Ruth Levy So, Natural Equestrian
An article by Mair Mackinnon about her experience visiting Ruth Levy So of Natural Equestrian, originally for the online magazine http://www.seagerworld.com/#/natural-equestrian/4562958108
Today I’m enjoying a day out on Dartmoor and chatting with Ruth Levy-So, the founder of the pioneering, Natural Equestrian, based near Buckfastleigh, South Devon. Natural Equestrian champions horsemanship which is free from force and coercion, adopting instead, methods heavily based on Native American principles, such as healing, wholeness, empathy and enhanced communication. Along with these, Ruth has also added her own concepts based on Buddhist philosophies of compassion and interconnectedness.
Ruth herself has a background in healing, yoga and natural medicine but combines this knowledge with a BHS Ride Leader’s instructor certificate and a Diploma in Applied Equine Podiatry. Her love of horses has taken her on many an educational and equestrian adventure - as well as studying with Iyuptala University on their Equine Studies Programme, she has also worked with horse trainers from around the world including GaWaNi Pony Boy, the renowned Cherokee horseman and educator. In addtion, Ruth has studied Centered Riding in Idaho, ridden from Tucson to Mexico and explored the Sierra Nevada in Spain on horseback. Nowadays she is often to be seen riding across the beautiful expanse of Dartmoor on her Argentine Criollo Salvador.
Since starting Natural Equestrian in 2008, Ruth has dedicated her time to teaching this ‘Art of Natural Equestrianism’ and is passionate about educating horse owners and enabling them to communicate with their horses in a more sensitive, healing and ultimately rewarding way.
As I draw up to her farm, the Dartmoor backdrop spreads out before me in all its magnificent glory. I park up and spot Ruth in the meadow, happily 'poo-picking' and humming along to her ipod, watched lovingly by six pairs of contented equine eyes. I'm spotted and a little horsey welcome-party trots over to greet me. Ruth is quick to introduce each member of the herd in turn whereupon I’m either bid good morning with a warm grassy nuzzle or eyed with majestic distain and ignored for the next grassy munch. I'm left in no doubt as to my lowly place in the herd! I learn of each member’s life story and as I look into their contented eyes, I can’t help but feel how fortunate they all are to have landed up in this idyllic setting with a woman who so innately understands and cares for them.
As Ruth and I chat over tea, it becomes clear that this inspirational woman is on a real mission - notably, to remove the current, militaristic model of horsemanship and to replace it with one based on mutual respect and communication. Ruth explains, ‘It is never necessary or correct to use force or power over the horse in order to impose our will on it. Horses have feelings, they are not robots to be used in the service of man, but intelligent, sentient beings who make decisions based on what they feel will be to their advantage ie. surviving! My training style is founded on building the horses’ confidence and self esteem and I will NEVER use force - I don’t have to. I teach safety and sensitive handling techniques so that the horse entrusts its owner for its care and safety - but it’s a mutual relationship based on a sensitive, two-way level of communication which benefits the rider as much as it does the horse. When a horse respects you and doesn’t fear you, it is tremendously rewarding.’
It is clear that Ruth feels it is time for a paradigm shift in our treatment of our equine friends, a shift that will end our need for dominance and liberate these wise creatures from our illusion of supremacy.
Ruth continues, “It is such a misconception to believe that the more control we use over a horse (bits, martingales, spurs, whips etc.) the more controllable he will be! When you have a relationship with your horse based on mutual trust and communication it means that your need for control is less because, paradoxically, he will be more controllable simply because he trusts you.
The conversation moves on, “With horses, I believe it is always about healing - it is your DUTY to heal your horse. You have taken away his freedom so surely it is your obligation to improve his life, increase his sense of well being and build his self esteem. At the moment, it is as if we are at war with our horses and use riding aids as if they were weapons. We aren’t allowed to whip or kick our children or our dogs, so I don’t understand why we think we have the right to do it to our horses?”
Ruth continues, “It is fundamental for owners to learn to see or feel when their horse is happy or unhappy, to understand his sadness or depression and to have compassion and respect for him as the magical sensitive creature he is - I believe owners need to show gratitude to their horse for all that he gives to them.”
Ruth is also passionate about the misuse of bits. “It is just an explosive situation based on a pain response - it is daily suffering for our horses which is simply not necessary”. Ruth continues, “We have so much to learn from our horses - the horse trainer, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, says that horses are the masters of “BEING” whereas humans have become the masters of “DOING” - I guess that's why there is a culture clash! In my lengthy experience, gentleness and respect (tempered with common sense) always pay dividends - and remember, it is NEVER the horses fault. He either didn’t understand or we asked it wrong.
Ruth’s recommendations in perfecting the 'Art of Natural Equestrianism' are:-
1. Always adhere to the principles of natural healing. Give time to heal and avoid toxic chemicals and too many pharmaceuticals.
2. Never use force, cruelty or dominance.
3. Be tender, treat your horse as you would a young child and give him the benefit of the doubt. At the same time don’t identify him with human values. A horse is not naughty, doesn’t relate to the concept of respect and is very good at hiding pain. (As are all flight, herd animals)
4. Remember, horses always mirror the energy of the people around them - look at your horse and you will be looking at a mirror of yourself. A horse is a powerful healing soul, and in many instances, by addressing your horse’s issues you will also be addressing you own and vice-versa.
5. Horses are generally healthy when kept correctly. Poor management is usually the cause of a horse’s health problems - learn to communicate with your horse, create a trusting friendship based on mutual respect and educate yourself in natural equine healthcare.
TO CONTACT RUTH OR TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HER WORKSHOPS GO TO HER WEBSITE
Article originally published on http://www.seagerworld.com/#/natural-equestrian/4562958108
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