[SL: Enjoy this thought-provoking, and heart-opening, introduction to a bold new vision for interacting with our equine allies, THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN: 25 PRINCIPLES TO LIVE BY WHEN CARING FOR & WORKING WITH HORSES.]
Allen M. Schoen and Susan Gordon
The teachings of all the great mystical paths of the world make it clear that there is within us an enormous reservoir of power, the power of wisdom and compassion. If we learn how to use it—and this is the goal of the search for enlightenment—it can transform not only ourselves but the world around us. Has there ever been a time when the clear use of this sacred power was more essential or more urgent? Has there ever been a time when it was more vital to understand the nature of this pure power and how to channel it and how to use it for the sake of the world.
Sogyal Rinpoche, GLIMPSE AFTER GLIMPSE: DAILY REFLECTIONS ON LIVING & DYING
We are human, they are not. They don’t look like us, and they do not speak our language. We can train ourselves to do all kinds of brilliant things during our time on this planet, creating a multitude of materials and objects of desire that fulfill every need we have or think we have. Humans make and exchange goods and property, and carry on making everything bigger, better, louder, faster. We ship ourselves into frenzies or fall into deep depressions, and indulge in many other states of being in between. This is how we keep the “wheel of existence” turning again and again.
Horses—and other animals—must look at us with great curiosity and wonder what we are up to much of the time. They happily allow us to house, feed, and care for them, and seem compliant with whatever environment in which we choose to keep them. Some become geniuses at things like untying knots or opening stall doors. They display feelings and emotions. Some exhibit a sense of humor. They have been observed mourning at the loss or death of a friend. Even though they do not look and think like us, there are enough similarities in our physiology and life processes that we must look at them with as much curiosity as they must feel when studying us.
They may not understand our words but they are quick to react to the moods we are in, the things we strap on them and prod them with, and the little boxes we coax them into for travel or living quarters. They are not human, but they certainly have served humanity in many ways for a long time. Their history deserves considerable respect.
Many of us say we love horses. Are they capable of loving us back? If we offer them compassion, can we expect compassion from them in return? In describing a great equine athlete we say, the horse “has heart.” The heart is described as being the center of compassion—the loving point from which we develop empathy and the desire to relieve the suffering of others.
In other words, just how “human” are these non-humans?
When we observe a being that does not use elaborate spoken languages like humans do to communicate with others, it appears they still understand the concepts of friendship, fear, happiness, and sadness, among other emotions. Remarkably, they seem to understand our emotions in relationship to their own. They even exhibit signs of reading deeper into the human psyche than we are willing to admit. This seems especially true when we are under considerable stress. They have access to their primordial psyches—the old part of the brain that connects to ancestral knowledge—without the blocks that humans tend to place around their own. We create many reasons for not letting our true, loving selves radiate from our center. What are we afraid of that horses are not?
That which we lay before you in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN is not designed to be an easy path to follow. The Principles of Compassionate Equitation which we introduce to you on p. 16 are a deep, personal set of commitments that may enhance your experience as a horseperson and as a person in general. Becoming a Compassionate Equestrian will allow you to take the peace, calm, and heart-centered techniques from this book and put them into practice with yourself, your horses, and everyone else you encounter. May you find this to be an enlightening experience, a validation of all the wonderful love and care you provide for your horses already, and of tremendous benefit to your heart and soul, and all other beings, in the days ahead.
Dr. Allen Schoen:
We are all interconnected via an integral web of interactions from everyone’s mind and heart. You know, they joke and say there are actually over seven billion human “youniverses” on the planet—and each person is their own youniverse unto him- or herself. Each horseperson is seeing that same horse barn through a unique filter based on his or her own life’s experiences. Every person in the barn brings perceptions and responses to it, and the horses bear the brunt of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Horses, too, bring their own experiences to the barn. Whatever number of horses there are on the planet, that’s how many horse universes (“equiverses?”) there are.
One of the things I have found with all animals that interact with people (as compared to those that do not have to interact with people) is that they have actually evolved to a different level of awareness in consciousness. I chuckle and say, “When a horse is in a herd, he is just ‘horsing around.’ He’s just being a horse.” When the horse interacts with people though, he becomes a great student of human behavior. He watches us from his predator-prey point of view—he feels like prey and interacts from a fearful and cautious mind. From there, he can evolve into the most compassionate, loving being or the most dangerous, frightening 1,200 pounds on the earth. He can either love you or hurt you. Perhaps both companion animals and their people subconsciously evolve to a new level of interconnectedness, becoming more like each other, based on the foundations of my Transpecies Field Theory, which I introduce on p. 7.
What it boils down to is that it’s not just our minds, but our hearts and minds, and the heart and mind of everyone in the barn or at the show, from the grooms, trainers, and riders to the horses, dogs, cats, and birds. To me, Ultimate Healing is bringing this awareness to all animal and horse lovers everywhere. There is an opportunity that has arisen as neuroscience has advanced and continues to develop, documenting ancient spiritual traditions that claim the benefits of loving-kindness and compassion. As these two areas converge into a new field, sometimes called neurospirituality or the neuroscience of behavior, we can better understand the positive or negative impact we have on the animals with which we interact.
The topic of neurohealth was discussed at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Dr. Philip Campbell, the editor-in-chief of NATURE magazine, stated that, “If the twentieth century was the century that successfully tackled infectious disease, the twenty-first century will hopefully be known as the century that tackles chronic disease. And no chronic disease (heart, cancer, diabetes combined) takes as big a toll on society than brain disease and mental illness” (Tapscott, D., “Davos 2015 Wrap-up: Get Ready for Breakthroughs about the Brain,” The Huffington Post Blog, February 2, 2015). It was also said that neuroscientists needed to look at neural circuitry as well as neurochemistry. This is what we are discussing in this book when we mention neural networks and mindstreams (see p. 49, for example). As I read Tapscott’s wrap-up, I realized how relevant this book is in our current world situation. At Davos, the world’s leaders, cutting edge thinkers, and wealthiest business people all converged and voiced their concerns about the state of the world, climate, violence, and the unpredictability of the current situations. I was impressed that amidst all of that, they acknowledged that the neurohealth of the population is an essential component of remedying these situations.
I feel that the essential foundations for the human-animal bond, evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s concept of Biophilia, (an innate desire to be with all life, as outlined in his book Biophilia, Harvard University Press, 1986), and neurohealth are intimately interrelated. Understanding the Transpecies Field Theory (p. 7), therefore, is one of the keys to helping all of us out of the stress and depression that permeates this world. This is why we see many more households include pets as we become more urbanized. This is why so many people who have the ability to share their lives with horses feel that connection in their lies is imperative. Sharing our lives with animals in a compassionate way can improve neurohealth and make the world a better place.
This book offers two separate, yet converging views of how we can better treat our horses. Susan and I have chosen to collaborate on this book because we recognize that there are significant benefits to sharing our different perspectives and also appreciate the commonality of our insights. I am not a horse trainer and do not have the awareness or expertise in horse training that Susan has. There are aspects of certain training methods and approaches of which I am not fully cognizant. Susan shares her knowledge of these by describing her personal journey with her horse, Willie, in her own words. Alongside and around Susan’s contributions, I bring perspectives based on over 35 years of pioneering and integrating innovative veterinary approaches to equine health care, as well as my passion for animal behavior, neuroscience, and consciousness studies. Together, I feel that our two unique, yet complementary perspectives can offer different benefits to each reader, depending on the kinds of insights you would like to take from this book. I often add this invitation after all that I share in speaking and in writing: “if you agree with my views, resonate with them, and if my perspectives are of benefit, integrate them in your life in whatever way feels right. If you do not agree with anything, just let it go.” No one has all the answers. We are all on our own unique journey in the midst of the collective journey called life on earth.
I appreciate the value and benefits of conventional practice, yet, have also undertaken a personal, professional, and spiritual journey, realizing there are many additional options for healing animals and people. That healing is a full circle: The more we become aware of how we can benefit through developing loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, the more we can help the animals in our lives, and subsequently, the animals become all they can be, and they will then support us in becoming all we can be. Full circle.
The more we understand neuroscience and comparative neurobiology, the more we realize we share similar brain patterns and brain programs with animals. We share more similarities than differences. In fact, one of the paramount paradigm shifts I would like to see is to change from having to prove what is the same to having to prove what is different in regards to the way our thoughts and moods function as compared to those of animals. Recognizing “sameness” as the foundation, rather than always separating “self” from “other” by looking at differences is a concept I call the “Commonality of Biophilia.” This is an immensely powerful change of purview that has innumerable ramifications in how we see the world and how we treat all animals.
I would like this book to become a catalyst for recreating compassion and loving-kindness as the foundation for all our interactions with every living being we encounter … two-legged, four-legged, and winged! Thank you for choosing to become a Compassionate Equestrian.
Copyright © Allen M. Schoen and Susan Gordon. All Rights Reserved.
For more information visit www.TheCompassionateEquestrian.com.
Allen Schoen, DVM, MS, PhD (Hon), is a pioneer in veterinary acupuncture and natural therapies and has been acknowledged worldwide for introducing the concept of an integrative approach to veterinary medicine, bridging the gap between conventional and alternative medicine. Dr. Schoen has edited two veterinary textbooks—VETERINARY ACUPUNCTURE: ANCIENT ART TO MODERN MEDICINE and COMPLEMENTARY & ALTERNATIVE VETERINARY MEDICINE: PRINCIPLES & PRACTICE (co-edited with Susan Wynne, DVM)—and is author of LOVE, MIRACLES & ANIMAL HEALING and KINDRED SPIRITS: HOW THE REMARKABLE BOND BETWEEN HUMANS & ANIMALS CAN CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE.
Susan Gordon was a professional hunter-jumper trainer from 1983-2009. After retiring from training and teaching, she founded Green Pony Productions for the creation of digital media content relating to social-justice issues for horses and the environment. She writes and blogs regularly regarding the 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation she co-developed with Dr. Schoen.