"There's something about horses that we all need to understand -- their only real job in this world is to stay alive from one day to the next. Nothing...more"There's something about horses that we all need to understand -- their only real job in this world is to stay alive from one day to the next. Nothing else really matters."
At some point while reading Rashid's book, I realized the absurdity of what I was doing. Here I am: a human being, specifically a human being who has had absolutely no interaction with horses (and hasn't made any plans to do so), is now reading a book about how to interact with horses. It's a pretty strange ontological observation, given that this is the second book of its kind I'm reading and, given the opportunity, I'd probably not say no to reading another of its kind.
What curiosity, or need, is satisfied by reading about this subject? One answer is that humans acquire knowlege in a totally different manner from other beings (including horses). A horse, Rashid tells us, does not actually learn by being "told" (trained) but by observing and following up on the observation. Conversely, humans acquire (share) knowledge through non-observational means. And not only that. It's not only the distinction that humans learn & survive through verbal communication, it's also that we identify ourselves with the verbal. Verbal information has become what we are, to paraphrase Descartes. A horse is very much alive just standing there (whether or not there are fellow horses around) but a human being does not similarly feel confident that they are alive when just standing there, even if the basic needs of food & shelter are being met. Our identification of our state of being with verbal communication is such that I am in a better position, ontologically speaking, when communicating, either actively through social interaction or passively through reading.
So what Rashid is telling us is that horses communicate their ontology in such a way that we need to readjust our "reading" of them specific to their species and not to ours. Something I noticed in both this book and in Buck Brannaman's The Faraway Horses, is that the authors are somewhat "reluctant" narrators. They want to convey their knowledge about horses to humans (the readers) but they are somehow aware of the inadequacy of the (human-oriented) medium necessary for this. What they have understood about the other species is something they need to explain to their own species in a manner which is contrary to what they are trying to explain about the other species. It's interesting how both Rashid and Brannaman recount that their path to understanding horses began with a "wise man" who showed them the "way of the horse" in a non-verbal manner. They were encouraged to observe horses, and that in itself was the actual method of communicating (better) with horses. Even though they are "reluctant" narrators - you can sense it in their characteristically modest tone - in spite of that both Brannaman and Rashid are good storytellers. The accepted maxim for writing well is to show, don't tell. Both authors have learned, thanks to the horses, how to be better observers (of horses, but not only) and how to adjust their own behavior/communication so that horses (but not only) can better understand them. In that process they have somehow become "natural" storytellers, able to provide exactly what, or just enough of what, is needed for a good story. And I do like good stories -- whether they involve humans, or horses. (less)