For the Love of the Horse 

By Dana Hokana

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” 

– Winston Churchill

If you are reading this, I would assume horses are a part of your life in some way or another. They may play a very big role or their role may be less significant. But if they are in your life, I’d like to encourage you to reflect for a moment, and revisit and reunite with that love. 

Where is that first love? Is it alive and fresh in our hearts? Or is it caught up in the drive to win or the frustration with a horse that isn’t where he needs to be? Is it in the bills or the vet reports or the sadness that things just aren’t going as they should? All of us started somewhere. Some started on the top, and others had to climb the ladder. All of us who have horses in our lives could have had a boat, or a motorcycle, or even another animal. We could have done many other things, but we chose a horse. Something led us to have a life with horses and almost all of us started with a love for the horse. Where is that first love? Have you lost it or left it behind? Or just put it on a shelf? Reunite yourself with your first love. Remind yourself where you came from, and what you love about horses. 

You see, it can become so easy to get caught up in the daily routine…the work, the duties of life, that we often forget to go back to “why” we do what we do. Why did we start with horses? What led us to engage in this exciting journey? 

I firmly believe that all of us are given “giftings” – areas in our lives that we are especially gifted or talented in. We are drawn to certain things and we may not know why. Some people love animals and some people don’t. I believe that it’s the special people who are drawn to horses! Just think of it. We are going to master and enjoy something 6-10 times our weight and many times our size. What would compel us to do that? Reason would say that horses aren’t necessary for most of our lives in this day and age. Of course we have easier, faster forms of travel – yet horses are still a big part of many households! Some reports say as many as 4.6 million Americans are involved in the horse industry.  That is a lot of people who must have started somewhere. Let’s face it. There are more economical pets, easier hobbies and easier professions.

There must be a reason that we all do what we do!

Horses signify many different things to many different people. I truly believe that everyone is drawn to horses for a different reason. Reasons that strike their own personal being. For some, it’s a natural gifting; something that they are called or destined to be a part of. For others, it’s a part of their upbringing. They grew up in the industry or they watched people around them work with horses and it just seemed the thing to do. For others, and honestly for many whom I personally have known, they grew up in other environments. They had little inner strength or self-confidence, but developed that strength and confidence by mastering and bonding with something as big and majestic as a horse. They grew up in environments that were out of control, but they found themselves and received some level of healing by having control over something bigger than themselves – the horse. By learning to master the horse they realized they could master themselves. There is so much proven in the horse’s ability to heal and to help people to heal… from emotional, mental or physical challenges. There is great testimony of the miracle healings and transformations in people, from horses

These are highly sensitive, creative people, possibly very in tune to rhythms of nature and music. And the rhythm of horses, and their flow and natural beauty just draws and entices them. Their hearts sing with the very music of a horse’s gait. They may be attracted to factors that the horse has that they would like in their own lives, like freedom, grace and strength. Or maybe they yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves. 

Whatever the reason that you are drawn to these animals, the connection between horses and humans is undeniable. If you love horses, you know this feeling; that intense desire to be in the presence of these amazing animals. That desire that has become so strong that even though reason says it doesn’t make sense, you do it anyway. And you know what? You don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Horses have become a part of you and your life and you have no intention of stopping. 

What happened to the love of the horse? 

I see people and their horses looking drained and frustrated at shows and competitions. I see training techniques that make the horses hate their jobs. I see riders focusing so much on the prize,or the ride, or their own fears that they just don’t, or can’t, see what is really going on with their horse. And many times, their horse has lost his spark, his personality and love for his job. 

So much of our world today is about outward appearance. It’s about perception rather than inner truths. It’s about how we look, what people think of us, our images, our social media platforms, who likes us and who doesn’t. In many ways, shallow meaningless things overshadow true values. It’s about how cool we are or what we look like to the world rather than who we really are as people; being true to ourselves, and true to the horse. When we learn to touch on what really matters, to focus on core issues rather than superficial ones, we can get back to the love of the horse. When the love of the horse becomes the priority rather than how we look or how we placed, we will begin to make decisions that are best for the horse and ourselves and we will return to the journey!

In an information-based world, we have so many ways to seek knowledge and to evaluate ourselves, that instant gratification often rules us. Now, our world of instant gratification makes us think that training a horse is instant; that we need instant results. Our internet driven world blocks some of that creative ability from coming forth, like you and your horse just getting in that arena and figuring something out, together. Instant gratification dulls out creativity. It takes away a lot of the patience that we need to truly communicate with the horse. Our cell phones and the internet give us so much information and open many positive doors for us, but we often don’t take the time to just be with ourhorses – to study and learn about them. Instead of discerningwhat the horse is saying to us, we often think “now” or “quick,”and we go from training technique to training technique without really thinking and feeling what the answers really are. Instead of trying every technique that comes your way, why don’t you,try to discern what is coming to your inner self. Spend the time to gain some revelation and insight about your horse. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I teach and encourage people to seek knowledge. Knowledge is power, knowledge is important and at times, crucial to obtaining a well-trained horse. I endeavour to teach my riders to ride – to think, to feel for themselves, to diagnose and learn what corrections to apply to their horse. Once you learn some core principles of horsemanship, you can do that!

These principles include:

  • How horses are made and how they perform each gait
  • How flexion occurs and what body parts are needed for correct flexion
  • How to understand your horse’s rhythm and gaits
  • How collection occurs 
  • What the horse is saying to us through their body language 
  • What we are communicating through our body language, seat, hands and legs
  • How to truly teach your horse to say yes to you willingly to properly correct your horse

Once the rider learns these concepts, the sky is the limit! It doesn’t matter what discipline you show, what breed of horse you ride or even what your goals are, you can excel with your horse. That’s loving your horse! Taking the time to learn these fundamentals will enable you to enjoy your journey. Caring enough about your horse to want to ride and train and care for him in the best possible way! That’s love, that’s the highest and best you can have for your horse.

Notice that I said I also teach my riders to properly correct their horse. There is a positive way to correct the horse. A way that is so clear and fair and humane. One of my sayings is “only correct the body part that said no.” In the correction is a teaching, instead of an angry punishment. There is a way to teach your horse through pressure and release that is absolutely okay. Once you take the time to learn and understand your horse, you will need to correct them less and less. You will find out that most of your horse’s problems are related to how you gave the cues or that the horse didn’t understand or was physically unable to do what you were asking.

I hope this encouraged you to take the time to go back to your first love – the love of the horse. Take a breath. Don’t let that precious gift slip away! Return to the joy of the horse; raise your standard for you and your horse. Determine to enjoy the journey. Take your horse and look into his eyes and remind yourself what you love about horses! 

They deserve it and so do you. Enjoy your journey. For the love of the horse.