Like Horses, We Falter When We Lose Our Way
Remembering the herd clustered near the gate where Echo had died, I thought of all the horses that might be waiting for her in the great beyond, her herd in the sky. San Martine. Casteel. The weather horses Windy, Cloudy, and Sunny. The Peruvian Pasos de la Montana and Abril. My gentleman Arab Farside. Sweet Lena. Handsome Wendy. Dominica, the big warmblood. And so many more.
With each new member, and with each loss, the herd has had to restructure itself. Each horse must learn, or re-learn, its place within the herd. Each new horse must learn to respect the leaders, will suffer discipline and loneliness if they do not. Winter or summer, the horses do all of this while moving like a flock of birds in the sky—floating on the wind—always touching but not touching.
Our human herd at the barn mirrors whatever is going on with the herd, but we don’t always recognize that we are doing this. Change disrupts our sense of order. We are rarely as graceful as the horses in reestablishing our equilibrium. We look for leadership. And like now, we falter when there is none.
Echo's herd looks to the elders of the herd for leadership, now more than ever - big gentle black Milagro, the undisputed aging king, and Di, the wise queen mare. She stands quietly behind him here, patient in her reign, though it will eventually slip away from both of them. We do not know who will step up to take their places.
I worry for our human herd—the one outside these pristine pastures. I fear that humans lack the wisdom of these horses. I fear that we no longer understand that our survival and serenity depend on our ability to form and hold community. Echo knew this when she welcomed my Arab gelding Farside to the herd, following him as he explored his new home.
In her groundbreaking EQUUS training program, Flying Lead Change, Kelly Wendorf teaches a way of leadership "modeled on a 56 million-year-old system of the horse herd––a path that has allowed humans and horses alike to survive the kinds of global and societal threats we now face, such as climate change and mass extinction." The book was released this month and is available now.