Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Power of an Open Heart


Yesterday I watched the most amazing connection. Celia, a 7 year old came for her fist lesson. She was excited and totally unafraid. She had to patiently wait while her friend had her lesson, but she played happily and freely on her own. They had made friends with the horses feeding them blades of tender grass as children do, and the horses were very happy to see them.

Celia wanted to work with Black Elk, I like to trust a person's intuition, and although I don't normally pair my 1400 lb horse up with a 60 lb 7 year old, that's what I did. He was out on pasture. I always talk to the kids, just like an adult, no talking down. We discussed how to greet a horse and what makes a horse feel safe and not pressured, and what is appropriate in horse culture. We did some hellos and retreats, and then gently we pushed him into the arena. This is how horses lead one another, not with a halter and rope, but by pushing from behind. Cecilia grassed this immediately.

From there we gently learned about haltering and leading, matching the horses energy and then encouraging the horse to match her energy. Walking, stopping, backing up. She was so good at it all! We zoomed through things that many adults take weeks to learn! Soon she was circling him at a walk and a trot with ease, with a gentle reminder of a stick on the ground near his feet. He was entranced by her. In between she knew to stop and love him.  

She gazed into his face, held his cheeks, fed him bits of grass, arranged his body, even picking up his feet. She encouraged him with her energy, she knew without being told to move her feet while circling him and he began to trot, she also bobbed her head. He seemed to fully understand. More and more I just watched the magic unfold. Only offering suggestions for her safety. He loved playing with her. He was entranced.
 Her mother sighed and said: "Don't you wish we had been taught like this?"

At the end of the lesson time, I just let them play. They played for over an hour in a joyful free way that I have never fully experienced or even seen. I have seen people grasp for it and have it for a few minutes, but this was so spontaneous and full of life that I knew I was experiencing something truly rare and wonderful. Fully at liberty, Black Elk danced with this little girl. Trotting and cantering, turning and following, up on the stump, time for blades of grass, she played and he played. They were in complete harmony and talk about bliss!

When he was turned out to pasture again, she knew to go with him, and pet and coo to him more, while he ate grass. If we could only all be this natural and in the moment, wouldn't life be something?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Bliss with my Horses

Shaman, Rascal, Ranger, Black Elk
This winter, my boys taught me about being in bliss.  Every evening as the light was leaving, I'd head out to be with the herd. I begin by shoveling the arena where they hang out during the day playing with each other, sleeping in the sun, rolling in the sand. As soon as I enter the arena, all the boys would come to me and hover around. I greet each by name. Rascal is always the first to greet me and is soon glued to my side, Shaman is next lowering his head by my knees, Ranger quiet but present, waiting.  Usually Black Elk is in the rear, bigger than the rest, trying to push them out of his way.  I am honored by their attention.

I head down to the far end to begin to shovel, Rascal at my right shoulder, his head perfectly vertical at attention, ears upright curved at the tips, like many mustangs. He stops on a dime when I stop. Shaman full of Spanish Brio and Black Elk at 16-3, built like a war horse, jostling with one another to be on my left side.  Shaman, small but strong winning this round. As I move to shovel, each horse steps aside and moves quietly without  a word or a touch. I make a game out of it, I back up, they back up, I move towards a hip, and a horse circles, I move toward a shoulder and they turn on the forehand.

A few more scoops. Pretty soon I forget about shoveling. I am singing. Different songs, repetitive lines, my energy is shifting. We walk, we waltz, we circle and back up, we cha-cha, all the boys who want do a 'chorus line' with me facing them. I smile and laugh. I sing, I am in bliss. We wander the arena as a herd, matching steps, matching hearts.

Black Elk heads to the stump. Look, I can do this he is saying. The competition too fierce for his quiet nature. Yes, standing and waiting is a great trait. A few treats are shared. They are all up on their stumps. They are stumping it, a waiting game, an attention game, eight eyes all on me. I sing. I invite Shaman to circle the others with me. He gets a few pellets, the ones who wait get a few pellets. I back up. They wait. I call them, one by one they come. Rascal and Shaman first, Black Elk slowly leaving the biggest stump taking his long steps to me, nodding his head, feeling like he's grinning. Ranger quiet but persistent, don't forget about me.

I am singing, they are with me, I am one of the herd, we move together, sideways to the right, sideways to the left, a few steps forward a few steps back, a bite of apple. Black Elk bites Rascal, and now he is at my right side. We move forward in bigger steps, I am by his shoulder, I let out my air, he stops. Rascal pushes Shaman out of his way, he's on my left now, a big boy by each shoulder. Shaman is off looking for escaped pellets. The sun is setting, I am still singing, I am in bliss, I go back to shoveling. Pretty soon we call it a night, I am in bliss....