Borrowing Freedom Through Empathy


“In riding a horse, we are borrowing freedom” -Helen Thompson

I’d read those words many, many years ago but as I sit to gather my thoughts about Empathy it echoes in the back of my mind.  What gives us that feeling of freedom that we get from our horse partners. Certainly the strength, the speed, the ability to be a better version of ourselves are all part and parcel of that feeling we get. But, maybe it’s a fuller understanding of another being that contributes to that feeling?

Isn’t it much more valuable, more literally freedom, if those characteristics are given to us, and not taken from them? We can achieve this by approaching our relationship as a partnership, not a master and servant. Our friend Curt Pate told us that he strives for a mare/foal relationship, rather than embracing the predator/prey relationship talked about in some circles. Lifemanship is founded on the notion that we’re all in this together. We are seeking partnerships in the world.

Maybe we can borrow even greater freedom through by exercising empathy with all beings?


Now that we’ve discussed Awareness, and learning to be more present in the moment; the next piece is Empathy. As we use it, Empathy means a deeper understanding of the reasons for the reality of the other entity. Awareness is largely about understanding what constitutes our perception of the realities (or the future imaginaries) we are faced with. Empathy is understanding our shared reality through the experiences of another being. Understanding is the operative term; and an open mind and a willingness to adjust are indicators of true Empathy.

Every living creature, from our children, to our horses, to our pets, is entitled to its own perception of reality; just as we are. This is fundamental in our way of doing things here The DX Ranch.


“This all sounds good, but awfully philosophical, but how does it relate to Horsemanship?” you might ask.  One of my favorite quotes is one that was attributed to Buck Brannaman, “horses and life, it’s all the same to me.” My interpretation of this statement is that a consistency of purpose can help us make the most of any situation. Buck’s horses are dang sure his partners. He’s started more colts than most of us will ever even get to ride; and he approaches it from the standpoint that “the horse is never wrong.”

We ascribe to that belief here at The DX Ranch. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that our horse is exhibiting a behavior (his perception of his reality) that we’d rather not have in our relationship. How we come to know this is hopefully because we’ve developed our Awareness; but sometimes we find ourselves in “high-alert” status and we learn through bumps, bruises, or even stitches. I’ve got a scar on my head to prove it.

You may have heard someone say “he’s a high strung SOB, that’s why he can’t be still.” You can substitute “high strung SOB”, and “can’t be still” with any number of other things. Many not suitable for a family friendly blog such as this.

When we use Empathy in our approach to horses, we understand that we too are one of those external influences on a horse for which he has a perception.

Coming from a place of understanding and acceptance of his point of view, we can form a partnership that can help us get closer to that feeling of freedom that causes us to dust ourselves off, stitch ourselves up and try again.

I wonder if that works with our fellow man as well?

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