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In one of the first VHS tapes of Pat’s Seven Games, I heard Pat say, “When in Rome, do as Romans do, and when in a horse corral, do as horses do”. It has taken me a long time to begin understanding how profound this statement is. Most of us know ‘right from wrong,’ what acceptable social behavior looks like, and what is considered rude in our environment. However, what is considered socially acceptable can change significantly depending on the geographic location. For instance, I have heard that in China it is rude to eat everything off your plate at a meal (leaving some of the meal on your plate says that the host has served you a sufficient meal). Here, in most of America if you didn’t finish what was on your plate, you may leave the host feeling that you didn’t enjoy your meal. In some parts of the world, it is polite to give a kiss on the one or both cheeks when you meet an old acquaintance or in saying goodbye. In the United States, most cowboys would rather just give one another a good handshake.
Is it this diverse in the horse world?
Pat often makes a joke at tour stops, asking the crowd to raise their hands if they know how to read…. (most people raise their hands) *long pause* ….. “a HORSE” (most of the hands go down). Pat goes on to explain that instead of horses trying to learn all our languages, mannerisms and cultural beliefs, we can learn just one – the language of the horse – and its mannerisms. I have not met anyone who has studied more – and played with more horses worldwide – than Pat, and when he says those mannerisms are universal, I believe him.
So what is polite in the horse corral?
Growing up, I was taught to hold open doors for others, to take off my hat indoors, ladies first, and not to make any rude/vulgar noises in public. I have yet to see these in any of the horses I have come across. All joking aside, to horses it is not about politeness based on ego; it is politeness based on leadership and survival – ‘in the moment’ survival. I think because we do not have to look at survival the same way a horse does, our view of politeness is not the same.
When I’m playing with a horse, I’m thinking of its needs and what a good polite leader needs to do for the horse. It seems like this is the job of a true horseman, to understand what is acceptable in ‘Horseville’ and what is not acceptable. I’m continuing to focus on looking at life from the horse’s point of view (survival and in-the-moment based thinking) and making decisions for our relationship based on that view. It has helped me to understand horses more and judge less.”