Shadow and the Horse Whisperer
He was a beauty, his strength, his spirit, and his freedom. He was a spirit without stain. He had an indomitable will. In his nippy gallop, his dark figure blends with the night and the stars on the horizon. Mornings, when he rubbed his back in the meadow, his dark glow became filled with pearls of dew and herbs. Evenings, the sands and dust of his morning earthbath remains floating in the wind during the games and races to the well near the house. The other horses always arrive first, because in the race, jumping, bucking and kicking the air distract him.
At home, the children's eyes lit up with a glow of shared emotion as they contemplated his running and playing, or simply looked at him, passing, in the sunshine and during his shady summer naps, or at noon on winter days. The smallest, had touched his nose, one time on the hill, when the colt came curiously to watch her pick flowers for her brother’s feast. The middle one offered him a bundle of herbs that day and was allowed to pet and scratch his neck, but only the older child, whistling and running towards the creek could get the foal to follow him and to stay with him under the willow or walk along the shore, up to the limit of the lands and the hollow.
Then, the Day came.
That morning Shadow walked confidently behind the older child to the gate of the corral. The colt hesitated a moment at the entrance, but someone touched him from behind with a soft hiss and he took a few steps. The door closed behind him. While the child was leaving the corral, the horse’s head cocked slightly to check for an exit. Finding none, he nervously and expectantly pawed the ground.
The stranger entered a few minutes later. He was a handsome man with a gentle look, deep blue eyes with deliberate and confident ways. He did nothing, but the colt moved, looking for a safe, respectful distance. The patient trainer stepped forward and the colt started moving with softness and lightness looking again for a way out. The man waited confidently, as there were no exits. Soon Shadow would find himself unable to move away or go back with the other horses, there were no corners or nooks for refuge.
Thus the education began. The foal was extremely sensitive, intelligent and confident, “he learns fast” was the man’s comment - perhaps because of the skill with which the master tamer had walked until the dark animal, sweaty and with agitated breathing, and whispered two words. "Good Boy". Soon Buenchico (Good Boy) learned: he understood that when the handsome man decides to approach to whisper, there is no possibility of keeping his distance or safety. He realized that the smooth and nice rope halter on his head was as strong as the posts of the corral, and the rope as strong as wires. He learned that the strong arm of man could control his movements and, little by little, his body ceased to belong to himself. What else does a horse possess, if not his own body? Does the grass, rain or meadow, child, brother or companion belong to him? His body, his strength, his skills, everything that was his became useless to him, all reduced under the man’s control. And what of his spirit?
The gentle man with kindly eyes left his dusty hat on a pole and walked gently and surely to the colt, who now stood with his neck hanging horizontally, ears half down, the rope slack, lying on the sand. The man came so close, without touching him, with such composure and gestures full of confidence and satisfaction, that one could even think him arrogant, rather than supportive and understanding. He put his hands behind his back and placed his lips almost touching the hair of the pony’s ear. It looked like such an intimate scene, as if an agreement of two lovers who entwine and share the same space, the same breath, but man and horse were not lovers, not even friends. A cool breeze began to blow and move the hair of "the man who spoke the language of horses," giving to that moment an almost magical aura. His lips barely moved but the breeze reached to relay the whisper of his words. His paternal gesture softened much more as he turned to look into the eyes of the audience and became curious as he laid eyes on his fans. Buenchico’s eyes were losing their fire, and looked now empty and dull at the sand. The man left the arena under the gaze of admiration from the audience. The horse had learned.
Some say that the last two words whispered by "The Man Who Listens to Horses" were “magic words,” others say they are two simple common words, spoken at random, like "good boy" or "hush bronco". I know it's not, at least not in this case, as the trainer demonstrated what he said with each of his actions and gestures.
His words were, "You're mine".
The colt, now Buenchico, learned that the very spirit could be imprisoned. It is the trick of all so-called non-violent, friendly tamers and whisperers, the mastering of all communication with horses, applied ethology, and natural horsemanship.
Now that you know, now that you understand more clearly, I can tell you those words have a second meaning. Coincidentally these two words are not magical, but rather scientific.
The words are, “Learned helplessness”.
* translated by Stormy May & David Castro