The Pathos of the Olympics: Could We Become a Global Herd?

I write a lot about how much we can learn from horses, from their pervasive capacity for forgiveness, their value of honest partnership, and their respect for empathy. So how do horses relate to the Olympics? I mean besides the equestrian events. I’ll say a word about that later in the blog. But, to the point, the Olympics are about communion, about a global herd. I’m sure horses would ask: “Why do you humans only demonstrate how well you can come together every four years? As horses, we constantly celebrate being together. We are always a herd and we rejoice in our togetherness every day we’re alive.” Horses remind us to honor the Olympic principles of spirit, truth, and heroism far more frequently than every four years.

Spirit. I look at the Olympics and say: Why can’t we have the “Olympic spirit” across the planet on a daily basis? We seem to be able to summon a global, resolute will to assemble and celebrate the best each country has to offer on a quadrennial schedule. We can unite to applaud the finest and brightest. We can rejoice in the pursuit of “games.” The Olympics bring to mind the seven “games” of Pat Parelli. Watching the intense focus of the athletes in London makes me think of Clinton Anderson who advocates engaging our horses’ “thinking side of their brains rather than the reactive side.” The Olympics’ peaceful intent harkens back to the exhortations of Monty Roberts who’s dedicated his life to bringing an end to violence in our horse training. And the athletes’ incredible dedication, discipline, and training make me think of the late Ray Hunt who emphasized that when we work on horses, we are really working on ourselves. Isn’t this what the Olympics are about? Isn’t it about the relationships that emerge when we strive to be the best we can be?

Truth. There’s honesty to the Olympic games. We know who wins and who loses. There is no amount of spin, double-speak, or corruption that can contaminate these moments of pure athletic competition. Gross domestic products, political platforms, the Euro Zone, and Wall Street shenanigans seem, at worst, irrelevant, and, at best, annoying. It’s the same honesty we see in horses. No ability to deceive. No intention of betrayal.

Heroism. Horses pour their heart into it. Whether it is running the Kentucky Derby, three-day eventing, or a reining competition, horses bring their game. We see their effort, their genuine, earnest striving, and all of this at the urging of their rider. There are few compliments that mean more than to say someone’s horse has great heart. And it is the same for an athlete. Who was not moved by South African runner Oscar Pistorius—the “Blade Runner”–the double amputee who fought so hard for the right to run on his carbon fiber blades against the able-bodied athletes of the world on the Olympic stage? Who was not inspired by the great Japanese equestrian, Hiroshi Hoketsu, at age seventy-one, competing in dressage on his horse Whisper? His appearance in the 2012 London Olympic games is even more remarkable because it came forty-eight years after he first appeared in the 1964 Tokyo games! Hoketsu left Olympic competition, earned a degree in Economics from Duke University, and went on to a full career in the business world. But he still awoke every morning at 5AM to get his riding practice in before he went to the office. It makes me ashamed of every time I tell myself I don’t have time for a ride. And after Hoketsu retired from business? He went right back to preparing himself for the Olympics. So what do you have in mind when you retire?

As the Olympic games draw to a conclusion, we are reminded how much we look forward to the torch being re-ignited four years from now in Rio de Janeiro. Horses ask us: Why wait so long? Horses can inspire us to be Olympians every day. The torch does not have be refurbished and carried to a new location. It could be an eternal flame.

Photo Credits:
Olympic Rings:
photo credit: iwillbehomesoon via photo pin cc
photo credit: Saparevo via photo pin cc
Oscar Pistorius:
photo credit: Will Clayton via photo pin cc
Olympic Torch:
photo credit: green-dinosaur via photo pin cc

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