June, one of the reader's of the Journal of Ravenseyrie, has been immersing herself in learning a new way of interacting with horses. Like many of us, June has found herself marvelously impacted by the work of Imke Spilker as presented in her book EMPOWERED HORSES. The teachings of Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling are also providing June with much to think about and prompting her to explore different means of "coming together" with her own horses.
In a few recent comments to other Journal of Ravenseyrie entries, June has recognized that the concept of "dominance" in the horse/human relationship brings up some differences between the way Imke Spilker relates with horses and the way Mr. Hempfling does.
Within Imke Spilker's work, the notion of dominance is not addressed in the manner which it is in Mr. Hempfling's work perhaps because Imke Spilker's approach is not based on domination but on shared leadership. In Imke's world there is no fixed individual in control, rather horse and human cede control back and forth to suit the quality of the moment.
We will stop when our horse says: "No!" We will let it all go, try another way, or do something else. We will not force our horse to do it our way. Rather, we will find the path our horse wants to travel and walk it with him. We ask him for his permission, we discuss things, and above all we listen. "Okay, Toppur. Pardon me. I did not mean it like that." We reflect on the matter once more--pause--and then I make a renewed attempt. Now Toppur does what I request!
In this aspect it may be that Ms. Spilker's interactions with horses favor feminine qualities as a means of motivating a horse to become master of himself on the road to self-actualization. The role of the human is built on deference to the horse, and it becomes the job of the human to identify what motivates the horse and initiate ways which assist the horse in developing his own awareness of his inherent potential. Horse and human work as a team, as friends on a common goal, a goal that the horse comes to choose for himself and we join them as a supportive mentor, offering suggestions, ideas and creative advice rather than demands, corrections and punishments. In Imke Spilker's work the cultivation of non-linear perception also leads to identifying, nurturing and trusting our instincts and intuitive powers which then makes it possible to completely harmonize with our horses in a mutual understanding that transcends our apparent species differentia.
Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling's work is extraordinary, beautiful and inspiring and I find little about it that makes me uncomfortable. My feeling is that Mr. Hempfling's work is much more influenced by masculine traits. In his book, What Horses Reveal, Mr. Hempfling relays how strongly he identifies with his forefathers "the Celts, the Vikings, the Teutons, the Goths and the Cimbrians", so it does not surprise me the emphasis he places on the concept of dominance in his work, but he isn't dominating via violent force as was the way of his forefathers. The way Mr. Hempfling goes about demonstrating his dominance over his horse is more a reflection of his own domination of his inner self (so that he isn't acting out of fear, anger, or a desire to be powerful himself) demonstrating to the horse that he is a competent leader--he just confidently and deftly uses his intent and body language to stimulate the horse to move. (This is much like Carolyn Resnick's third "ritual" Taking Territory) Mr. Hempfling also feels horses and humans are part of an ongoing mythological process of learning to control our darker sides, and it is in this juxtaposition that he looks upon horse/human interactions. My impression is that his means of training are flexible but yet exist more in a linear, human directed path which is much more serious, keenly structured, less play oriented and maybe a little limiting by the devotion to patriarchal notions of chivalry.
Both Imke Spilker and Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling discuss the importance of recognizing we humans are a part of nature, just as the horses are, and we need to be inwardly and outwardly authentic in our beingness...they each do this differently based on the way they view their heritage as humans.
It's no secret that of the two influences, I feel a greater kinship with Imke than with Klaus, mostly because of the things she says about egalitarianism between horse and human, shared leadership and the "inner language" that we can become part of. These are things that I have been pursuing with my horses and I've felt immense gratification with the way they respond. I also recognize that the very notion of sharing leadership boggles the minds of those still bound by the dynamics of traditional horsemanship.
For some reason, it seems many people are under the impression that to indulge a horse's preferences sometimes over our own, means that we have forfeited our own right to say "no" and our own right to experience "respect" which automatically leads to the horse taking over, running us over and abusing our good nature in a thousand bullish ways. Here we have a topic to discuss in a future journal entry, with personal examples to share.
Thank you June for providing questions that provoked me to briefly compare Klaus Ferdinand Hempling's work with Imke Spilker's on the subject of dominance. Overall, I don't think the two are necessarily far apart on things. I will quote a segment of Hempfling's book What Horses Reveal to illustrate:
Does the horse walk behind me or do I walk ahead of the horse?
This is the simple question. What would you make of the following very unusual thought. What if I do not bring the horse onto my path and lead him, but, rather, I simply put myself on the horse's path and walk two metres ahead of him? Am I leading the horse? Or, am I simply walking his path a few steps in front of him?
Again and again during my encounters with unfamiliar horses, I let them follow my hand as though they are being hypnotized. The pictures show that. But what if, in fact, I am actually following the head of the horse, only I am a second in advance of the horse's movement? That seems totally absurd, but that is, in a specific, exaggerated way, exactly what happens. I put myself in a world at one with the horses, as the shepherd is at one with the sheep. In my case there is a comparable interplay: leading and being led blend into a shared experience. I lead the horse, the horse leads me, and we are both led in that place and time. Only in that way can what seems to be impossible occur. We are simply on a shared path. We each reveal ourselves. --Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling