mutual grooming2

It's mutual grooming madness back at the ranch! Every morning, as soon as they are turned out, Roya and Cyrus take many moments not to munch on the freshly growing grass, but to say a good morning "Hi" through a wonderfully peaceful mutual grooming ritual. I imagine that they are celebrating the finally warm weather and blanket-less mornings in the summer sunshine.

After many minutes of massage, they finally wander off to graze the long growing grass in their pasture. While I watch them absorbed in their blissful morning, I think of all the different ways we could follow suit and metaphorically partake in  mutual grooming through our own paths in life. Here are four ways we can mutual groom (without actually doing it)!

1. Pay It Forward

We often hear about paying it forward, and although it really is a cliche and maybe the fad of the day, the heart of the saying is valid enough to be included in our mutual grooming session. Because if, just for a moment, we could set aside our needs, desires and wills, and go ahead and do something nice/supportive/encouraging/helpful for someone, without thinking about how it should or could affect us, the world would simply be a better place.

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Next time you see an opportunity, do something kind for someone - not for any personal reward, but just because the moment arises and you can.

2. Helping In A Time of Need

We can't do everything all alone. Some things just need a friend (or two) to give us the boost we need.

Have you ever watched horses start their mutual grooming? One horse inches up a little at a time and takes a little fur-fluffing tooth-touch on the other horse's wither area. This is just the invitation - do you want to scratch my back if I scratch yours? Usually, the other horse enjoys the nibble so much that they start edging their body sideways up to the first. One nibble becomes two and soon enough, they're both going at it in a sort of rhythmical exchange. First one, then the other, back and forth. In the case of my two horses, this can go on for minutes on end. If one stops, the other starts up again!

Helping others is exactly the same process. First, you ask - are you willing to give me a hand? Hopefully, they reach out to you and give you the support you need. Then, you do the same for them when necessary. It's a win-win!

Collaboration is one of the most important social skills - not only for friendship but also for every avenue of life. Next time you notice someone needs help, don't walk away. Turn to her and offer a lending hand.

3. Including Others

In general, horses that mutual groom get along well with each other. They socialize with most members of the herd, but they tend to seek the special one out when back scratching is in order. In a sense, they get a feeling of belonging in their own mini-herd.

We all have a need to feel included, especially when it comes to people we like or admire. In our hectic rush here-there-work-home-can't-pause-for-a-moment-to-catch-your-breath... stopping for a few minutes to include someone in a conversation can go a long way to making meaningful and lasting human connections. If you notice someone off on her own, invite her to join your group. Involve her in your activities. You'll be glad you did!

4. Lend a Listening Ear

I can watch horses mutual groom all day. Besides the soothing rhythm of their ministrations, I can see the interaction that goes on within the grooming. First, one horse nibbles, then the other. It goes on like a tooth-filled dance - first him, then her, then him, then her. They take turns. They contribute.

When your friend needs to say something, just stop. Look her in the eyes and give her your attention. Even just being there to lend a listening ear might make a huge difference in someone's life. If you can reach beyond listening and respond to her concerns, you can help her problem-solve through a troubled time, or give her some insight she might not have ever thought of.

When you think about it, mutual grooming can be interpreted as a significant act of generosity. If we would just take some notes from the Book of Equine, surely we could each make positive, lasting impact on other people's lives.

What does mutual grooming represent to you? Write your comment below.

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  1. Great post – I’ve been reading alot recently of the benefits of grooming as a way of bonding with your horse, it’s good to think about this as real quality time with your horse, and that it helps your riding as the bond between horse and humans grows stronger.