Throughout my life I have seen much conflict between humans and non-humans. My father believes that objects are sentient and actively out to get him, leaping off the table to inflict injury and inspire terror; but that’s a skeleton best left in the back of the family closet under old tennis rackets. Most of my experience has come from the horse world, or rather, my lack of fitting in with the horse world.
For more than 15 years I rode, groomed and trained horses, all the while loving them and hating the work. Dare I say it, I hated myself. The only thing gaining ground was my frustration. Then one day I discovered a room full of people who said the very same things that I had always thought; said them out loud, no less! I had met only with ridicule about my [incessant] questions, my [naive] “pandering to the horse”, my [laughable] desire to do it a different way, my [misguided] unwavering belief that there had to be a better way.
These people, in this room, had gathered to listen to a man speak about his Natural Horsemanship work. Needless to say, my life was about to flip right upside-down.
On that day I gained the tools to explore a true relationship with animals, and from that glimpse a vision of what they have to teach us. Buoyed by this wave of validation, I set forth. I failed. And failed, then failed again. The animals taught me that failure was acceptable, so, with their forgiveness and patience, I tried again and soon began to succeed on occasion. (Horses are very wise and make sure I’m not at risk from a big ego by making sure I succeed only very occasionally.) I have since then ridden a horse in nothing more than a hula hoop (the horse, not me!) It was through discovering and setting my own personal boundaries and respecting theirs that I found the key to horse training and to myself.
Then one day my path led to elephants. It is a world centering around an animal that very few take the time to understand. Elephants are a wild breed, not domesticated like horses and dogs, so we say “captive” instead of “domesticated”. There are many misconceptions held about wild and captive elephants by their modern-day owners and visitors from foreign lands. Human/elephant conflict – the biggest threat to elephants in our time – is the buzz word around the watering hole.
I have seen first hand that things don’t have to be the way the majority are doing them, and that just because someone has been doing something longer than me, doesn’t necessarily mean they are better at it than me. I can learn invaluable lessons from veterans in the field, but it is a fool who doesn’t seek to learn from me. These lessons helped me to maintain my integrity throughout a colourful life in the horse world.
The question of elephant conservation has gripped me, lighting a fire under me, causing my long nurtured vision of a better way for humans and non-human animals existing together to unleash. Taking these lessons and my experience with human/non-human conflict throughout my life I am ready to make my vision a reality. I have a plan. A dream. It involves you. Please join me on this journey and together we can change the course of one life at a time, making the world a better place for all.