Here we stand, you and me; you, half a ton of muscle, nerves, spirit, instincts, past experiences, and emotions; me, about fifty kilos of intelligent, emotional, spiritual human being. You probably don’t believe me, but we need each other.
You see, we stand at a fusion of two worlds – the equine world and the human world. You have been born into the world of men, and you depend on man for your physical, mental and emotional needs. I have chosen to welcome you into my human world, and depend on you to fulfil many of my hopes and dreams; I need you to dream with me, to befriend me. I need you to help me fly.
So here we meet, you and me, at the borders of our worlds; an intersection of species meant to lead to friendship. And I stand before you with a contract as old as men and horses, one necessary to our happiness in this special place between the worlds.
Horse, I am your human. I am also your friend, your teacher, your healer, your caregiver, your protector and your nurse. I am your guide through my world. To be all this, it is absolutely essential that I am at all times your leader. My word is law, my decisions final, and my authority absolute. I will prove to you that I am fit to lead you; you will test my leadership to determine whether I have what it takes to look after you, and I will pass every test of courage, conviction, confidence, knowledge, compassion, loyalty, cool-headedness, and selflessness that you care to throw at me.
You are my horse. You are my friend, but may threaten my life; my student, from whom will undoubtedly learn; my dependant, upon whom I will daily depend. You are a magnificent puzzle, but you are also my follower and I have dominion over you. As we both know that there can only be one leader, that leader cannot be you because this is my world and the instincts that save you in your world could kill us both in mine. For our safety, you are my follower.
As your leader I am responsible for your well-being. It is my duty to provide you with everything you need: food, water, space, shelter, safety, company, exercise, and medical attention. I will take care of all your daily needs (even if I arrange for someone else to do the chores). When you are hurt or sick or tired, I will nurse you, heal you, rest you and allow your amazingly designed body to repair itself. I will strive to make sure that your tack and surroundings do not hinder your work; that your tack fits and your footing is good. I will ensure that your body is always in a fit state to do what I demand of you.
It is also my duty to be a leader that you feel safe following. By affection, respect, and above all time, I will show you that you can trust me never to harm you. Yet that will only show you that I am your friend; to be your leader, I will prove to you my strength. By setting boundaries, being always consistent, and calmly keeping us both safe in any situation, I will show you that you can trust me always to protect you. I will discipline you and persist with any of my requests until you submit and obey. This I will never do unfairly, but in a way you understand – a way familiar to you from the actions of your dominant equine herdmates. In this manner I will teach you respect for my authority and for the firmness of my convictions. You will learn that I am strong enough and caring enough to be worthy of your perfect trust.
In return, I ask of you only that which is written into the programming of your very soul; perfect trust, a respect of my sensitivity and willingness not to take advantage thereof, and absolute obedience. All these things you would give naturally and willingly to the lead mare of your herd if you lived solely in the world of horses. In the world of men, I am your lead mare.
Your trust in me is essential. If you trust me I can help you and protect you. Occasionally, in healing your injuries and illnesses, I will cause you pain. You have to trust me even despite this pain. Trust is the most necessary ingredient in obedience. It is my quest to be worthy of your trust.
Because I am one-tenth of your size, it will be very easy for you to hurt or even kill me. This will not end well for you since men defend their kindred and a mankiller is automatically an enemy, just as the killer of a horse is an enemy to horses. Also if I am hurt I find it harder to do what I need to take care of you; and it is my duty to my kin to ensure that you never intentionally harm them. Sometimes you will hurt us by mistake. I accept that. But deliberate and unprovoked aggression will never be tolerated under any circumstances and is a terrible fracture of our contract – from both sides.
Your obedience is possibly the most important factor in your happy friendship with mankind. Many of the requests I make will be for our joint mission of working hard and well together, and I must ask that you perform these to the best of your ability. Other requests will be directly important for your safety or even survival. They will not make sense to you, but it is essential that you obey me unhesitatingly. Remember that you can trust me; I act for your good and our pleasure.
Horse, in order for us both to transcend mere survival and attain a thriving enjoyment of our lives, I must make one more demand. I ask that you give me the very best of your physical performance. While I may yet be smarter, more spiritual, wiser, and closer to God than you are, I am undoubtedly far from you physically. Your majestic body leaps, runs and dances with a power and grace I will never attain. I ask to borrow some of that power when I am astride you; I ask you to leap as high, run as fast and dance as gracefully as you possibly can, for me.
But oh Horse, I know I can only ask this when our relationship transcends leader-follower and into the true deep friendship that crosses effortlessly, joyously the border between our worlds. In my leadership and your obedience, we express our unspoken and unspeakable love for one another. My dominion over you was ordained by the Lord my God, Who made us both (and Who perhaps you know just a little when you listen to His voice in the wind you make when you run). When I am a good ruler over you and you are a good and wholehearted follower, we can attain the endless joy known only by creatures doing that for which they were created.
Better yet, we express the love we feel so deeply for Him Who created us.
Mighty and beautiful Horse, you cannot read this letter. You know nothing about words or writings, communicating meaning in silence the way you do; you don’t need the cumbersome letters to say what you have in your heart. Your feelings are written across every line of your breathtaking body. It would make it easier if you could read and understand this, but you never will; instead, see this in the lines of my body, in my own silent communications with you.
It would take years, but if we both followed this promise perfectly, we would have a perfect friendship. Unfortunately, we won’t. We will have bad or tired or annoyed days, and we will both break our promises.
But we can still have a very good friendship. And here in the world of both horses and men, very good is quite amazing.