What did we do to deserve them?
Yesterday afternoon I went out into the pasture to just sit on my horse's back. I wasn't really asking her to do anything, and as a result she nodded off and began half-dozing in the sunlight. And I noticed something curious. As she dozed, she would sway ever so slightly, and if I ever started to come off balance (even if it was the slightest movement), I would feel certain muscles in her back twinge as she compensated for my failing seat, and I would find myself re-centered. Or, another instance, she put a leg up to rest, and it tilted her back at an odd angle. I wasn't about to fall, but I was certainly twisted rather uncomfortably, and in a few seconds she put her leg up and re-adjusted herself so that we both were in a comfortable position.
I've heard before that "your horse naturally wants to be centered under you, and will do whatever it takes to do so-even if it means he's running around crooked", and I've heard of peoples' horses going to great lengths to take care of their rider and prevent them from falling, but I've never really understood or thought about it until now. I won't try to get all mushy about it, because I know it's probably more out of comfort for the horse due to the more even distribution of pressure than the affection it feels for the rider, but now I ask: why?
Why would a horse want to be under us? Why do animals weighing over 1000 lbs allow themselves to be controlled and dominated by creatures at least 5 times smaller than they? Why is it that I can steer my horse with nothing more than the position of my legs, seat, and a piece of rope around her neck?
Some may answer: well, it's the training and handling they receive that make them responsive to pressure. But even to that: why? Why would a horse allow itself to be taught manners and training cues, when a few good bucks or kicks would rid them of their rider/handler and leave them free to run back to their horsey buddies relaxing in the pasture? Even the bits and training gadgets we put on them offer no real means of control-if the horse really doesn't want to listen to us, we are fooling ourselves if we think a piece of metal in their mouth or a strip of leather around their head can stop them.
Why do horses try and perform so honestly and willingly when so often they are mishandled (whether due to ignorance or legitimate cruelty)? I know I'm not perfect, and I know I still am not the greatest rider, but I try my hardest to learn and give the best of myself to my (and any other) horse. It irritates me when people cannot see that they are the problem, and if they stopped blaming their horse and everyone else for their issues, it would take but a minute to see that their horse is an exact reflection of themselves, and you're being foolish by finding the fault in others.
Dogs offer us the same loyalty and willingness, but to me the horse-human relationship is the most fascinating simply because we are the most different. The fact that a massive prey animal and a tiny predator can learn to work together and form a "herd", of sorts, never ceases to amaze me. I know I'm getting all girly and sentimental, but everything about horses humbles and astounds me, and I am luckier than the world to I have them in my life.