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The Path of the Horse book cover

The Path of the Horse eBook on Kindle takes the reader beyond the Path of the Horse documentary, following Stormy May's path in the years following the release of the movie. Originally released in 2012 and updated in 2016.

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horse training

Listen to the future of horse human relationships

I know quite a few of you here have heard of Ren Hurst, the woman who is speaking out and walking her talk to help us gain clarity and grow closer in our relationships with horses and each other. I met her some years ago and I have seen that she has what it takes to help us evolve to the next level of consciousness. If you’re ready to deepen your understanding of our human condition please take 42 minutes to watch this interview by Abby Lodmer.

– Stormy May

without words

Ren Hurst interview with Marlene Narrow on Vegan Nation

Ren and Bailey stillPractical steps to end exploitation and control of others in order to experience unconditional love in our everyday lives. Unravel the mystery of what draws us to horses and the other animals we love. Learn how to use our relationships to create a peaceful world. Here is a two part interview of Ren Hurst by Marlene Narrow of Vegan Nation

 

Part 1 February 10, 2017

Part 2 February 17, 2017

Learn more about Ren’s work at the New World Sanctuary Foundation website.

A heart connection with horses and all life

Eclipse sunset editedHave you ever thought about why we domesticated animals and how truly loving our relationships to them are? We bring animals into our lives for our own reasons. We have them because we want them to do something for us. What I think most people are actually seeking with animals is a heart connection. I believe that most people have animals in their lives to get a source of unconditional love that they may not have for themselves already. Training and controlling is not the way to experience unconditional love with an animal. It’s the opposite of unconditional love.

So we’ve got these animals in our lives, that’s fine, they’re here, they need to be taken care of, but we have a choice on how we want to interact with them in that situation where they’re already in a controlled environment. What we typically do is we train, and we use conditioned responses and we use treats and we use manipulation or coercion to get them to do what we want them to do because at the end of the day we have been taught that that’s what to do with animals. If we’re being completely honest, domestication itself is the epitome of control and control has nothing to do with love.

When you remove all forms of controls while also setting very kind boundaries so they’re not doing whatever they want whenever they want, something really transformative happens. What we think of as a domesticated dog or a domesticated horse or a pig or a cat, whatever species, when they truly are allowed to have a mentally free state where they’re able to be who they are in the fullest sense, without fear of being hurt or neglected, they turn into something entirely different than what we’re used to.

What we’re used to is this conditioned being in front of us that is conditioned based on how we control it in whatever subtle or not so subtle form depending on what you do, but it changes everything. It can actually change who you are as a person to choose to practice this unconditional way of relating that really requires you to set very solid boundaries but without making anybody feel wrong or shamed for being who they are.

by Ren Hurst, founder of the New World Sanctuary Foundation

Learn more in an interview with Ren where she talks about these ideas and more from her book, Riding on the Power of Others. Also, don’t miss your opportunity to invest in the creation of a safe, healthy place for the animals of the New World Sanctuary Foundation to roam free, help is gratefully accepted! Find out more at the fundraising site: www.gofundme.com/helpanimalsbefree .

Please help support the birth of this new world for horses and humans by visiting the New World Sanctuary Foundation website at: newworldsanctuary.org .

Horse Ventriloquism

Jafarra and Stormy

When children play with dolls, they give voices to the bundles of cloth and plastic. They create stories, with lives full of worries and cares. They interact with the toys and play with them for hours.

barbie picAn interesting phenomenon is when people come into contact with living horses, they seem to continue this habit, adding words to a body that has no capability of human speech.

I’m not talking about baby talk or varying the tones in our voices to elicit a response, that is a different discussion. I’m talking about the stories we tell each other and the horses about why something is happening, about what is going on.

Today, through YouTube and countless channels of self-published media we have a chance to peek at the private and public lives of millions of people who work with horses. When we do so, we can listen to many words being inserted into the soundtrack of a horse’s life. Here is a sampling of words from popular trainers as seen on YouTube.

“He knows better than to do that.”
“She’s being disrespectful.”
“He doesn’t want to be supple.”
“She’s going to try and trick you.”
“She’ll argue with you, argue with you and then when you give her a little reprimand and make her respond then she overreacts and acts like the world is going to come to an end.”

The curious thing is we tend to believe these stories. How many of these words do you agree with? Do you believe the horse was guilty of these accusations? How can we get closer to understanding what another being is trying to communicate?

Our Horses speakWhen we can look at a horse and acknowledge her as a complete mystery, we gain access to a different perspective, an experience of life through another’s eyes. We become the students, learning from a race that has walked this earth far longer than we have.

Listen today to the words you speak for a horse, or a stranger at another table, a man in a car, or a dog. Listen to the words others speak to explain horse behavior, to nail down the mystery. You might be lead to a glimpse of the new world, beyond the safety of thinking we speak for horses, to the place where real horses speak and humans feel.

Excerpt from the book, “The Path of the Horse” by Stormy May.

Sofi and Eclipse

Horses may feel more pain than humans

Have you heard the news?  A new study has found that horses have a thinner top layer of skin with more nerve endings and sensory fibers than humans.  This finding leads scientists to believe horses may actually feel more pain than humans.

horse skin thickness

In the microscopic view above, nerve endings have been stained red. There are more nerve endings in the horse skin than the human skin. The epidermis is the top layer of skin with the concentrated area of blue circles. source: study by Dr. Tong

 

The study was done by Dr. Lydia Tong, a veterinary pathologist and forensics researcher at the request of Australian ABC show, Catalyst.  The study was meant to determine skin thickness and pain sensation in horses versus humans.  The Catalyst show focused on the use of whips in racing but the study paints a new picture regarding all horses. 

When asked if something that would hurt a human would hurt a horse, Dr. Tong said we should assume it’s likely to be painful.  Although Australian Racing Board chief executive Peter McGauran said with a straight face during the Catalyst interview that he does not believe a whip inflicts pain on a horse, I have to believe that most people didn’t need a study to tell them that being whipped is painful.  

I will now predict the future and say without hesitation that it is simply a matter of time before more studies show that bridles, bits, saddles, spurs and the weight of the rider are also causing horses pain, maybe even more pain than a human would feel under similar circumstances.  It seems useless to explore further questions on the topic until we can answer, “How much pain is acceptable to expect horses to experience to feed our human desire for speed, freedom and mastery?” 

How much pain is acceptable to expect horses to endure to feed our human desire for speed, freedom and mastery?

The problem with asking this question is that everyone has a different answer.  Some people believe horses should not be subjected to any pain for human pleasure and others believe we are entitled to do whatever we want to horses, for example in horse tripping and the consumption of horse meat.  All riding and use of horses for work or entertainment falls somewhere between these two extremes.

As a culture, perhaps the fact that these studies are being done is evidence that many do want to move together with little steps towards a more humane future for horses.   As more studies are published, people who make rules for horse sports will undoubtedly spend time weighing current public sentiment with the “tradition” of their sport and opinions of current trainers and competitors.  They will likely make changes that will help their sport survive this awakening of humanity as long as possible.  The next step I predict is we will learn how to consult with horses and other animals so we can make choices that allow us to live in balance on a clean and abundant earth, treating each other as we would like to be treated.

It might seem that one person’s opinion of what’s best for horses and humans won’t make much of a difference but I know it does.  I am thankful to Margaret Mead for saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  I am also thankful to you who must care enough about horses and our world to be open to learning more and experiencing different perspectives.  Let’s enjoy this ride!

 

 

Stormy May is the producer of the documentary “The Path of the Horse” and author of the book of the same name.

 

 

Does aggression end aggression?

Are aggressive human actions an effective way to modify behavior?

In 2012 dog trainer Cesar Millan worked with a dog, Holly, who had food aggression, a behavior also called resource guarding.  In the session Cesar confronts Holly over a bowl of dog food.  When she warns him away with a growl and snap, he hits her (or touches her on the neck depending on how you want to describe it) likely scaring, distracting, and showing her that he is also aggressive and capable of hurting her. 

Guarding resources is a natural dog behavior but of course it is also unacceptable behavior according to humans who don’t want to be bitten.

Next, he continues to push her away from the food with an intense stare and body posed to attack at any moment.  Her body language in response could be described as “insecure” and “aggressive” depending on a person’s perspective at different times.  After Holly relaxes for a moment and Cesar begins talking to the owner standing nearby, Cesar either absentmindedly or misreading the dog tries to put his hand on her nose and she snaps at him again.  He withdraws his hand and then she lunges for it and gives him a serious bite, perhaps proving to herself in that moment that she is the more quick and agile one who should win the battle to get the food and be left alone.  Guarding resources is a natural dog behavior but of course it is also unacceptable behavior according to humans who don’t want to be bitten. 

You can see the video here:

Because aggression is part of animal behavior, does that mean it’s useful conduct in humans as well?

This video and others like it have created a division of public opinion with people either agreeing with Cesar and emulating his ways of matching aggression with aggression or disagreeing and finding non-violent ways to modify behaviors.  A similar division is found among people working with horses.  Behaviors such as biting, kicking, bucking, bolting and rearing are natural for horses yet can be dangerous to humans.  Understandably, we don’t want horses that do these things around us.  Do we solve these problems by proving to the horse that we can inflict intense pain quickly if she does something we dislike, or do we essentially ignore or separate ourselves from the undesirable behavior and reward behaviors we do like?  This second method is known as positive training, as demonstrated in “clicker training” and lure reward methods. 

Are our methods correction based or reward based?

In the human world, it’s a correction based belief that if we spank kids, have guns, nuclear weapons and the right to harm those who are engaging in aggressive behavior we will live in a safer world than if we lay down our weapons and wage peace, engaging in ways of helping each other get along.

An excellent article describing non-violent methods of dealing with resource guarding by Grisha Stewart of Ahimsa Dog Training says, “…the first thing we must do is not to see the issue as one of our dog engaging in ‘point scoring’ with ulterior motives of longer term control of his human pack, but rather as one of safety for ourselves. If we become drawn into physical combat with our dogs over possessions, as we will see later, we are more likely to cause ourselves a great deal of problems with our dogs in our day-to-day lives together than we are to teach them not to guard their toys or bones.

If we become drawn into physical combat with others over possessions, territory or ideology, we are more likely to cause ourselves a great deal of problems…

There’s something profound in that, especially when I look at it as it might apply to humans, “…the first thing we must do is not to see the issue as one of a person engaging in ‘point scoring’ with ulterior motives of longer term control of other people, but rather as one of safety for ourselves.  If we become drawn into physical combat with others over possessions, territory or ideology, we are more likely to cause ourselves a great deal of problems with people in our day-to-day lives together than we are if we teach and inspire reasons not to need to guard resources or opinions.

Wow.  Could this be the path to world peace?

If we look at the tools of correction based training (e.g. collars, leashes, bridles, guns, bombs and whips) they are more or less designed to cause pain, yet people using these devices almost invariably believe they are either minimally painful (a touch rather than a hit) or necessary pain needed to ensure the animal (or human) remains useful and sociable to other humans.

In an NBC interview in 2013 Cesar is asked, “Have you ever felt badly about doing something to a dog?”  He replied, “No, no, no, I’m not doing it to hurt him, it’s not my intention, it’s not the whole essence of what I do.”

Our history as well as many current training practices seem to prove aggressive human behavior does work to create less aggressive animals and perhaps it is responsible for the level of peace that we have achieved.  According to a video published in 2014, Cesar adopted Holly and has developed a relationship with her that looks kind and friendly.  After all, horses typically seem to prance contentedly between bridle and spur, right?   Isn’t that just the world we live in, the way things work?

Video of Cesar and Holly 2 years after the bite:

will violence always necessarily be on the path to peace?

The majority of people, and certainly the ones in most leadership positions, seem to believe that correction based control is an acceptable option and sometimes the best way to maintain safe households, safe communities and a peaceful world.  We all do it. Domestic violence is the most prevalent type of violence in the world.  Many people believe in our right to hurt others.  We bear arms and support military and police forces to keep us safe.  Maybe it’s because we haven’t yet found a better alternative.  Are there positive ways to modify human and animal behavior that might work better than correction based methods or will violence always necessarily be on the path to peace?

Doesn’t it seem like a good thing to try to find as many non-violent solutions as possible? 

When a person studies and begins to understand she can end up with a safe and trained animal using positive techniques it’s easy to get drawn into believing that correction based training is harmful and that those who practice it are “mean” or abusive.  Calling Cesar abusive is abusive and a form of correction based training.  Compassion includes the understanding that he is using the techniques he believes to be the most gentle and humane to ensure safe and healthy lives for both humans and dogs. 

the winner in the future will be the one who gathers with everyone on the same team and keeps us safe from human aggression in any form

It’s time to get past name-calling and realize the winner in the future will be the one who gathers with everyone on the same team and keeps us safe from human aggression in any form.  We all want the best for the animals; we all want the best for our entire human family. 

I’m doing my best to stop calling people names, blaming others and believing that any level of violence will lead to lasting peace.   I know it’s important for me to spend time doing the things that really matter, ensuring my family lives in a peaceful environment.  I want to live in a non-aggressive world so I am choosing to creatively find non-aggressive ways to get along with other residents of this planet.

Luckily, we don’t have to lobby to cancel Cesar’s show, change gun laws or overthrow the government if we believe positive actions are more effective than corrections.  We have infinite opportunities available to instigate positive solutions to disputes in our own lives.  As long as we haven’t found peaceful solutions, people will continue to use aggression.

It starts at home, with my own ability to see what I am doing and modify my own behavior to meet aggressive acts with compassion and empathy and to inspire in myself and others behavior that connects us and makes us feel safe and comfortable with each other.  Beyond that, it’s important to support and empower others who are committed to peaceful solutions.

I’m ready for a future where it is considered mental illness to believe that hurting or scaring another will solve a problem and make our world better.  In the new world, people with this illness will not be leaders; they will not be allowed to be with others they could harm.  Instead, they will be surrounded with people serving them with compassion and understanding.

 

 

Stormy May is the producer of the documentary “The Path of the Horse” and author of the book of the same name.

Can too much love hurt a horse?

Someone sent me a link to an article written by a horse trainer warning people about loving horses so much that they spoil a horse and create a dangerous animal.  The person who sent me the link thought perhaps I could set the author straight about the value of being loving towards horses. Instead, I ended up agreeing with the author’s assessment that many horses become dangerous because of inappropriate and largely unconscious human actions. 

many horses become dangerous because of inappropriate and largely unconscious human actions

The author wasn’t addressing the value of correction based training versus positive training, she was simply pointing out that people are misusing the sentiment of “loving” the horse as an excuse for not learning how to ensure that when horses are around humans, we both understand that nobody wants to get hurt. 

more people are hurt by horses than hippos because we have this concept that we love horses and are entitled to live in close contact with them

It seems obvious that more people are hurt by horses than hippos because we have this concept that we love horses and are entitled to live in close contact with them.  We breed them, we keep them in stables, we ride them and when they don’t do what we want, we typically sell them.  In this paradigm, it’s a disservice to the horse to think you’re being kind and loving when you’re actually teaching and reinforcing dangerous behavior which often leads to a lower quality of life for the captive horse.

The love that I experience whispers for horses to be free to live lives of their own choosing.

Today, the love for horses that has developed through my life-long passion no longer looks like wanting to ride or keep horses in stables.  The love that I experience whispers for horses to be free to live lives of their own choosing.  As much as my resources can support, I give horses this freedom. 

The horses in my care today were not born in a wild herd, they are products of another human’s desire and captive breeding but that doesn’t mean that their lives need to continue to be molded to serve humans.  I do need them to be safe around people on the ground so I use the most loving and conscious techniques gathered over decades to ensure we understand each other and are kind and careful with one another.  That’s my job as a human guardian and the least I can do to express my gratitude for being able to share the earth with these noble animals who don’t owe me anything.

 

Stormy May is the producer of the documentary “The Path of the Horse” and author of the book of the same name.

Join us at the OurHorses PEACE gathering

OurHorses peace gathering

Ren and Stormy photo: Brandy Setzer

One of the workshop models we’ve been working on we’re calling a P.E.A.C.E. gathering.

Presence
Empathy
Awareness
Community
Experience

Join us right now and listen to a nine minute audio excerpt from the first OurHorses P.E.A.C.E. gathering in North San Juan, California on January 21st, 2013 The main two voices you hear are OurHorses community members Sasha and Ren talking about horses as healers, playmates, and guides into a new world.

2013-01-21 Ren Sasha PEACE gathering ext 3  The link will be:  ?attachment_id=1244

Comments?  How do these observations relate to your own experiences?

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Remember today you have a chance to support the Path of the Horse and own an original piece of art, a piece of inspiration along the journey.  Click here to find out more. 

Playful Horses detail Xanadu

Playful Horses detail Xanadu

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This video changed forever how I will think about horses. Thank you all for the wonderful, gently eye and heart opener.

Mary Ellen Capps
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