Horse Journal Update: Sharing and Connecting

I walked out to the barn in the cool fall morning. It was Halloween, and I had a funny spring in my step because of it. I had brought the Photonic Light with me and was red-lighting my pelvis and back with halter in tow as I walked around the back of the barn.

I paused to see Finale happily trotting up a hill and around my mom. She was actually using her body quite well, and looked like the picture of joy. I welcomed them and the morning with all its warm colors.

My mom and I stopped to chat for a moment before she continued. I watched for a minute before she stopped again, noting that she felt she often didn’t feel that Finale would move out of her space very easily.

I commented that it seemed to me like she was waving her stick very softly and repeatedly (without resetting or offering space for her to respond), hyper-focusing on a spot on Finale’s body, and then just kind of stopping and walking softly forward again without any change in Finale. Finale didn’t seem defiant, she just seemed to not realize anything was being asked of her. I offered a demo and mentioned that she might try the concept of “Reset” taught by Aimee Brimhall-McCord–that you give the horse space and time in between requests to think and respond, and then ask again.

As my mom went back out to play, I asked this time if she minded if I watched. She shared that she felt a little tense around it. I asked her if she could choose to do something different, and then also tried to reassure her and let her know that I was just watching in a smiling way, not judging her at all.

They both improved and softened. I watched, trying to be a good soft observer and not interject or interrupt their flow. I didn’t know what was going on in my mom’s head, so I didn’t want to say something when she really didn’t need it. I felt that they were both processing and exploring, and improving with each interaction.

The next time, when she came back to chat again, she commented that she was forever noticing her arm creeping back up. I shared with her that it seemed to me like she was doing this to accommodate Finale coming in closer–like she didn’t want her rope to drag or get tangled in her feet, so when Finale came in, she would lift the rope for her but not coil it.

We also talked about Finale being so intelligent and wonderfully precious, and how she would probably get more engaged in the conversation if we gave her more to talk about. I asked my mom if she was open to doing lateral with her. She shared that she had tension around that. I asked if it was because she was worried she wouldn’t do it right. We shared with each other how as we learn, it’s okay to not be perfect. I asked if she would like to be judged by anyone who is being harsh and rigid about how she performs. Then I asked how people she enjoys learning from would guide her in learning something like lateral movements. We talked about this for a moment, both of us realizing that we should be more like the teachers we love and regard dearly in our hearts towards ourselves. I shared my experience of starting lateral work with the horses, and how I’m still not sure that I’m perfect, but I do notice it benefits the horses’ bodies and gives them a way to dance with me that connects us in flow.

After these thoughts, I picked up my halter and placed the red light in my pocket. I had seen Hope lift her head from the pasture and gain interest, so I began to drift toward her, looking back only once to see my mom and Finale going off down the hill with a spring in their step.

When Hope came up, I was a bit tense at first, having expectations that she would not swing her face into my space and being slightly irritated that she was much more concerned about where Finale was going and what the massive tractor across the road was doing than who I was or what I was doing. When I shared this with her through feel and through tapping her on the nose very softly but matter-of-factly with my two fingers, she turned to leave.

It surprised me at first, and I went to follow, but then I realized why she had left. She didn’t leave because she decided she didn’t like me this morning, which was my immediate (self-conscious) response, but rather because she didn’t feel accepted or welcomed into my space. I stepped back and took a moment to change my feeling and my perspective of her. I dropped irritation and expectations, and released judgments as I had done with Cherish the night before. I realized that earlier, Finale had left on a long walk where she couldn’t see her in addition to having this terrifying over-sized lawn tractor careening around turns and up and down hills too fast and cutting up logs and running into rocks in the process, making ghastly noises; a man on his own personal demolition derby ready to go on to the next task of the day. I softened and let her know I understood her fear. I welcomed her into my space and into my heart. She could trust here, I would not push her. We could support each other and find peace together; she was already supporting me this morning by being my best reminder.

Unsurprisingly, with this change in my heart, she came over softly, with openness, and lowered her head to be haltered. Her eyes looked gentle and serene as I tenderly tied the knot. What acceptance will do.

As we explored, I gently stroked the long, lightweight yellow bamboo down her topline multiple times. My focus was using the bamboo in a way that would help her soften and connect emotionally and physically, finding a better way of moving in a way that served us as partners. I felt with my energy and intention and picture. I moved my body to try to help her. I slowly swept the bamboo beside her shoulder in an arc, and then took it away. I stroked across her topline. I smoothly layed the bamboo on her hindquarters.

We played with stopping softly with my body and the bamboo, then backing and weighting ourselves differently so we could step off with a hind leg. Strokes.

I sometimes put the bamboo behind her legs, just resting it in the air, letting the movement of her legs touch it rhythmically. I watched her pelvis tuck, and took it away, telling her how lovely she was.

We rested together, and moved together, and then turned it into one of the same–restoration in movement.

I tried to apply the concept of releasing judgment–rather than thinking of her disconnecting, I acknowledged where I could hold her hand a little bit or offer something different and help her connect better.

Nearing the end of our session, I began to ask if she could arc toward me and step her shoulder over. As I repeated the physical movement and cue in different ways, she became a bit wafty or rigid in her body, depending upon her level of confusion.

Opening to why we might not be connected, I stopped. The wind blew. Her friends were far. Cars whirred and whisked by. The oversized lawn-tractor was cranking and grinding against logs and whatever other poor habitats or saplings lay in its path.

I paused with her. I sank into the earth. I felt the breeze, and saw the warm colors, and how beautiful and kind she was. I told her how brave of a lady she was as I stroked the bamboo slowly over her neck, rubbed behind her ears, and ever so delicately tapped her lumbosacral joint. We took a few minutes with each other just like this, just being there, and being soft, and being gracious and grateful. I watched as her eyes began to soften and blink deeper. She appeared to turn deeper shades of red as those edges to her face let go. She turned to me, and we spoke for a moment, whispering sweet things to each other.

One more time, I offered the space of the arc and the shoulder release. She joined with me, and there we floated as two beings across the warm dry earth. I stopped with her to melt, to enjoy that space we had just created. Her eyes blinked deeper, more softly, as if she could fall asleep and dream of sweet dances.

Published by Kara Cumberton

Wellness and horses are my things. I'm a rider, a bodyworker, and a college student studying integrative health and wellness. I also love nature, yoga, my dog, art, writing, and cooking.

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