The Celts had a concept of anam cara or the soul friend.
That soul friend is a non-judgemental, supportive and deeply honest friend. A friend decent enough to observe both our strengths and our flaws. A friend who through their honesty can help us to become the best that we can be. That friend if we so allow it, can be a horse; but for our horses to assume that role of anam cara we need to create the space for their voices to be heard.
The practice of mindfulness is the key to our emotional intelligence – a path which facilitates our innate awareness of self. Truly knowing and accepting ourselves is the foundation to knowing and accepting others. Change always begins within. In being with horses we have the opportunity to explore that journey - whether our objective is learning, sport or healing.
There you have the heart of the Mindful Horse. To quote McCormick, Von Rust McCormick & McCormick (2004) on anam cara in context:
“this person, or animal, is literally a friend of our soul, joining us in ways that transcend our everyday perceptions. The concept of a soul friend is particularly important as we seek to understand what horses have to teach us, and why. It helps us to imagine why, for thousands of years, these noble animals have been such an important part of human evolution.”
Our journey is one of emotional and social intelligence, and along the way we might encounter mindfulness, personal learning and healing. In recognising and respecting the horses for who they are we are duty bound to learn much about ourselves as well.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
and a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour
– William Blake – The auguries of innocence