I have the amazing privilege every day of being involved in helping horses and humans in need work together to find peace. Being involved in their parallel process is like having a front row seat in the arena of life and allows me to see transformation occur in some very unique ways. Peace means different things to different people:
- Like a 10 year old client who claims that being with the horses has “changed his life” because (he says) “now I have a happy place.”
- OR a Vietnam Veteran who after 40 years says that he “finally feels safe” and can sleep at night
It’s interesting how horses find Peace. Horses are prey animals, more like a deer -than a cow, dog or cat. They live in herds which are like equine families and since their survival depends on their connection anything that seeks to separate them is considered an enemy.
Each herd has an order which begins with the leader and numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and right down the line. Once a horse finds its place, it finds peace. An interesting thing about horses is that the number 7 horse is never scheming how to become number 5 nor the number 4 planning for that time when he will climb the herd ladder to number 1. For a horse, knowing its place equals safety and comfort.
The herd leader models healthy herd interaction and all in the herd are trained by it. A benevolent leader’s focus is maintaining the herd and this leadership is characterized by balanced strength & compassion which fosters a mutual respect resulting in a peaceful herd. In the wild, herd leaders come to their place organically but in domestication sometimes horses come into power that don’t really know what to do with it creating insecure leadership. The insecure leader’s focus is maintaining his position and this leadership is characterized by the constant enforcing of authority through force which fosters distrust resulting in a nervous herd.
We humans are like horses in ways. We need to belong to feel safe and find comfort. Our survival is dependent on being connected and we need benevolent leadership, but good leaders are hard to find and distrust runs rampant in the herd of humanity.
Carl von Clausewitz, a famous military therorist said “In war, the result is never final.
Psalm 34: 14 Seek Peace and pursue it—How do we seek PEACE?
Some of you may remember the tragic event that occurred on August 25th,2014 when firearms instructor Charlie Vacca died in an accident at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona.. The shooting instructor was working with a family at the gun range when he was shot in the head by a nine-year-old girl firing an Uzi.
On September 14th, Vacca’s children –in a wonderful example of an effort to Seek PEACE and Pursue it–shared a very emotional statement written to the 9 year-old girl who accidently shot their dad.
They said: We don’t know your name, but we are connected by this tragedy. In the news we are just called “the family,” “the 9-year-old girl,” “the Instructor,” but we do have names. Our names are Ashley, Elizabeth, Tyler, and Christopher. We are Charlie Vacca’s kids. We wanted you to know something about him.
Our dad wasn’t just an instructor. He was funny, strong, a protector, a hero and our friend. He was a good man.
You’re only 9 years old. We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you. And we wish you peace. Our dad would want the same thing.
Like you, we are living through this tragic event that we cannot shut off. It’s with us all the time.
Our dad would want you to know that you should move forward with your life. You should not let this define you. You should love yourself and love your family.
Some day we hope we can meet you, hug you, and tell you that it’s okay.”
In reading their statement the parallel process of healthy herd dynamics jumped out at me. I found it amazing the way these kids recognized and clearly identified the danger and defended themselves and others using the weapons of peace they acquired in their human herd. Take a look.
First: They said We Do Have Names-We’re Charlie Vacca’s kids –In this statement the children claimed their herd (their family and greater connection to humanity) and their leader (their father). By claiming this for themselves, their father and the 9 year olds girl and their own s identity and connection to humanity, they took an active stance against the enemy of dehumanization.
Why is this important? Faceless nameless people are easy to hate. Hate the Germans, hate the Gooks, Hate the Kikes and Hate the spooks—Dehumanization is the enemy and destroyer of peace for every nation and community. Names make it personal, Names connect us with our herd, Names tell where we came from, who we are and who belong to.
Second: We are connected by this tragedy AND Like you, we are living through this tragic event that we cannot shut off. It’s with us all the time. In this statement, the children stand against allowing the circumstance to separate them from the humanity that connects them with the girl and her pain realizing that all of their survival depends on this. Division seeks to separate us through painful events or circumstances with the lure that separation will give us relief but the truth is, No matter the conflict— both sides endure Hurt, pain, despair and sometimes death.—NO ONE ESCAPES the TRAGEDY. War may not be final but the weapons of PEACE–forgiveness and reconciliation are powerful bridges to connect the sides of the even deepest chasm.
Finally: Our dad would want you to know that you should move forward with your life. You should not let this define you. You should love yourself and love your family. Charlie Vacca modeled healthy herd interaction for his kids and they were trained by it. His leadership, characterized by balanced strength & compassion fostered a mutual respect in his children such that even in his death they have the tools they need to survive. We need good leaders. We need men and woman in families, schools, and communities all over the world whose main focus is the care of humanity rather than the power of their position.
In the pursuit of peace, we must know who we are, and how we are connected and remember that our survival depends on that connection. We are part of humanity and our value and purpose are declared by God. Dehumanization and Division are our enemies and truth, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation are powerful weapons in the fight for PEACE. Our leader’s values are affecting us. Their battles begin in their hearts and minds, and chaos and disorder are the result of jealousy and selfish ambition. Each one of us is called to lead, in one way or another —Let us commit to building a culture of PEACE through example. Consider the words written by Harry Conick Jr.,
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother. in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me; Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take, Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment, and live each moment, with peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Peace— an active pursuit for horse and human alike. May we find it together.