So, why the selfie photo of myself and these 2 lovelies?
I want to talk about companionship, and just being with horses. Yup, hanging with them as just another member of the herd.
What on earth does this have to do with any kind of training with my horse? A lot.
To be honest, I’m fighting a nasty bout of bronchitis leaving me with not much of a voice to record any video of myself and my horse practicing companionship exercises, so when I came across this one I felt it applicable. This selfie was taken after my 3rd attempt at a guided meditation last spring, For me it depicts a very special occurrence and turning point in our relationship. I don’t know what you see here, but it was an amazing experience for me as I turned to see the boys dozing so closely to each other and to my back. Every time I look at this picture I am immediately transported back to the moment before I took it. The sublime feeling of warm rhythmic breath at my back, each of us breathing in time with the other in deep solidarity. Warm and fuzzy isn’t even close to what I was feeling, but it will have to do for now as a description.
That peaceful easy feeling as the song goes.
Indulge me as I tell you how I got there and what came of it.
All those years of learning training methods and techniques was wearing me out. No one system was the perfect fit for me, and I was feeling like something was truly missing. My cup runneth over with information and years of experience. But as a professional I no longer cared care to offer what I had gathered over the years for strategy’s to sort out the many common problems that people asked me for help with. Most of them seemed to create more problems or shut down horses who became just compliant, without much interest in sticking around or interacting.
I had decided quite firmly to start exploring a deeper connection with my horses. No more just telling them what to do all the time and struggling with some of my inner feelings of “unfairness” and lack of clarity toward my horses when pressure or “corrections” were applied. Around that same time meditation was suggested to me after the sudden loss of a friend as a way to help with the grief. I happened across a Facebook link to an equine centric guided meditation. Great way to start right? Use a topic near and dear to me. Two birds, one stone, and all that. Being still was not my strong suit. But hanging out with horses, THIS I can get behind. I was thrilled to discover that my two horses were game and sought me out during the guided meditations, cementing my resolve to delve deeper. Come dive with me.
Stillness and Companionship.
Horses as most of us know, live in the moment. Most of the time is spent just being with each other as a herd. Grazing along side or near trusted companions within the herd dynamic. Perhaps napping or standing watch over others as they doze. Spending time just “being” with your horse in undemanding time is a rich and powerful way to lay a foundation of acceptance and trust. Do it. You won’t be sorry.
Stillness is just that. Quiet, calm, grounded and peaceful. Be still, be aware, but have no thoughts or judgements about what you see. This can be done inside the paddock or just outside. I’ve spent time just sitting along side the paddock of a very concerned horse on high alert with great results. For that particular horse I felt it may be too much to have me inside a relatively small enclosed area where she might feel trapped and guarded. Sitting in a comfortable chair just listening to the sounds all around us, no particular thoughts other than how nice a day it was and how the light breeze felt nice on my face. No agenda, not waiting with anticipation to see if she could come over… I just sat feeling groovy. Did she come closer? You bet. It wasn’t very close, the first time, but she regarded me with less scepticism each session and more trust with the daily handling going forward.It wasnt long before we could comfortably share space in companionship.
Companionship is good right? We can all get behind that. Ask yourself what you bring to the herd as a companion? Inside your horse herd, do you represent a calm and grounded presence with no need to interact? Try it. Ground yourself, clear your mind of expectations and desires then step into the paddock. Hang with the herd, move along with them as they graze, perhaps sit nearby and just enjoy the company. I personally love to just hear the sounds they make while chewing the grass or hay, and the serene feeling of a content herd doing what they do naturally. It’s a bonus to know it’s also money in the bank when training time comes along! The only “rule” here is for you not to initiate contact. If your horse initiates a bit of mutual grooming go ahead and join in, remembering the rules of the road and disengage for anything not gentle and thoughtful in your personal space.
Back to my selfie moment, for a moment. When I first started the exercise it felt awkward. Each session got easier and more comfortable. As I followed the guided meditations each morning, my two geldings would align themselves at my “flanks’ each time. Each would take the same position in the same spot they had previously. It was an amazing thing to breathe along with them and let my mind float into a peaceful state. They seemed to enjoy it as well. Without my initiating it, coming over and just taking up their post each time, showing me what real stillness is. Turns out it can be contagious, that feeling of quiet peacefulness. How cool is that?.
After that experience I felt the need to explore as much as I could about what it is and how to develop it. So now I’m on a quest, studying, practicing, and sharing it with you.
More on herd dynamics in my next post.
‘Till then, just breathe……and hang out with the herd.