I’ve mentioned in my post Horse Whisperer, What Does it Mean? the label horse whisperer was glamorized by the 1998 movie based on a book by Nicholas Sparks. But my research showed that Sparks’ depiction of horse whisperer had flaws. There are a lot of labels that dance around this type of horse training but it’s difficult to define something that doesn’t have a definitive name. Each label contributes to the definition, only the problem is that the crux of this method is an esoteric gift.
The label natural horseman or natural horsemanship was made popular by Pat and Linda Parelli, and although they use some gentle methods to influence a horse, the label itself is an oxymoron. Natural for a horse is free in the wild. Natural for man is not on the back of a horse.
The title round penner or round pen training involves the use of an approximately 50 foot in diameter fenced circular corral. Frequently the corral is made of portable metal panels like the one shown in my photo. Round corrals or pens are used for many types of training both humane and cruel, but people who have the horse whisperer gift are not limited to a corral.
Likewise, the term horse trainer covers all methods of handling horses.
Even the label horse whisperer isn’t definitive of a method that’s based on non-verbal communication as the word whisperer indicates speaking softly.
Relationship training may be the most accurate description for the mystical method because relationship training is based on getting into the head of the horse. Seeing things from his viewpoint. Or the horse’s POV. Understanding what it’s like to be prey in a predator’s world. Thinking like a creature whose main goal in life is survival.
If you get into the horse’s head and see what the horse sees, feel what he feels, understand his motives and fears, and you act accordingly, you can have a powerful, sensitive and rewarding relationship with him.
This also applies to people which is one of the reasons corporations like General Motors, AT&T, and Disney have paid to have horse whisperer demonstrations for their business executives.
Getting into someone’s head, seeing life from their POV, imagining you are that character, is the way actors “get into character.” It’s the way authors develop heroes and heroines that we love.
The difference in the scenarios between actors, authors and horses is that the actor or author has ultimate control over the character. If they screw up they do a retake, or hit delete and try again until the character comes into compliance with their demands, or until the character morphs into something new and wonderful.
The penalty can be much higher when you screw-up with a horse because the horse will go back to his natural instinct of survival and man goes back to being a predator.
Another difference among the actor, writer, horse scenarios is that the actor can come “out of character” when he finishes rehearsing, and the writer can leave characters in the computer. The horse, however, relies on the same relationship connection with the human every time they are together because it’s based on trust. When the trust is broken, the horse resorts to self-preservation and the ties can be difficult to resurrect. If one time you develop a close connection with the horse and the next you slap him out of the way, you’ve confused the animal, and confusion threatens a horse’s survival. The horse’s main method of survival is to flee.
Learning to see things from the other’s point of view rewards us through better relationships. When horsemen see life from the horse’s point of view, the horse begins to trust the human. When actors see the script from their character’s POV they “get into character.” And when writers write from inside the character’s head, the character gains depth and story is shown instead of told.
If seeing the world from the other’s POV adds trust, depth and character, imagine what life would be like if we viewed ourselves and everyone else from God’s point of view.
Now it’s your turn. If you’re a horse lover, have you ever worked with a horse whisperer? If you’re a writer, has getting into your characters heads helped you write with deep POV?
Barbara Ellin Fox
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