I was only recently introduced to Jeremy Bentham. Perhaps because he was the author of a piece that criticized The Declaration of Independence, or that I avoided philosophy in college – but his name was never one I came across in my education. The quote I read (to be used in another post) led me to learn more about him, and to run across the quote that I am posting here and that inspired the title.
Happiness in animals seems to be a popular topic at the moment. There was a recent publication of a study that concluded that snorting was a sign of “positive emotions in horses”, which was just one of the many studies cited in a recent article in Popular Science that asks “Can we really ever know if animals are happy?” It is certainly important to anyone who cares for animals to consider whether or not they are happy. However, the claims that we do not yet possess the knowledge to understand the emotions of our animal companions always leads me to one question – can we ever really know if a human is happy?
“The horse is not a piece of sports equipment, but our partner. And all our actions should be to develop what the English so brilliantly call ‘horsemanship’.”
Hans Gunter Winkler
This month the world lost another great horseman when Hans Gunter Winkler died. The post below was written when I’d first discovered the story of Mr. Winkler and his mare Halla – and perhaps the most amazing jumping round in Olympic history. I thought it time to repost this so more people can watch that amazing ride, and understand what a true partnership with a horse means. You can read more about Hans and Halla in a tribute by The Horse magazine.
Original post: Recently someone posted, on Facebook, the video I have included at the bottom of this post. It is of Halla, a famous jumping mare whose rider was seriously injured at the Stockholm Olympics – yet she carried him around a clear round to win gold! Revisiting Halla’s story, and watching that ride, brought back memories of a ride where I too was injured, and relied on a special horse to get me through. Although not on the scale of what Halla and Hans accomplished, it is yet a powerful memory, and a personal lesson in how amazing horses really are.
A Facebook friend recently posed the question as to why so many people enjoy watching today’s competition, and don’t see the ugliness and the damage done by the training methods being used. Why do they not seek the beauty that many of us in the 50-plus age group grew up with? The answer is simply in the eye of the beholder. Sadly, it is not so simple for the horses in the middle of and subject to it.
Everything in my life always comes back to horses. It’s not just that they’ve been a passion, and it’s not just the physical presence of the little herd that lives in the back. It’s the lessons they’ve taught me that I apply to the rest of my life. I have long credit my leadership skills at work to the lessons I’ve learned from working with horses. It’s also my experiences in life that lead me to understand horses even better. I am living through one of those now.
“There is no joy in deadline. The desire to be something is ego-oriented and useless to the horse. Strive to do something instead! Do not seek arrival but enjoy the process of getting there.”
Charles De Kunffy, The Ethics and Passions of Dressage
If there is one thing upon which my boss and I don’t see eye to eye, it is hard deadlines. He comes from a corporate world, where everyone claims to live and die on deadlines and the bottomline. This is not part of the public sector culture and, in spite of some public belief to the contrary, there are good reasons for that. My jobs, for more than twenty years now, have centered around technology projects. You always set a target, and you almost never hit that target – and, from talking to friends, this also applies in the private sector. For my boss, this aspect causes a great deal of stress. He is convinced that his job hinges upon hitting targets; yet, from what I can tell, it never did in his private sector job, and most certainly doesn’t here.
So, my boss is prone to panic, and to take it out on whomever is close by. I do not easily get flustered, which is a cause of great consternation for him. Blame it on the horses!
I got Roxie out to work her, on one of those evenings when I’d had a very long day at work. The light was waning, so I was just going to do a ‘down and dirty’ lunge session with her – fulfill my duty for the evening, as it were. As I got her clipped into the cross ties, and began to reach for the cavesson, there was something in her expression that stopped me. It was a soft expectant look, and somehow I knew what it meant. So, I reached toward the other wall, grabbed the curry and brush, and got to work. Soon her head was tilted and her lib was wiggling ecstatically.