Monday, December 22, 2014

Gilgamesh and Horsemanship

I wrote this post for another blog once, but I harbor a great fondness for it. Here it is again, in all it's strangeness. The Epic Of Gilgamesh is about a demi-god's adventures. This post is primarily about Gilgamesh at the beginning of the epic: he is arrogant, cruel, and out of control, but he considers himself to be quite civilised. The gods decide to teach him a lesson and create his "identical opposite" in Enkidu. Uncivilised but gentle and kind...

I’ve been reading Gilgamesh: A New English Version as suggested by The WellRead40, and finding a few thought-provoking things about riding.
First: Enkidu and Gilgamesh represent, in many ways, the different aspects of our relationship with the two halves of our mind, as well as the relationship between ourselves and the horse. Enkidu is initially wild, the animals aren’t afraid of him, and he is unaware of his own power. Gilgamesh sends a woman to civilize him.
Remind you of anyone’s relationship with their horse?
Enkidu loses the ability to connect with other animals and simultaneously finds himself longing a true friend – who else to fill that role than the gods-created twin Gilgamesh?
My hubris shows here, but I often think we create this longing in a horse (in this case: the sense of having a job, connecting to a more purposeful friend than the herdmates, being led, the intellectual and physical challenge of becoming an athlete) and then proceed to abandon them to their ‘horsey’ ways. The horse desires a true partnership, and then we turn them out for extended periods. Horses do love pasturemates and grass and being a horse; these aspects of horsemanship are fundamental. But it is difficult for the horse to constantly adjust to being brought into regular work, turned out for a ‘rest’, and then being challenged to recall all the elements of being trained.
Perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.
Second: KFH talks a great deal about when he meets a horse, he ‘allows them to fight.’ Showing their aggression to him allows for ‘knowing each other’. It’s something that I never understood to the extent that KFH allows it but has always made sense in the small aggressions of training. It rarely serves me to brace against the horse when he stiffens. I have to backtrack to discover the source of the fight.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, when Enkidu and Gilgamesh finally meet, they fight. They fight because Gilgamesh believes he owns everyone in the city. They fight because Gilgamesh takes too much.
“The battle is as silly as a schoolyard fight, yet there is something beautiful about its energy… This is not a fight to the death, it is a fight at the end of which each man will be able to say to his opponent, “Now I know you,” or even (as Jacob said to his angel), “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” It is an entrance into intimacy, and as close to lovemaking as to violence.”
This makes me think about watching KFH allow his horses to display their aggression towards him and how he responds; KFH is full of peace, kindness, and understanding. At the end, the horse knows that KFH wants what every horse truly desires: harmony.
Horses tend to fight back every time we take too much, much like Enkidu’s rebellion against Gilgamesh. But we should consider those small defiances as openings to the horse’s heart, as an entrance to intimacy.
What about you? Do you ever find text that make you venture more deeply into your thoughts about knowing horses?

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