Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What Is It To Live With Nature?

The round pen teaches you that you are not in control--that you must work with the horse and understand the horse. That is the nature of "nature." Just as the beginning of ethical living is to learn to ignore one's own self interest and to look to the interest of others, the beginning of wisdom is to learn that we are not able to force our will on the rest of Creation.

This little cold snap that we are going through perfectly illustrates the consequences of this unnatural belief that we are, or should be, in control of nature. The cycle of the seasons are immutable. The cycle of all other living being's response to those seasons is also immutable. When we fail to recognize this basic fact we display the incredible hubris of believing that all of creation must be as weak and broken as humans have become.

We unnaturally project our weaknesses onto other species. We treat obesity in pets as something that we should just lovingly laugh off.  In reality obesity and lack of exercise account for more suffering and early deaths in horses than any other cause. We unnaturally stuff supplements into horses to improve their hooves, pay to have their feet trimmed at ridiculously short intervals and fail to give the horse the degree of exercise that is absolutely essential for a healthy hoof. We become apoplectic at the hint of the outline of a rib while laughing off the deadly threat to the health of the horse that maintaining a gutter back carries.

We fail to recognize the element of exploitation that exists in a relationship with a horse that consists of nothing but brushing, treats, and specialty feed while completely ignoring the need that the horse has for movement and exercise.

In short, we seek to control not only the horse's behavior but how that horse responds to nature.

This is only one step away from trying to make nature conform to our ideals instead of working with those natural cycles. That desire for control comes out in other, more subtle, aspects of the relationship that we have with nature.

I am always struck by the attitudes that those who were not raised in the woods have toward construction for horse lots. The desire to control nature causes us to believe that we can, and should, create structures that will out live the pyramids of Egypt. We want to use the most expensive materials so that things "will last." We are so certain of our ability to build impregnable defenses against nature that every year we are genuinely surprised to see entire towns destroyed by hurricanes. The empathy and compassion that is shown towards the victims of these natural disasters shows one of the best sides of the human character. The fact that each disaster, occurring year after year, is treated as a new and surprising event shows how far we have gotten from recognizing the immutable power of nature.

When I build a fence, instead of trying to design one to last for the ages I recognize the fact that when a 900 pound horse running 30 miles an hour hits a fence something is going to break. I want it to be fence that breaks instead of having a broken horse.

How can we make fences that will last forever? We can't. How can we make sure that we lose no animals to predators? We can't. How can we make sure that no horse will ever have an injury? We can't. How can we make sure that no horse will ever get sick? We can't.

How can we make sure that no horse will ever die? We can't.

No amount of hand wringing produces a healthier horse. Nothing that goes against the nature of the horse will be of long term benefit to the health of that horse.

Want to do everything that you can to give your horse a happy, healthy life? Give him grass, forbs, hay, sunlight, water, equine companionship and exercise. If you do all of those things you will enhance the horses chance of having a healthier, happier, longer life.

But even then you are not in control. Take a moment to understand that--could make you and your horse happier

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How true! We humans assume we are in control of our lives and all other lives around us! Does seem the hurricanes, floods, & wildfires should make it perfectly clear that is only an assumption (and you know what the word assume tells us!)
Keep doing what youre doing, Steve - it is the right & true path.