The Importance of Time
I'm in the middle of a research study that asks participants to go out into the herd and spend time with horses without agendas or pre-determined activities. I have restrictions on the kinds of interactions they are allowed to have, but give them permission to approach the horses and let the horses approach them. But if the horse leaves, they are not allowed to pursue.
There are lots of reasons why I'm doing this study. I want to look at how individual horse behavior changes with different associations with individuals and the choices participants make with regards to their interactions. They are out in the pasture alone with the horses and a camera and no one else is watching.
Some of my participants have extensive experience with horses and others have barely any. They can choose to be out for ten minutes or four hours, that is up to them. There is no clock other than the sun and no activity or agenda other than the limitations I impose. The time is theirs…well, it is their time and the horses' time.
If someone says they have a dog, no one questions the owner's motivation, they simply have a dog. Some dogs are working dogs, but most of us have dogs for companionship and spending time with our dog is just that: Time with our dog friend. When someone has a horse, though, we tend to ask "what do you do with it?", implying that we have an agenda with our horse and have a specific activity for which we require an equine. There seems to be an implied "use" of horses in our world. Horses have to fill a role in our lives and give us the ability to "do" something with them.
But what if that wasn't the case? What if we just recognized the power in space and proximity and the time and patience needed to create trust between a species born to run and one with a history of hunting. We live in a world of agendas, deadlines, and accomplishments and rarely take moments to sit and appreciate the moments that so quickly pass before us. Much as our society values immediate gratification, but anything of real value often takes an abundance of time and patience. A great work of art takes years of practice before accomplishing the final product. An incredible feat of engineering takes years of planning and execution so that it can last lifetimes.
The same is true for our relationships. Repeated safe proximity is so vitally important in everyone's life. For the horse, the consistent exposure to something or someone that will not harm them builds the foundations of trust.No agendas, no deadlines, just safe quiet space.
Some of my participants were frustrated at my limitations and some even told me they became impatient and weren't sure what to "do" because, up until now, being with horses meant retrieving them from pasture, grooming or saddling them, or lunging. The idea of just standing with the horses was a foreign concept. It did not fit into their normal agenda.
I had them return multiple times and, by the end of the visits, many enjoyed the quiet space of the horses. They no longer expressed the desire to make the horses do anything, they just enjoyed being a part of the herd, in the pasture, allowing time to pass without much attention.
The time became fluid and eventually forgotten. It is, however, the most invaluable part of all that we have. It is, in many ways, how we create everything worthwhile, especially the relationships we form. For horses, as well as humans, it may be one of the most valuable currencies in the world.
Love your work! I am wondering all my life how our thoughts intentions and expectations have more influence then any training technic will have on horses. Being with horses from the age of 8 years old I can now see back into the lessons I recieved and still recieve by being aware. And I tressure my experiences. Your website is really interesting to read. I will follow your work. Kind regards, Esther
From the UK.
My girl foaled on 4th May (star wars baby) and we had an unusually hot dry summer here. From May to September I spent my days with them in the field under the hedgerows in the shade. They could have gone to many other places but my girl chose to come and rest with me wherever I sat. Mare and foal would come and lie down or just "be". Another bond made stronger. Love my girls.