrote, “Horses are incredibly forgiving. They fill in places we’re not capable of filling in ourselves.”

This week, find the things you’re not forgiving yourself for and try to release them. See what it feels like to make a mistake and then forgive yourself for it. Try cutting yourself some slack when you’ve done something goofy and don’t carry your inner angst about it into the next moment or the next day. Laugh at yourself for your foibles, and see how unimportant they are in the face of all the good things you bring to others.

The famous phrase “To err is human, to forgive divine” so aptly describes the divinity we see in those beings who are able to forgive―both human and animal. This week try forgiving yourself and moving into the next moment without the burdens of guilt or shame weighing you down.

Have a good week!


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