Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winter 2010/11 Happenings at Liberty Stables

Dessa decided to take a break from teaching for the winter. Meanwhile, the horses continue to amaze us with their insights. The weather continues to amaze us with its unpredictability, cold and snow! When is winter going to end?!

Some days, the discussion over coffee is all we get to do amidst the howling wind and/or the biting cold. And they have been amazing discussions about such things as relationships and where we are at in the journey with our horses and ourselves.

As for relationships, one of the biggest things we’re coming to appreciate, though at times it can be painful, horses are showing us a more healthy way. This is a huge generalization, but our tendency is to be “needy” in relationship. We come with a belly full of self pity, self doubt and want reassurance and to be loved. For the most part, the horses are saying keep your self pity and doubt over there. Instead, come with an open heart. Move from dependence to independence. Shed all the baggage of victim energy and see what lies in store. Allow each other our stuff and be there, not with worry or guilt, but with love and compassion.

And so we have attempted to simply be in relationship which means coming to our horses and being with them, feeling and breathing into our bodies, being fully aware of them, ourselves and our surroundings. To the observer, it may look as though absolutely nothing is happening. In fact, layers and layers of emotion and beliefs fall away over time for both the humans and the horses. It’s not uncommon for people to come into the barn after being out with their horses exclaiming the most amazing things. They are connecting with their horses and themselves in brand new ways. And it’s as if the horses understand. In fact, it’s not unusual for horses to follow their people in from the field with no halter or lead rope, taking themselves away from their herd mates.

Listening is key to the process and the beautiful by-product is trust and eventually, confidence. This all sounds very serious and intense. But what I’ve noticed is that in this state of openness, people are actually laughing and playing with their horses, running around, jumping over things in hopes that their horse will rise to the occasion and be a playmate. Those who are fearful are breathing their way to “yes”!

We are slowly coming back to riding. It starts by sitting on our horses quietly, most likely at liberty allowing them to take us wherever. We’ve been doing this in the arena, out in the yard, and even the field. Talk about letting go of control! Gradually, the horses welcome “equipment”, usually in the form of a rope halter and possibly a bareback pad. We are learning to keep agenda and expectation at bay in this step because we are finding that the horses aren’t responding to the “old” ways of influencing them. Instead, we are learning about balance and movement and connection. What happens when I think about moving forward and don’t do anything with my body? Does my horse know what I’m suggesting? What happens if I project my core a certain way, or shift my gaze in one direction or the other? What happens if I clear my mind and just sit in the energy of my horse? The lightest of touch, the mere suggestion is mostly all that is needed. They are teaching us, or maybe I should say, they are re-teaching us to ride.

We have a couple of babies on the farm this winter. I have had the honour and pleasure of working with one of them. “Working” consists of lots of watching and laughing, along with visits and walks, interspersed with gentle “training” consisting of getting used to the halter, and responding to various types of pressure. When my friend and I work with her, we ask her to be “foal calm” so that she can learn and teach us safely and calmly. She is absolutely amazing in that in her “foal calm” times, she responds to the very slightest of suggestion and even to the mere thought. How does she know what we are thinking of asking her to do? Amazing!

There isn’t much in the way of lessons going on. They mostly consist of what we call “scheduled horse experiences” where horses and people are gently supported as they develop their listening and intuitive abilities, and mutual trust. We are never too sure what is going to happen when we get together. No more traditional weekly one-hour lessons. People are content on a path of self-discovery. This is why the coffee times have become so important. It gives us a chance to talk about what’s happening with our horses and in our lives and to share ideas and experiences.

So, highly unusual things going on on the farm. As one of our boarders said the other day, how do I explain what we’re doing out here? Good question! I’ve attempted to do it here in this write-up but I suspect that those reading this will either “get it” or not. And that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. But we sure think it’s pretty darned amazing.