Unwinding Tension and Fear Together, for you and your horse.


Hope was a bit nervous today. It was chilly, windy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I thought the weather was beautiful. She thought it was a bit cold. I talked to her softly while we went to put her blanket on. Once clothed, she was able to breathe much more deeply.

There were other distractions, too, and she was a bit worried. I smiled while we walked together, her head low, her stride matching mine, long slow walk steps with an occasional stop to look at something or have a quiet snort to herself. This way of being worried, where she could reassure herself and gain reassurance from me is a new normal for us. Many moons ago I would have been flying a runaway kite (or being ski-dragged by a runaway boat-horse). Now, here she was, softly walking with me, gently closing her eyes and leaning in ever so slightly each time I stroked her.

When we wandered far from the other horses she got more nervous–a bit high-headed and looky. I asked her to trot at one point and she snorted, head and flag raising. I breathed out a low “whoaaa” and she stopped gently beside me, but her head was still high and she was still looking, eyes wide.

I asked her to walk and slowly helped her find the rhythms in her body so she could come back to slowness and peace. I gently pressed my fingers around the rope more, allowing my elbow to swing slightly with it, each time her head swayed toward me. I walked in sync with her front legs step for step. I turned my shoulders so she could wrap around me in a gentle arc. I placed my hand on different spots of her neck and gently pressed as she swung outwards. As we went in circles like this, I remembered to breathe. She remembered to breathe with me. I never told her to lower her head, never told her to relax, never told her to look toward me or cuve around me–she did these things because it felt good, because I encouraged her, because I reminded her that she could find calm.

She stopped and I stopped with her. I stroked her nose very lightly when she turned to me. She blinked her eyes–and then a gate clanged. Her head shot up again, looking wildly, worrying her friends were leaving her for good. I started tapping her on her body, gently. My words started off as soft whispers, and surprised me a bit as they came out of my mouth. “Even though you’re worried and scared, I still believe in you,” and, “Even though you’re worried, I deeply love and accept you,” were repeated many times as I slowly tapped all over her body. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Slow drum beats of love. Over and over. Slow reminders. She was okay. I believed in her. I believed in myself. I loved her. I loved myself. I accepted her. I accepted myself. Nothing was needed from either of us. Everything, right here, no matter what, was good.

She had huge yawns, unwinding all that internal pressure and fear as I unwound my own version that I hadn’t realized I was holding until it began to let go.

I started whispering to her and myself “Big breath of love in… big breath of love out.” As I did this I slowly, ever so gently stroked, first up and then down her nostrils, then up and then down the side of her face, then up and then down her neck, multiple times, until I reached her chest, where I placed my hand on her heart and felt deep love and gratitude for her. For everything about her. Even for the sensitivity, the fear, the worry. And again, she released a lot of internal tension. Blinking, chewing, yawning, lengthening… and I found the little knotted spirals unwinding in myself all the same.

As we walked back toward the other horses, she began to quicken her pace. So I wondered, “what would child me do?” I smiled and created a silly game. I stopped her gently. Then I took one ridiculously large and slow step forward, and plopped my foot on the ground. She took one unsure step forward and stopped. I doted on her, gently but joyfully. And another silly large and slow step. And she took one step and looked at me. And an exaggerated amount of emphatic praise and love and strokes and glee. And another step. Soon I was giggling, and she was taking slow tender steps with soft eyes and loose, slowly moving lips.

And we danced, like two slow goobers across an entire field. It was love at first sight, and for every sight after…

but only recently has it become fun.

I’m the one who changed.

She was more than ready to adjust with me. 

Thank you, love, and all the other ever-patient equids who so graciously agree to be with and teach us. 

May I never give you reason to feel afraid

or impatient,

and if I do,

please forgive me, 

and I will try again.

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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