We’re having some glorious end-of-summer weather here in Switzerland. Yesterday, a friend and I rode down to the river, and our horses enjoyed splashing around in the water.
I would argue that riding can also be a reflective ecological method, although it does require a bit more active focus than does relaxedly strolling along. But it also changes your perspective. You’re higher up, for one thing – closer to the tree branches and farther from the ground-dwelling insects (which are usually what capture my attention). For another, you are an intimate part of another creature’s experience. You realize that literally every plant has a risk of herbivory. You appreciate how deeply ingrained the flight instinct is in prey animals. Your attention is drawn to sounds before you have actually heard them.
Anyone who interacts with horses know that they are intelligent, opinionated, and communicative, and here is some supporting evidence. A research team in Norway taught a group of horses to use a set of wooden boards with different symbols to ask to have their winter blankets put on or taken off. All the horses learned what the symbols meant and applied what they had learned in order to be comfortable in different weather conditions.
(I’ll let you know how that goes with my horse!)