I had a dream last night, take a deep breath and follow me into it.
It was late fall afternoon, the sun was on its way down and I walked up from the pasture towards the barn. I heard a hose snort, and then a grunt that was human. I looked up to see Trinity with her owner, Jane. Jane was astride her, and Trinity was an impressive sight as she was rearing up and reaching for the sky. While fully extended up,Trinity shook her head, her mane spun like a black tornado around her and then she touched down. She tossed her head up and down before rearing up again. Jane was clinging to her, her eyes were as big as saucers and her mouth open in a silent scream. I looked up at them and asked Jane if she needed help. She nodded her head yes, and slipped off of Trinity and landed in a heap at my feet. I gently took the reins from her and gave her a hug. “It’s ok,” I said, “she just has something to say.”
The next thing I knew I was on Trinitys back with the reins in my hands. I touched her mouth and up, up, in the air she went. I leaned forward and removed her bridle as she was in her way down and dropped it to the ground. I then leaned over her neck and let her go.
She took off in a run, stretched out and smooth. I could hear her breath and barely felt her footsteps. She had her neck stretched out straight and her ears pinned back. Her long, black mane surrounded my face like a cloud, and I had my fingers tangled in it, my arms moved with her neck stretching and relaxing with each jump forward in her her long, beautiful stride. We we completely connected, she turned when I thought about it and she felt her own power and reveled in it as she ran up the hill. We circled the property together like that until I started to feel tired. The rhythm of her stride, the sound of her breath and the way my breath matched hers started to lull me to sleep.
In my twilight state before sleep I felt her slow to a canter and then it seemed like we were floating. Maybe even riding up in the heavens with God cocooning is in his light and love. I felt myself finally drift off to sleep, a beautiful, dreamless sleep floating in the clouds of love. Love surrounded me, light surrounded me, and peace filled my heart and I slept. I slept so deeply that I didn’t feel Trinity stop. I knew nothing for what felt like just a moment. Then, I slowly regained my senses. I felt pressure on the left side of my face and shoulders and it was very dark. I panicked for a moment and started to struggle but as I opened my eyes I saw Trinitys legs stretched out in front of me. I felt warmth and pressure on my back, neck, and top of my head. I realized I was laying under Trinity, my back against her stomach and the back of my head against her udder. Her left rear leg was over me and my head was supported by her right leg and was a comfortable pillow. I became more aware of my surroundings and saw my friends and Jane looking over the stall doors at us. Trinity still had her saddle on and they told me she laid me down like that and laid down around me. She then nuzzled me into place and let me sleep. She covered me not only with her body, but with her love, peace and acceptance. At this moment I woke up fully in real life but the cocoon of love and peace stayed with me. In fact it’s several hours later and I still feel wrapped upon the cocoon. Peace and love are out there my friends. It really is. Trinity promised me that in our ride through the heavens.
It was the year 2002, or maybe 2003. I received a phone call from my neighbor asking me if I was interested in a horse she knew that was for sale. His name was Odyssey, and he turned out to be the horse that introduced me to the world of giving lessons. If I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, or told her no, my adventure into teaching probably would have never been started….
Odyssey had a full, fancy Arabian registered name, Aladdin’s Odyssey. He was an older gentleman that ended up with me because he didn’t live up to his blue-blooded pedigree and become a winning show horse. He had training as a halter horse, and then again more training in western pleasure and lucky for me, he wasn’t good enough in either show ring.
I will never forget meeting Odyssey, he was a golden bay in color, but his fur was patchy and he was totally bald on his chest and only had patches of hair on his neck. He also was missing his two front teeth, and when he nickered to us, he had a bit of a lisp. He was a gentleman on the ground and rock solid under saddle. We bought him to be our “extra” horse, and for John to ride out on the trails.
He was a great trail horse for us, and when other people came over to ride we would saddle him up for them. He had the most rough trot anyone here had ever ridden, but his canter was rock solid and it felt like you were riding a rocking horse. I have countless of pictures of different people riding him and have heard many boasts of them being able to ride the Odyssey trot. I told you his trot was rough, right? I’m not kidding! More people fell off of Odyssey at the trot, than any other horse on the property, at any gait! It was something else.
He also was a little bit skittish, and one day I found out he was a great jumper. I don’t know why I had a lunging whip in my hand, or why I cracked it while standing right behind him while he was tied up to a green panel fence and eating his morning grain. Maybe my brain left my head, or I just wanted to see if I could crack a whip. It doesn’t matter why, I can tell you I have never done anything like that again, because when I cracked that whip, Odyssey came unglued, he lifted up his head and took off, dragging the panel from the fence with him. He turned towards the driveway and jumped our 4 foot high wooden fence with the green panel attached, ran down the driveway got to the house, turned around and ran back towards the barn and jumped that fence, again with the green panel still attached, then he stopped about 200 feet from where it all started. I hadn’t even had time to move, I was too busy standing there with my mouth hanging open, looking at him, then at the whip in my hand. I had never seen anything like that before and I hope to never see it again. That was one of the first of many lessons Odyssey taught me! Never, never, never crack a whip behind a horse. Never do it, unless you want things to get a little “western”!
A few months after Odyssey came to live with us, another friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to donate riding lessons to a local theatre for a fund raiser. At first I said no, I wasn’t interested in teaching people how to ride, and quite frankly, I was a little shocked that people didn’t know how to ride from birth and had to learn how to do it! Boy….. did I have a lot to learn!
Eventually I relented, mainly because I thought whoever bought the ticket probably wouldn’t call me and schedule a “lesson”. I made up a certificate and sent it to the theatre, and then pretty much forgot I donated.
Fast forward a few months later and I get a phone call. The person that “won” the certificate wanted to collect the lesson for her daughter. We set up an appointment, I hung up the phone and panicked! Then I thought of Odyssey, he had all kinds of fancy training! I bet he could help me teach a little girl how to ride. The day of reckoning came, the girl and her mother showed up and Odyssey and I proceeded to show her how to groom a horse and then I put her up on his back, and Odyssey took over. The little girl seemed to love it, her mom was smiling, and Odyssey and I had a good time too. After the “lesson” the girls mom asked me if she could come back. I answered, “sure”. We set up a weekly appointment and our lesson program began. I can’t remember what we did during that first lesson, I mostly remember being nervous, then the laughter and smiles on mom and daughters face. I saw Odyssey “strut” his stuff as he moved around the arena and it seemed as though he enjoyed it. He was the center of attention, regal, and beautiful. He did everything that little girl attempted to ask him to do and introduced her to the world of horses in a gentle and safe way. I most definitely was not the teacher in that lesson, he was!
Well, Odyssey and I were hooked. I started working with other kids in the neighborhood, then adults started coming to us, then we started working with owners and their horses and doing a little bit of training. All of this happened because he didn’t “make it” in the show ring, but he did make a difference in this world. He showed countless amounts of people how to develop a relationship with horses, he gave people confidence, and he gave us his heart. He truly was a trusted friend, companion, teacher, and partner. He has been gone for 11 years today, and I still miss him. I carry his imprint in my heart, I feel it when I teach, and I hope I am able to show my students, my horses, and anyone else I come into contact with, the gentleness I learned from him. Here’s to you sweet Odyssey, I hope someday I meet you in heaven and I get to hear that sweet nicker again, I miss you, and I always will.
I’ve always told people and have firmly believed that you should always go trail riding with someone else. You never know what’s going to happen and if someone is with you they’ve got your back if things go sideways.
I’m not sure when my view started to change or what caused it. Maybe it’s the fact we have cell phones and can call for help, maybe it’s because I’ve been craving being alone with my horses with nothing to distract me, or maybe it’s just time to face my fears.
Every time I’ve been out on a trail ride lately I’ve wanted to do more. I’ve wanted to explore a new trail, I’ve wanted to pick up a trot or canter, I’ve wanted to stay longer, I’ve wanted to stop and have a snack with my horse and rest. It’s really hard to do any of the extra “things” when I am with a group of people, even harder when I am the “one in charge.” So today I decided to go out on my own. Explore a few trails, pack a snack for myself, and bring a halter and lead rope so my horse can have a snack with me.
I started planning yesterday, secretively, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by going off by myself. Sometimes people don’t understand my desire to be alone. I know I’m weird in that regard, without my alone time I cannot function very well. Groups of people, while I enjoy them, make me feel very tired and I often have to go off by myself to recharge my batteries. Being with horses also helps me recharge, a solo trail ride may just be what the doctor ordered! I’ve been feeling really punky lately and am not sure if it’s mental, physical, or a combination of both.
I let Kim and Danielle know what I was doing today, the route I had planned, and shared my location with them through my cell phone. This morning I fed Nora, loaded her up in the horse trailer and we set out on our journey. As I drove down the road my stomach clenched in fear, “what am I doing? What if I fall off? What if I get hurt? What if Nora gets hurt?” I almost went around the block to go home. Then I thought, “ Is this how I’m going to live from now on? Fearful to do anything on my own? Fearful to try?” I found myself praying and asking God to stay with me, took several deep and cleansing breaths and kept going, knowing that God has me no matter what. If I died on the trail today at least He would be waiting for me and I was doing something I love to do. Can you ask for a better way to go? Then I laughed to myself at how morbid my thoughts were getting. I’m not going to die out there. I’m going to live!
Crow-Hassen Park isn’t far at all and we were there In 20 minutes. I was excited when I arrived because only one trailer was there and my favorite parking spot was wide open! I unloaded Nora, and my phone rang. It was my mom on FaceTime. We always talk on Saturday mornings and I blew her off. Uh oh, oops. I answered and she saw where we are. We talked while I groomed and tacked up Nora. Now I had another person who would make sure I would be safe out there, and what a great way to start my ride! It was nice to talk to mom right before I mounted up. Made me feel safe and secure and by talking to her my doubt was gone and I was actually looking forward to my ride!
I closed up the trailer, locked up my truck and Nora and I walked over to the mounting block to begin our ride. The first thing we encountered was a family of cranes. Nora just gave them a curious glance and we continued on our way. It’s beautiful out there in Crow-Hassen. We started our ride in the prairie and spent most of the time on the open grassland enjoying butterflies and flowers of every color. The birds were singing, my saddle was squeaking, Nora was stepping out at a nice steady rhythm and there was a gentle breeze. The skies we’re such a beautiful blue I could hardly take it all in. My soul drank deeply of the beauty. I could sense Nora sending a connection up to me with her essence and it all brought tears to my eyes. I thought about a trot and she followed me into it. Her head sweeping a little from side to side and her beautiful ears flicking back to me and swiveling to the sides to take it all in. Then her head lifted up, I asked her to soften back to me, she tried but something was up ahead I couldn’t see yet, we decided to walk and soon after, off in the distance we saw a pony and a cart with 4 people. “Oh great, Nora and my first ever solo trail ride and we run into a pony eating contraption.” Nora and I continued to approach, they were stopped and taking pictures. When we got close enough to say hello I told them it was our first solo ride and I was going to go to the right off the trail and get off just in case Nora needed me on the ground. They were so nice and said no problem and stayed where they were as I dismounted. Then as we walked closer we started talking. Nora and I stopped and we had a really nice conversation and discovered we knew each other and were neighbors. By the way, Nora never batted an eye at the pony and buggy and we continued our ride. I was smiling from ear to ear because Nora is pretty amazing. I was very proud of her and feeling pretty good about our partnership.
We continued on and as the area opened up, Nora and I did too. I had a blast asking her to trot and canter. I’ve forgotten how great it feels to canter out in the open like that. No arena to fence us in. Cantering to get somewhere and enjoying the beauty around me without being fearful someone would fall off their horse was mind blowing for me. I could feel Nora’s feet with each stride, my body matching hers, her breath was my breath, her freedom was my freedom and we were two souls enjoying Gods gift of a beautiful earth. It’s been easy to forget the beauty in 2020 but today Nora and I not only got to see the beauty, but we got to feel it, smell it, and after our canter we got to taste it when we stopped for a snack. (Well, Nora got to taste it, she ate the grass, I had a protein bar)
We had more adventures this morning, we saw another pony and buggy, we saw two tiny humans in a buggy being pushed by their father, and we ran into two cowboys that stopped to make sure I was ok since I got off Nora so we could have our snack. The cowboys had some fun stories to tell me. I wish I would have snapped a picture of them. They reminded me of being in Oklahoma with Grandpa and Uncle Ed.
All in all it was a great morning. Going solo allowed me to deepen my relationship with Nora, open my eyes to our beautiful earth, feel God holding me, and meet some really neat people.
As I finished up chores, my anticipation was growing. I felt nervous tickles in my stomach as I walked out to the pasture to get him. His rear was facing me as he was helping himself to the hay bale, I smiled as I saw his rump between Raji and Jethro who are the two large draft crosses here. He looks like a little boy hanging out with the big guys. I slowed my pace and took a deep breath, as I approached him I softened my hands and gently laid my right hand on his rump and slid it up to his shoulder as I approached his head, he turned his head towards me and I handed him a horse cookie which he gladly accepted. I took off his fly mask and slid the halter over his face. We walked up to the barn together, side by side and at peace with sharing each others space. He stopped at the tank for a long drink of water and we then headed on up to the barn and out to the trailer. He started to load right up next to me, but then stopped, put on the brakes and backed out. We had to work together a little bit but eventually he decided it was ok to be loaded up, Kim brought Sisco in and we headed out to the trails. The air conditioning is out in my truck and we have to travel with the windows down. It gives you a different perspective to travel with the windows down. You hear the noises of the road, the cars revving up their engines, the trucks whizzing by, how the trailer squeaks, how the truck squeaks, and the horses if they call out. You also notice the smells of the road, the way the wind is blowing, and how hot it feels when you stop. It makes me more mindful of what the horses are experiencing back there in the trailer. I find myself driving differently; more quiet, softer, and gentle in the way I guide the truck and trailer where I want to go. I find myself trying to make it as pleasant as possible for the horses back there. It’s so easy to forget what they are going through with the windows rolled up, stereo on, and the temperature constant and comfortable.
When we get to the trail head Buzz is very relaxed, he comes out and sniffs my hand to see if I have a treat. I can’t resist his request, and as I reach into the trailer to get the brushes to groom him I hand him a cookie. I love to groom him, he enjoys it when I scratch his neck and rub ointment on all the itchy places the gnats have been biting him. Saddling him up is a breeze and he takes the bit from my hand. I sit on the edge of the trailer while I wait for my trail buddies to get their horses ready. I drop my head down and Buzz brings his head to my face. We stay there in that quiet place and enjoy the moment. I feel his breath on my face and the softness of his muzzle as I reach up my hands to caress his face. He is such a horse of my heart and just being in his bubble makes my heart relax. It’s been hard to let things go lately. The United States sure doesn’t feel united anymore and Covid scares me so bad because of Danielle. My heart has felt like a dead weight and upside down with sorrow, fear, and worry. Buzz in this moment helps me feel openness, kindness, and unity.
I look up and everyone is ready, we all head to the mounting block, Buzz is right next to me and I feel his curiosity. We are riding with Sisco, a horse from his heard, and two mares, Viva and Gypsy, who live the in the other pasture. He is curious about them and interested. He also is connected to me in a way he hasn’t been before. I feel his questions through the reins as I lead him over to the mounting block. There is a small hesitation I feel through the bit and into my hands and it tickles the back of my mind. I’ve felt that before, the question before we do and I leave it there because now it’s now my turn to use the mounting block and time to head out with my friends. I settle onto his back and he stands to wait for me to get my right foot in the stirrup and my hands connected to him through the reins. He says hello to me and we move off, first Kim and Gypsy, then Kelli and Viva, then Buzz and me, and bringing up the rear is Kim and Sisco. We all start up a conversation on how beautiful the day is. In the background I’m talking to Buzz. It’s a rhythm, a feel, a sensation, a thought. I feel his question come through the reins again, touching me and then my response is “a bird, stay straight”, a rhythm, a feel, a cadence a walk. His ears flick back and forth, I feel his breath, his ribcage swings from side to side, I feel his legs under me, I feel the opening between his footsteps and ask him to move over within the rhythm of his walk. My body moves with him and I can feel each footstep likes it’s my own. I find myself sinking more into him, I feel safe, my heart opens more and the veil of unease that has settled around me starts to lift. I feel our rhythm but can also feel the world around me, I’m still having a conversation with my friends, but I see the butterfly and identify it as a monarch, I see the wildflowers and note the way the wind is blowing as they nod their heads. Our rhythm never changes, but he hesitates through his bit and I feel another question, “it’s a bird”, I say “keep going this way.” He follows my answer and we keep going. Then I feel something else, the safety I felt as a child when I rode Dunny. Tears well in my eyes, the little girl I was is with me again. My heart opens wide, it’s huge and tears well up in my eyes, and I feel safe and sure footed. My body doesn’t hurt, my arthritic knees don’t ache, I feel free and able to do anything. We keep going, Buzz and me, along with my dear friends. Buzz and I move to the front. I’m not talking much except to tell them how I’m feeling. My heart fills with so much gratitude I don’t know what to do with it. It’s beautiful out there on the trails, the beauty is so stunning I can’t describe it. Buzz is curious, strong, brave, and so willing. His rhythm doesn’t falter but he asks another question. I answer “I’ll make going down this hill easier for you”, as I shift my weight back and lighten my legs in the stirrup. It’s become second nature to talk to him through my mind and body and he responds every time. It comes to me in that moment, why this feels so familiar. It’s the way JJ and I were together. My heart swells again because it feels like he is there with us. My body moves so well with Buzz because it’s familiar. That strut JJ had never let me down and Buzz feels the same. Tears well up in my eyes, I’m glad I’m leading so the others don’t see it, because the tears feel good and I want to let them flow, but I do say out loud to them, “I feel like I am home.”
She told me he was coming with anticipation and joy written all over her face. “He’s from my camp, but I don’t think being a camp horse is for him.” She said as she asked me to board him here. Her joy was contagious and I looked forward to meeting him.
The trailer pulled up and I could hear him announcing his arrival with a loud neigh. He came off the trailer with his head and tail held high. A proud specimen of a horse. Regal in carriage and gentle in demeanor. A beautiful horse that looked wise and a little scared under all that pride. I looked at his girl and she was one big grin as she proudly led him to the round pen where he would stay until he was ready for the herd.
I watched the two of them as they developed their relationship. She spent hours at a time out here, just hanging out and learning what she could from him. They bonded quickly and a partnership developed that would teach them how to communicate with each other. She took lessons with him and learned how to teach a horse how to let go of the past and enjoy being with a human. They both learned how to breathe, she learned how to be in the moment and he learned that humans were kind.
I fell in love with him too. Maybe it was because he would ask me for help when he needed it, or maybe it was because he had beautiful eyes that reflected a spirit that was kind, or maybe it was just because he loved all the humans here. I’ll never know why, but that doesn’t matter. He was who he was and he showed love.
He loved her more than I can even describe. He knew when her car would pull into the driveway and he would be so excited to see her that I would hear his greeting even when I was in the house. I wish they had more time together but their story ended too soon.
Today she gave him the ultimate gift. The hardest gift she may ever have to give. She released him from his failing body and let him go. It was peaceful but certainly not easy. I saw the pain of grief overcome her, and felt the pain wash over me as I held her in my arms. He was not just a horse. He was her friend, he was our friend, and he was love. Goodbye sweet, sweet Skipper. We love you and we already miss you.
I feel him looking at me as I walk to another horse to deliver his breakfast. I turn to him and meet his eyes. There is a gleam there it’s welcoming, and full of light. I’m drawn to him. I walk over to his stall, hesitate, and then slowly lower my hand to the spot between his eyes. I stand there a moment and lower my head to his. “Hey little man,” I whisper, “today we can ride.” I step away so I can open his stall door and take him out to his pasture after his morning meal. A few hours later, chores are finished, I’ve spent time giving a lesson and riding Sassy and now it’s time to go get Buzz. I feel an excited flutter in my stomach as I head to the barn to get a halter for him. I head up to his pasture and let my mind settle on him. I let my intention and energy go out ahead of me as I walk out towards him. I see him from a distance, he’s at the bale with his herd. My stomach flutters again, my pace increases and I find myself excited for this moment. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to ride him and I feel like a little girl again. I hop over the little creek and come up the incline towards his bale, he lifts his head and I see the look in his eye. The open warmth, the twinkle and in an instant I’m pulled back in time. I see Dunny, the first horse I ever gave my heart to in front of me, the anticipation and love I feel in that moment is pure, young, and hopeful. I’m 9 years old again and he’s right there, I can almost touch him. Then I blink and the illusion of Dunny is gone, but in front of me stands Buzz. The twinkle in his eye is still there, and he feels as adventurous as I do. My heart sings as I gently halter him. We walk up to the barn, I feel his energy through the lead rope, his footsteps match mine and we are one as we walk back to the barn. My stomach is still fluttering as I saddle him up and as I offer the bridle he leans forward and takes the bit from my hand. I look at his eyes, they search mine and our souls touch. We stand together for awhile. Eventually I lead him to the mounting block and swing up, my mind reaches towards him, I feel his energy come up through the reins and it’s right there waiting for me. Everything else falls away as our energy blends together and we move off as one.
Last Wednesday our governor issued a shelter at home edict for all activities that are non-essential. We all knew it was coming, but when the words were finally spoken, my heart began to race, and I knew I had to let my boarders know they couldn’t come out. How do I do such a thing, tell them they can’t see their trusted horses who are their companions and trusted friends? Hanging out with their horses gives them a sense of tranquility, of enjoying shared space with another being that is gracious and forgiving. The barn is the one place that feels uncontaminated by the virus that is attacking our world. But then again, the feeling of security is being yanked away from us because now the experts have determined the virus lives on pretty much everything that the infected person comes into contact with. And to make matters worse, an infected person doesn’t always feel sick as they spread the virus around like a wildfire. I feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie for the end of the earth. Anybody else?
Wednesday night was long. I agonized over how to let everyone know. I drafted several emails until I finally had one that spoke from my heart and pressed send and exhaled. The few responses I got were very kind and supportive. We had two days before the edict would go into effect. All the boarders came out to groom, ride, and love on their horses and say goodbye for the next two weeks while I hid in the house because in here my daughter is in the high risk category and I cannot risk carrying the virus to her. I know there were tears as they left and I understand. I would be crying too, it’s not just the saying goodbye to our horses for two weeks, I think a lot of it is because this is one more thing that this awful virus is taking away from us. Just one-more-thing……….
I’m alone now here at the barn. Saturday was my first day, and I could hardly get out there. I was so down and hurting for everyone that I had to call my mom. My poor mother, she answers the phone and I was already sobbing that I couldn’t do it. It felt like I was breaking so many hearts and I wasn’t ready. Of course being the woman she is, she got me turned around and I was able to pull myself together and head out to the barn. The geldings were up and ready for breakfast and I peeked into the pasture to see who was at the gate. It was Jethro, so I went into the barn and made up his breakfast and put it in the stall. I walked out and he was waiting for me, he gently put his head in the halter and quietly followed me to the stall where he immediately got to work on his meal. The next horse I wanted to bring in was Sisco, I thought about him, pictured him in my mind as I made up his breakfast, when I went to his pasture he was standing at the gate saying hello. The whole morning went like that. It felt like they knew something was happening and they chose to make it easier for me. There was no fighting at the gate, no rushing me to their stalls, and no kicking out at each other while in their stalls. There was quiet communication happening all the time and the hush went from feeling claustrophobic to feeling calm and gentle. I’m starting to appreciate the hush, to welcome it and the gentle, quiet communication from the herd. I hope we all get through to the other side of this pandemic and maybe also learn how to appreciate the hush and the quiet slowing down of our lives.
Today he’s quieter in the pasture, down the hill a bit and away from the gate when I go out to get him. He sees me coming and yawns, I lift the halter and lead rope up and slip the halter over his face. He is quieter than yesterday but still not totally relaxed. He walks behind me, giving me more space, I like that. It doesn’t feel like he’s going to run over me or clip my heels.
We go through the barn door and I feel his anxiety go up and he crowds me. I step away and gently send him in a circle until he is behind me and I walk on with him at a comfortable distance away. We go into the arena and I unclip his lead rope. He stands a minute then steps over to me, again he crowds me. It feels like he wants reassurance, but I want him to feel comfortable enough in his own space. I walk away and he snorts at the hula hoop as we pass, I circle it with him right on my heels, his head is so close I feel his breath, I quietly change direction and circle the other way, he quiets a bit in the circle and I feel him slow down enough to give me space.
We walk on, he in his own space, me in mine. I like it this way, it feels like we are two friends enjoying each other’s company. Not like I’m protecting him or consoling him, but like we are just walking together and experiencing the same things. We circle around the barrels, then around the hula hoops and mounting blocks. There are times he snorts and scoots into my space, and other times he stays in his space and we move together without the need to reassure each other.
He drops his head and walks away from me, he is curious about the smells in the sand and he notices the dogs. He becomes curious about Gunner and they actually sniff each other. He then walks away, he steps into his own space and explores the sand, the barrels next to him, and then takes in a deep breath. A horse in the barn bangs his bucket which startles him again, his eyes widen, his head pops up, and he comes into my space. I back away from him a little and he stops. He looks at me, I see the worry in his eyes and body and I quietly say his name, I open my heart and send out support, my heart whispers “I’m here, I won’t leave you, I will protect you. We are ok”. I ask to come into his space. I allow my energy to come into my hands and ask if he wants energy work. His eyes blink, and he visibly relaxed. I come into his space, my hands are warm with energy, I feel them heating up and am amazed at how God does this through me as I barely touch his hair and run my hands along his body. He starts to blink and it’s slow, his eyes lose their anxious look and his head comes down. He works his mouth a bit and I think he is going to yawn, but he doesn’t, he moves away instead and I step away as well. He leaves my space again and explores the area around us. I step over and away from him. I walk towards the other end of the arena. I hear him follow but he’s not so close that it feels like his trying to jump in my skin. I step sideways and circle back around him. He circles as well, his head drops and he makes a tighter circle. His nose is touching the ground and he is sniffing the sand. His legs buckle and he lays down and rolls.
I smile at him and my heart says, “good job little man, you’re doing it. You’re going to be okay, I love you and I am thankful for you”. He stands up from his roll and shakes like a big dog. He looks over at me and I know what he wants, it’s very clear. If he was a person he would say, “I’m hungry, where is my breakfast?”. He makes me laugh and I head out of the arena and get his meal.
I feed Buzz and turn him out. I know his journey back from his fear isn’t over, there will be days of healing and days it doesn’t feel as good, but he is on his way. I just know it.
He has become afraid. I feel it when I put his halter on, when I lead him to the barn, and even when I feed him his morning supplements. He feels like a coiled spring as I lead him into the barn, if I stop he runs into me because he walks so close. I ask him to back up, but he scoots right up next to me as I continue our walk into the barn. He even will keep walking and knock me into the gate if I don’t stay aware of where he is at all times. If I ask him to back off with too much energy he dances around and snorts. He is ready to explode.
I’m not sure where this fear, or anxiety is coming from. Is it because I was using him in lessons and at times his students react with fear when he moves too fast? Did something happen in the pasture? Was it the time I picked up the hula hoop and he jumped back in fear as I rolled it away? I guess it doesn’t really matter what started the fear, I just need to find a way to help him.
Yesterday I led him into the barn and he literally felt like a pot ready to boil over. I lead him into the stall for his feed and he lost it. He pawed the stall door, reared up, and then I knew. He needs me now, this cannot wait until it gets warmer. It is time to help him get to the bottom of this fear. I walked him out to his pasture again to give him some time to settle down, and allow me to work on the morning chores a little bit. I talk to Joanie and Kristin and let them know I can’t let it go anymore and need to work with him and they agree to finish up chores.
I enter the pasture again, and see him there. There is confusion in his eyes, and fear. He is on high alert. His body is rigid, he is holding his breath, and his head is as high as he can get it. I slow my pace down, slow my breathing down, and approach him quietly and allow him to hear my breath enter and leave my body in a regular rhythm. He blinks a little and his head comes down just enough for me to slip the halter on his face. We walk to the barn, and he is almost on top of me, and is snorting with every breath. I feel the anxiety rolling off of him and my heart beat accelerates to match his. Poor little man, I think as I try to control my heartrate and breathe as deep as I can, hoping his heartrate and breathing syncs to mine. I turn him loose in the indoor and he takes off. He is scared. The barrels are set up in a pattern we were using for lessons, the hula hoops are out as well with some ground poles and the mounting block. He appears to be afraid of it all. He gallops a few laps, then slows to a trot. He still is blowing and his head is held high. I leave him in there for a bit, just to see if he can work things out on his own, and I return to doing chores. He can’t settle though and he comes to the fence with his eyes opened wide and presses against the gate. I need to help him, so I slip in the arena with him. I figure he needs to move his feet to release some of the tension that is built up in his body. I can see the energy bottled up in him, the tension can be felt from across the arena. In my mind Mark Rashid’s words come to me about resetting the horse, get them to canter until they start breathing, then they shake like a big dog, and release all the tension, and reset their nervous system. But, I am afraid to attempt that. The temps are in the teens and will be falling to below zero by nightfall. I don’t want him to get overheated when it’s so cold, I will never get him dry enough to be turned out. So I decide to try my own experiment.
It seems as though he does need to move, so I twirl the lead rope a little bit and he takes off like a rocket, tail pumping up and down, head up, nostrils flaring, and snorting. His legs move like pistons and his hooves dig deep into the sand. They are moving so fast he kicks sand up against the arena which makes a racket, and scares him a little more. After a couple laps he slows to the trot, still snorting, still swinging his head one way and the other as it’s lifted as high as he can get it. He glances at me and I step away from him. He slows his trot a bit more and his head comes down, I step further away from him, giving him space to release a little more, and he does. His head comes down, even with his withers and he licks his lips a bit. I step away a little more and then to the side to change his direction. He turns around and trots off, but he notices the hula hoop on the ground, he snorts and veers towards me at the other end of the arena. I quietly move my body and direct him back the other way again. He moves toward the hula hoop, sees it and veers at me again, I use my body position to direct him back the other way again. We do this a few more times and then I decide to try to ask him to weave through the barrels. I look where I want him to go, feel back towards him and ask him to move through the barrels by feeling him already going through them.
He follows my thoughts and does as I ask. I see out of the corner of my eye his head lower and some relaxation in his body. I begin to feel everything I want him to do, and he does it. We weave through the barrels, circle around, weave back, circle again, go towards the hula hoops, circle back. I step over to him, and physically become his leader, he starts to follow me, we circle around the barrels one way, circle back. There are times he slows down and sniffs the barrels, I stop with him and breathe. We move off again, circle the hula hoops, and then back to the barrels, then around, and around again. I lead him back to the hula hoops, we circle them. I’m noticing as we circle them he starts to relax, there is licking of his lips and a few times he chews. I walk in more circles and he relaxes a bit more. He reaches out and sniffs the hula hoops, he sniffs the mounting block and I feel calmness in him. It’s a good feeling and I smile. I walk to him and ask if he wants me to run his energy. He allows me to reach my hand up to the base of his ear and I start running his bladder meridian. He likes it and accepts my energy. His head lowers almost to the ground, as I reach his hocks he yawns and releases. I feel his calmness and my heart relaxes. I leave him there and get his supplements and he eats in peace.
He was nervous again this morning. I know this will take time, and every morning I will probably have dance with him. That’s what it started to feel like yesterday. A dance that weaves us through the places of anxiety. We feel the nervousness come up and do a circle around it. It doesn’t feel so scary when you can walk around the anxiety. The circles seems to unwind the fear, and make it smaller.
Buzz seems to like the circles, I do as well. They calm us, and help us redirect our thoughts, the circles feel loose, round, and soft. They ease us away from the straight lines and hard corners of our fears. Today Buzz and I weaved and circled again.
He didn’t want energy work, but today he rolled. He felt comfortable enough to roll, in the arena, among the barrels, with a hula hoops as our witness. You see, I don’t think it was the hula hoops, the barrels, or the mounting block. I think it was in him, something happened that made him afraid and he put that fear onto something he could see, touch, and circle. I think he is on his way to losing the fear, and I hope I can help him by staying open and letting me see what he needs. I look forward to tomorrow to see what he will show me, and I am honored he is allowing me to help him round up his fears and let them go.
I approached her, she seemed open but unsure. She was moving at the end of her rope, turning, twisting, stepping, then moving over and doing it again from the other side. She tossed her head. I approached her and she sighed and relaxed, but her energy was humming. A totally different energy than what she’s had before. I’ve noticed she seems more energetic, open, curious, and well…. she seems more alive. At this point I have some feeling of guilt,. For you see, she’s been my horse on and off for the past 10 years. Nora has been one of the cornerstone horses in my lesson program. You probably have met her type, she’s the horse I can put anyone on, she’s steady, prefers to stop over going, the one that allows the beginners some leeway, and for that more advanced rider, she cuts them no slack. I’ve seen her reduce students to tears of frustration and lift them up until they have tears of elation. I tried to sell my Nora girl, but it didn’t work out. She made it clear she didn’t want to leave and I thank God that Katie was sensitive enough to realize that and open my eyes to what Nora was feeling.
So now, she’s mine. She’s all mine, no one else’s. I’ve found that I’m selfish where she is concerned. I dream of her, I can close my eyes right here at my desk and feel her soft coat, see her eyes, smell her wonderful horse smell, and feel my love for her open my heart in gratitude for all she’s given me. She’s taught me how to teach, she’s given me Sassy, and she’s given me her bubbles. But today, today she gave me another a gift. The gift of seeing her become something new. She is open to herself, I saw her exploring the sensation of being tied up, the movement back and forth, the testing of the boundries. In the barn she responded to grooming like a colt would. She startled at first, then trusted me enough to settle down, but then pushed on my boundries to see where they were. There was an opening in her I never felt before, it was as though she was enjoying just learning. I know I’m making her seem human, but that’s how it felt. It made me a little giddy, but then as I realized my student wasn’t going to ride and I didn’t have to teach, I found myself feeling a little lost. It’s been so long since its been just me and my horse, I was unsure what to do. I looked at Nora, she looked at me, and I swear a bubble of anxiety came up in both of us. What do we do? How do we be human and horse together without teaching? Then a lightness came in, I felt like that little horse crazy girl again. I untied her and walked into the arena. She literally was dancing besides me! Nora! Dancing, I’ve never felt her light like this before, on her toes with a sparkle in her eye. Where was the calm, quiet, shut down horse I was used to seeing? I turned to Kim and Kristin who were watching me and I said “She’s so open!” We went into the arena together, side by side, her dancing on her toes and me, trying to dance with her. I found myself trotting next to her, weaving between the barrels set up in the arena as laughter bubbled up inside of me. I had to slow down and she continued to dance around me until I caught my breath enough to do it again. We danced together, Nora and I. I had tears of joy on my face and she had joy in her heart. As I turned her out with her herd, she turned to me, dipped her muzzle down to my hand to say goodbye then she danced off to her herd. I can’t wait to see who we both become as we go onto this next journey together.