A child with horses

When I was four my parents took me on picnics in England (where I was born) to the country, and the highlight of my day was getting to see an old farm horse who would come to the fence in search of treats and a pet. I knew nothing then, only that my heart was so drawn to that horse that I carried him home with me in the car, everywhere I went from thereon, in my imagination, in my heart, in my soul.


We had television but in those days in the UK, television was limited to a few hours a day. I was able to watch Roy Rogers and could see the horses there. A horsedrawn wagon brought our milk to the door every other day, which was a real treat.milkwagon

In comparison with what young people experience today in terms of stimulation from video games, TV, school, etc. the world was relatively simple and a visit with a horse was enough to fuel my imagination for days on end. When we moved to the U.S. two years later, I begged my parents for riding lessons.

IMG_0546IMG_2063The riding lessons were helpful but changed my relationship to horses in a way. In my imagination, I had this amazing bond with them, and we would soar across fields together and I would sit with them for hours. They were imaginary companions to me when I wasn’t with real horses, much as I always had an imaginary dog. I still enjoyed my riding lessons, although they were fraught with instructions but nothing was said about how you are with a horse. How to be, what the horse might need from you. Sometimes still, I see this dullness set in. Yes, it’s necessary to learn where to put your feet, hands and develop a seat, but can we learn these things in a more holistic way? Connecting our bodies in with the experiences, connecting our bodies to the horse’s body?

Once I had an autistic boy as a client. We were doing some Ortho-Bionomy work, getting him to feel his body in the saddle, be completely in touch with all parts of himself. He had no connection down the right leg, so all his movement was on the other side and wrenched his torso. His arms made flying shapes in the air, as he was unable to keep them still, like many autistic children. With bodywork we were able to find sensation and connection in the right side of his body and feel the horse, his body draped comfortably around the horse. The horse changed too, shifted his weight under the boys’ slight weight, and they became very connected. The arms dropped quietly down to the reins and the mane.  Afterwards, I had the boy give the horse a bucket of oats from his lap.  The resulting smile on his face would have lit Times Square.


We talk about leadership all the time in horse work, because it is very important to the horse and ultimately to us. It’s pretty hard for a child to be a “leader” when they stand under 46 inches tall. Unless of course the child has a presence developed over time with a horse. Or learns about his or her own energy early on. While quietly instillingIMG_2885 this awareness, we also must instill the necessary caution about the size and potential danger of the horse.

But a caretaking horse will recognize the child does not have leadership yet. He is just learning it, he is being caretaken by the adults around him, and if he’s lucky, by loving horses. That type of horse will also recognize the child’s frailty and be careful.IMG_0996

I think this is why some horses prefer children to adults, if they have been mistreated by adults. Children are so small they can’t make the horse do things like adults can. There is a purity of spirit in a child that is often buried in adult people, or has vacated. We all have it once, and somehow through life experiences, it can become muted or in some cases, vanish.

As part of that purity of spirit, children come with wonder, joy, delight to the horse, and horses love that. They rise to it and become curious, tender and sweet to the child. Sometimes I see my horses stand protectively curved around a child. When my grandson is with them, they are excited to find out which one of them he will ride or do something else with. They all want him.

As adults, the time we spend being quiet with horses can reinstill that purity of spirit in us and calm the horse in our presence.

Ariana winning a ribbon with Khami!****

(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Positional Release/Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions (including Horse & Rider sessions),  tutorials, phone consultations, distance healing communication and gift certificates

Liberty Training: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing susansmith@orthohorse.info Winter Lessons – semi-private, private and small group sessions. Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

New on the schedule for 2014:

January 18, OrthoHorse Tutorial – Arrowhead Ranch, Santa Fe, Susan Smith, Advanced Registered Practitioner Ortho-Bionomy 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. FULL. 1:30-4:30 p.m. OPEN. Don’t miss this opportunity! Three slots available!

February OrthoHorse Tutorial (Times TBA)

February 28 OrthoHorse Tutorial, Sound Horse Systems, DeLand, Florida. (see flyer below)

March 1-2 Horses at Liberty Foundation Training Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida. Contact Anne Daimler, tdaimler@cfl.rr.com (386-822-4564) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited. OrthoHorse Tutorial also offered before the clinic: February 28 (see flyers below). An afternoon Tutorial may be offered by popular demand.

April 4 OrthoHorse Tutorial, Spirit Horse Ranch.

April 5-6 Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations Clinic, Jones Oklahoma, Presented by trainers Ruella Yates and Susan Smith. Contact Ruella Yates ruella@libertyfoundations.com, (405-771-4274) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited.

DeLand_Liberty_March_2014_3OrthoHorse Tutes


3 thoughts on “A child with horses

  1. Lovely blog about children and horses, with an excellent analysis of why this is often a magical thing. Your suggestion of sitting quietly with horses to bring this back to adults is wonderful.

  2. I hadn’t been riding in a long time more then a decade when I decided to buy my boy Riff Raff. We have been working with each other for the past 6 months. He is young and only recently backed so when getting on him bare back (I don’t have a saddle) he sometimes walk off or starts a slow trot before I have managed to get my balance, the result was I landed on the ground. It was only when I started to get my entire body to connected with his that I have managed to gain some stability. I spent time rubbing my legs up and own his body and lay down on his back, I do this all the time now and I can feel the balance and connection with his body and spirit. Since I have been doing this he has quieten down and I have not fallen off, in fact I feel like now that we have that connection I won’t be finding myself on the ground again. The connection in spirit and body has grown and our relationship goes beyond words.

    1. Wonderful story of your connection with your boy, Sarah-Jane. Quiet moments like you describe are so much bigger and important than they may seem, and as you say, the relationship goes beyond words. Always track your environment too, to make sure there is nothing presently that can startle him and pull him out of connection. Horses break connection often when they’re young, it’s not because they’re trying to be naughty, they just don’t have the attention-span, and also other things going on pull their attention away. Best of luck …you two are on a wonderful deep path together. Susan

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