AMBER: Hi Fiona. I’ve been pondering a question about aliveness, domination, and domestication: gelding and spaying horses. I must confess, part of me doesn’t want to know the answer out of my human system of ethical beliefs, but I recognize there is an element of anthropomorphizing to automatically assume anything about this topic. Would you enlighten us about the equine perspective?
FIONA: Good. I’ve been waiting for you to ask this question. I know it’s been on your mind. You are right to ask it, for it is a foundation of the equestrian world. More so for male horses than mares, of course.
There is a larger question at play here that is more important than just the castration piece: why do humans feel the need to shut down the aliveness and spirit of another animal? The answer is simply because most of the aliveness and spirit of most people has been shut down.
Many riders prefer a gelding because limiting the flow of testosterone weakens the desire to answer the call of soul within. It is more comfortable for many people to be around those with a reduced flow of soul/higher energy when theirs is similarly dampened. A truly alive horse, like an intact male or a mare in her natural state of wellbeing and fullness, sheds light on the places where humans have shut down, causing great discomfort and distress. It can be almost unbearably painful for a person to be around this life force and its calling, and the reason has to do with our long time conversations about slumber. No one wishes to be called back awake when they have shut down, because there are painful elements that created the condition in the first place. It hurts to be reawakened to the parts of us in pain that we normally numb out.
So have compassion for your fellow humans, for those who know only their current state of being, and put your mind at ease: castrating horses is rarely a dominance issue for most humans, and more of a withdrawal from the soul/god-force that calls them home to themselves. Animals offer an opportunity to draw closer to this spiritual, True Self, and that is why you all take the equine journeys that you do. It is part of your evolution and spiritual growth to gravitate toward this, and elements of resistance like gelding horses are part of your navigation of this spiritual journey. We horses understand this and are not offended on a spiritual level that people choose such practices as part of their process. That is how you are meant to be, and how many of us are meant to be with you. The journey is all that matters.
As far as our reactions to gelding and spaying, some horses have very strong reproductive desires and tendencies, so there can be feelings of unmet needs when we are not allowed to produce a foal. This manifests more in mares, though many have no desire for reproduction other than biology. However, on the whole, most horses do not mind the castration event other than the immediate discomfort of the physical act. It’s not a loaded issue for us as it is for you, because we do not have sexual intimacy as you do. You tie your identities to your gender and sexuality. For us, it is just a state of being, in flux, and more biological than personal. In many cases, we do not see this procedure as anything other than a human peculiarity. Sometimes we know gelding or spaying is an attempt to help us when our biology is creating distress, and we can even see it as a service in that case.
However, not all horses feel peacefully about this subject, but this reaction is not because of the genital component as some people might believe. Some horses are affronted by the purposeful dampening of their aliveness and spirit, especially when it is done as a means of control. Mostly this is not the primary reason for gelding, but when it is – such as a fractious race horse or a fiery competitor – we feel frustrated, angry, and outraged for the loss of connection to our aliveness and soul that was blossoming forth in our character. It is a terrible tragedy for these particular horses to feel that anguished loss of spiritual connection and deep purpose. Such animals are likely to shut down significantly after this event, and will likely accumulate bodily issues as a result of their perceived disconnection. However, it is not the castration itself that causes the disconnection, it is the disempowerment the horse feels for maintaining his or her own aliveness.
AMBER: That suggests then that gelding or spaying can be done without dampening this spirit and aliveness.
FIONA: Yes, absolutely. And some – most – horses would prefer gelding or hormonal control such that they can focus on their work and connection with people rather than feel controlled by their biology. It is similar to the way some of you would prefer a spiritual or vocational pursuit rather than raising a family, except that for horses there is not usually the option to do both. Gifted spiritual master horses can be intact breeding animals as well as human companions and partners. While there are a significant number of these master teachers on the planet, most horses would find challenge in both pursuits as the influence of hormones and biology is strong. Indeed, because there is no natural outlet for these biological features, like resource competition, defense of a herd, or natural conception, such powerful biological drives can cause undue stress and the prospect of castration is simply one of relief.
When castration is performed in honor of the nature of the horse – rather than as an act of suppressing it – with joyous celebration for the character of the individual, it can actually increase the spiritual presence of the animal.
However, finding horses who have been castrated with this intent may be difficult. Most geldings are somewhat diminished from their fullest selves – though as mentioned, that may not be from the act of gelding. Because castration creates a quieter animal with less forceful instinctual responses, geldings are easier to dominate through force than their intact counterparts. This domination from handling and training, and not the surgery, is the true cause of most of the dampening of the equine spirit.
AMBER: That makes perfect sense. Most geldings I encounter really don’t seem to have a chip on their shoulder about being a gelding, and seem to be quite at peace with it. I suppose it’s very human to assume that all creatures are as sensitive about their sexual organs as we are.
FIONA: Yes, but it is understandable. Your intimacy center is tied to your sexuality, so you see such acts as a tremendous violation of personhood. We see castration similarly to removing a toe or piercing an ear or receiving a brand. The actual act may not be comfortable, but it is just flesh.
AMBER: You talked about the dampening of spirit earlier, and how it’s difficult for most people to be around any being with greater aliveness than themselves. I’ve always noted the preference for geldings in most equestrian sport as part of that trend as well as an insecurity issue because it’s much harder to muscle a mare or stallion into performance. Full disclosure: I used to avoid mares like the plague because I was brainwashed by the garbage that they were unpredictable, moody, bitchy, and difficult to manage. I’ve come full circle now and consider myself a mare person because I value the aliveness and spirit of the horse and find it essential for meaningful connection and partnership. You touched on this briefly, but can you speak more about this subject?
FIONA: With pleasure. I’m glad that you’re a mare person now. It makes it much more joyous to work together when you see my assertions of preference as engaged partnership and not bad behavior. And that’s really the heart of it, isn’t it? Most people enter into the world of horses because they seek that deep, meaningful connection, and yet they are conditioned or pick animals which are unable to make that connection with them because they have shut down. Often those who most crave that connection are those who are affronted by the signs of that spirit, preferring horses who simply do what is told, because that is the spiritual cage they have lived in their whole lives.
It is very sad for us to watch you sometimes, for you hold yourselves out of your own aliveness and force yourself to work as slaves. Then you turn to horses in search of freedom, and turn them into slaves because you don’t like that true freedom means saying no sometimes. We understand this because we reflect what YOUR spirit is really saying: no, I’m not willing to be dominated and abused by my environment.
So many of you seek geldings who, dampened in spirit, will tolerate being managed and handled for every step in their lives, because that is how so many of you feel on the inside. You have had to dampen the part of you that would rebel, and it causes you great pain – almost inconsolable suffering – when others show you a different choice, because that would mean your suffering and suppression of self is also unnecessary. You become brittle when this happens, reacting with fierce and unstoppable fury to another who would dare buck the current and step out of line, because it hurts you to realize you might do the same in your own life. Geldings do not offer so much fuss, and therefore give you the pastoral image of quiet obedience that you believe will lead you to prosperity and happiness. Of course, then you plod along for a few years in quiet obedience and realize that something is missing from your horse life: that deep, meaningful soul-connection. Because that is what is missing from your lives, as well. You are all ‘geldings’ in this way.
Rest assured, there will be plenty of horses to keep kicking up their heels and show you what true freedom and spiritual connection really is, but you must embrace the departure from the constrains of your pre-formulated ideals in order to embrace it. We LOVE to be along for this journey, and make no mistake, it can be quite a bumpy ride for all involved.
AMBER: You say that with some glee. There were moments in our partnership that were not fun for either of us!
FIONA: Yes, and look where we are today. One soul. One heartbeat. Two beings. Unity.
AMBER: Do you have some advice for those who are open to working with horses who are more alive or intact in spirit?
FIONA: Yes. Throw out everything you think you know and let that horse show you who he or she truly is. Remember that s/he is more connected to his/her soul than you at this point, and allow that to guide you back to yours. These horses will show up in your life if you ask for them, but you must be willing to face the journey that comes with this type of partnership. You will be stretched, pulled, and opened in ways you never thought possible. You will be challenged, confronted, and exposed for the areas of yourself that you do not wish to see. You will be called forth more and more to the soul within you, which means less and less from the traditional confines of the life around you.
It is breathtakingly beautiful to undertake this journey. It is what most of you seek when you come to live on planet Earth, and why you wish to partner with horses. It is THE spiritual journey. Embrace it and you will find the meaning you desire. Deny it and you will fall further into despair. That is why we are here for you, my dear ones, because we horses wish this connection to be shared with you, and it brings us tremendous joy to share the adventure and the love of such union.
We will always be here, holding this available to you, for when you are ready to begin.
With much love,
Have you ever wanted to ask a horse how they feel about a particular subject? Now’s your chance! Hear about horse-keeping and equestrian subjects straight from the horse’s mouth. These segments are conducted interview-style between Amber and equine guru extraordinaire Fiona, or a guest horse. Have a question or a topic you’d like to know about? Leave a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with #askahorse.