“If you walk in the footprints of others, you won’t make any of your own”


We hung close to the fence without interacting with the horses on the other side. The herd barely noticed us, instead gathering closer to one another as the rain dripped down on their already wet backs. Like gawkers on the opposite side of the glass at the zoo, we stared at them quietly with the simple instruction to “observe and decide which horse you would like to meet and why.” It’s called ‘first impressions’ and it takes little effort on the part of horse or human but speaks volumes about what goes through our mind when we first observe one another.


My attention was drawn to a chestnut mare, standing alone under a tree. She stood out because her presence there begged the question, why? Why is she separate from the group? What did the other horses think of her? Why didn’t they let her join them? She looked pretty enough, but maybe it was the way her mane fell to the left of her neck instead of the right with that stringy thin tail. Or was it that she was smaller than the other horses?  Maybe she smelled funny or chewed her hay too loudly. Maybe they didn’t ask her to join them because she was a redhead. Was it because she was the only girl in the herd?

Of course, it was NONE of those things.  The whole time I was wondering if her separateness was a sign of something amiss, she was simply being herself. Her behavior reflected her individual personality, temperament, and preference for having her own space.


When she finally moved closer to the herd, the horses would see only her true nature and respond to her in the moment with the same genuine behavior innate to each of them.  At one point, one of the horses drove her away with pinned ears and lowered head when she got too close to a pile of hay on the ground. Another communicated her willingness to join her under the tree, but the mare moved away quietly, looking for another space to be on her own-no judgment, no criticism, and no ruminating about why the horse behaved as she did.


For horses, it is enough to be who you are with no need to explain or excuse it. The herd accepts the differences but does not change who they are in dealing with others in the group. They are honest and direct. The differences allow them to each have an important role in the herd such as leader, explorer, nurturer/teacher and sentinel.  Ultimately, the goal is to maintain the safety, integrity, and survival of the herd. It’s not always pleasant or easy but creating connection while respecting differences is key. 

What does individuality mean to you? When does individuality feel like a liability?When does it feel like an asset? 



Join us for a one on one session of Life Lessons with Horses. This is a chance for you to find your own answers, to learn to recognize what has meaning for you and most importantly, to find the seeds of change that will lead you to greater satisfaction, success and yes, HAPPINESS IN YOUR LIFE!