Sunday, October 17, 2010

Come With An Open Heart

This is about a very large horse. His name is Ulysses. He is 18 hands high. He takes up a lot of space in more ways than one. He came into our lives in an unsual but very deliberate way. To make a long story short, Dessa and Rosie (pictured here with Ulysses) were looking for a "project" horse for Rosie. Nine year-old Ulysses showed up in spades. Large, scared, angry, they took a chance on him.

When he first arrived at Liberty Stables, Ulysses wouldn't let anyone in, physically or emotionally. Just allowing anyone to move from his head down his side was not permitted. He was frightened to come into the barn. In the arena, any sound or movement would send him moving as if he didn't know where his feet were. He was sore as well. But out he went into the herd where the other horses and the wide open spaces started to work their magic. This took care of a lot of his physical issues.

Meanwhile, Rosie started to work with Ulysses. An accomplished horse person, Rosie patiently put all agenda and expectation aside and started from the very beginning. How many times had people tried to "start" Ulysses? How many times had his trust been shattered? Starting over one more time, well, that would be a challenge.

Now I should say that Ulysses is a Boss personality (Dominant, Energetic, Afraid, Aloof). This is not an easy personality. They are typically a challenge in the beginning, especially if they don't have a job they can attach to. And so with his size coupled with his personality, he lived up to his name in more ways than one.

I would see Rosie and Ulysses periodically along the way. And I saw Ulysses out in the field on a regular basis. Something started to happen. He truly started to look different physically. He gained muscle in all the right places. Was he playing with other horses? Was he approaching people in the field? In the barn, while he took up the same amount of space as before (getting around him was a challenge), the energy was changing. Oh, and he developed a way of telling us if he disliked what was happening. He would stomp the ground with his rather large foot!

He was becoming a big presence of a different sort around Liberty Stables. And then, a year ago, I was putting together a "team" of horses to do a new program on self awareness. This required horses to come into the arena and interact with a group of people. Guess who "signed up"? Yes, Ulysses did. What do I do with that? So the day came when the first group arrived to do the Horseplay program for the day. What horses should I bring in? Guess who again? Ulysses. Would that be a good idea? Would it be safe? Okay, trust it. Breathe!

Ulysses was awesome! Several people in the group were drawn to him. They were in awe of his size and cautious around him. But they saw something in him they could relate to. And he was so "into" his job. He went from person to person, getting right into their space, totally engaged and engaging.

I got used to the idea that Ulysses was on a mission. And so when he showed up recently to "teach" one of my beginner riders, I wasn't totally surprised. But this was different. Being on the ground with Ulysses was one thing. Having someone ride him was completely different. Rosie got to where she could ride Ulysses. But it wasn't as if he'd had lots of riding - and certainly not in a positive, confidence-building sort of way. What if a new rider did something to trigger his fear or his anger?

And so now I was feeling some pressure. One evening recently, I gave this considerable thought. Is this insane? Do I know what I'm doing? Does Ulysses know what he's doing? I went to bed that night feeling uneasy. Early the next morning, I became aware of a presence. It might have been a dream. It was Ulysses. Unmistakably. Do horses just show up like that?

You're worried. Yes, I am. You're worried about teaching me and a brand new rider? Yes, I am.

Then, I saw - or maybe it was felt - Rosie and Ulysses together. They were so lovely. Rosie was patient and gentle. She felt her way through the process of gaining Ulysses' trust. Ground work, liberty, line driving, saddle on, saddle off, leg in the stirrup, sitting on the big horse, walking a few steps, trotting big and proud. Then, as clear as can be, I felt or heard the following:

"Come with an open heart." Just like Rosie did. We will feel our way together into the unknown.

Wow! How can you not respond to that? How can you not trust that? Rosie, you've really done something amazing here. And Ulysses, how much more inspirational can you be, for me, for the people who are now showing up for you to work with? Come with an open heart.

And so, I do not truly know where this will take us. My students have not ridden Ulysses yet. They are so keen though. We are carefully feeling our way. But I do know that so far, that big horse has shown he can be so very, very gentle. They are aware that he is still working through stuff. Aren't we all?

But what an awesome potential! What a great place to start. Stay tuned...


Kolina said...

This is such a beautiful post. Thank you so much.

Dessa Hockley said...

Sometimes we are not sure why something like him shows up in our lives, but when you see the journey unfold you learn to trust yet a little bit more.

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