Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Joshua Shenk's book, "Lincoln's Melancholy--How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness",just came in the mail. I cannot wait to fully understand every bit of this book. Very few people have the remotest understanding of how sick Abraham Lincoln was all of his adult life. Shenk suggests that Lincoln's greatness may not have come in spite of his illness, but because of it.

It is the 21st century and we expect doctors to be able to cure everything but cancer. When we are sick we expect to get well. Lincoln lived in a time where no one carried such expectations. He seems to have accepted misery as an unwelcome partner.

Were horses human each would qualify for a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. Suffering is not a prerequisite to becoming a great horse trainer, but when one looks at the lives of many of the best trainers one finds such suffering.

That is not a coincidence.

Vacuous and empty headed optimism gets one nowhere with a horse. When one seeks to try to make a horse believe that everything is wonderful and there is nothing to be afraid of one must fail.

The horse knows better.

He lives in a world where every shadow threatens his existence. The horse has fought off extinction because of his flight instinct and fear, not in spite of has flight instinct and fear.

The best trainers do not seek to constantly teach the horse that there is nothing to be afraid of. The best trainers seek to let the horse know that no matter how horrid the experience, it can be overcome by following the trainer's lead.

Perhaps the best trainers, like Lincoln, are those who seek only to persevere, not to pretend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The relationship is symbiotic, The horse learns to trust the trainer as a leader in his herd, and obtains a sense of security in return. The trainer also tends to feel more secure and at peace.
Talented trainers learn to walk a tightrope with the horse, putting the horse into a position of insecurity (pressure) and allowing the horse to learn how to correctly relieve that pressure.Creativity in this department is one thing that can set a trainer apart.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many shades of gray can be brought to light with this language, and just how subtle it can be.

There are many millions of people in this world who can benefit from simple contact with horses, horse time is a place to go and leave a too-complex world behind for awhile, a soothing balm for the soul..the horse does not care about the perceived pressures of paying bills, or losing a job, or any of the other countless shadows of doom that exist in the world of man..he only wants to be secure, to be fed and procreate..a simple and beautiful world view that perhaps we should all seek to emulate in some measure. Humans complicate, and horses simplify.
It just may be that having large frontal lobes, and opposable thumbs is an over-rated state of being.

I have been reading of late on the subject of "equine therapy," even though I really do not care for the buzz word..which is something akin to "horse whisperer."
Seems to be a growing which will invariably be overcomplicated by certain factions..
I do not know very much about psychotherapy, or pretty much of anything else that starts with "psych," I do know though that the answer very seldom lies at in a bottle of pills. Nor is the answer "suck it up and live with it." I can see the effects, though, when a person who suffers is brought into contact with horses, and it is invariably beneficial. Incurable, maybe...manageable..pretty much definitely, after all, dear old Cavallus manages..
I cannot say for sure that Abraham Lincoln viewed his horses as particularly therapeutic...he was however known to care deeply for his mounts. I can say with unbridled (heh) certainty that he benefitted from his associtaion with them.
I will also posit this..just as the horse would be diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and unnecessarily at that, since it is the normal state of being for the horse...any human has an "anxiety disorder" to a certain extent..come hang out with the herd and see what a difference it can make. is at least better than taking vitamin pills.