Sharing Space and Time with your Horse
Well, I’ve been very quiet on the blog front with the last one appearing in June of this year. The main reason for this is that things have been moving on with my horsemanship so rapidly that sometimes, its difficult to say exactly where I am in my journey, let alone write about it. It’s been like this for well over a year now and at first, I must admit, I found it highly frustrating and slightly anxiety provoking, especially given that this is how I make my living!! Sixteen months on and I now welcome the feeling of flux and transition with horses as a huge gift and an essential part of growing into the person I aspire to be. I have come to recognise the value of having no fixed ground to stand on when it comes to horses and I know to some that will sound perplexing but to me, it feels exactly where I should be.
Largely it has been a process of unlearning and returning to a state that is far more intuitive and feels more in line with how I felt about horses when I was a child. When I think back to how horses made me feel when I was young, all I can remember was that their very nature and presence was enough to make me feel intensely happy without having them ‘do’ anything for me, or having to be sitting on their backs. I still have that feeling but for a while, it really took a back seat as I became far more focused on doing and achieving, rather than simply being and appreciating.
Two weeks ago I made a decision to experiment with turning the dial back to zero, going back to absolute basics and committed to do absolutely nothing with my horses for thirty days. Now for those of you who heard warning bells at that statement and are already thinking ‘there’s nothing here for me, I want to get out there and DO stuff with my horse!’... if this is what you are thinking, then maybe you need to read this more than anyone. So , I’m asking you to take a moment, make like Miranda and ‘Bear with...’
Now this isnt a new practice by any stretch of the imagination and spending time passively with horses is part of many training approaches but I think what I’m doing fits most with Chuck Mintzlaff’s ideal to be found in his Friendship Training which has as its first principle: ‘To make my horse feel they are the most special horse in the world. This is the goal of the Friendship Training Exercises. Combined, they are the means that offers the opportunity to reach the essential levels of intimacy to make the horse feel they are not only 'special,' but overwhelmingly appreciated and loved. For what we share is priceless.’
Who wouldn’t want to feel ‘overwhelmingly appreciated and loved’, whether you are a horse or a human? Isn’t it a lovely notion that any creature would feel naturally drawn to?! The main aspect of my thirty day experiment concerns the notion of sharing space and time. Carolyn Resnick uses the term ‘Sharing Territory’ and it is the foundation of her ‘Waterhole Rituals’. She describes its value: ‘Sharing Territory without any need for connection is a strong icebreaker and a big draw to a horse. From the pause, your vibrations will begin to match your horse’s. This causes a horse to want to be with you- and both you and your horse’s well-being will increase.’
Carolyn Resnick recommends at first taking a book out with you to just sit but I feel this is another way I can become distracted and lost in another world ,so instead I have been going out with nothing. Just me. No books, no pen and paper, no stick, no rope, no halter, no wheelbarrow to clean fields, no agenda, no expectations. Just the desire to show the horses in my life how special they are to me.
This is what I have found…
The biggest realisation by far is just what a complex and rich experience doing nothing with your horse is! On the face of it, you would think that the activity would be, well, boring. Like many people I was pretty fixated on achieving certain tasks and levels of competence with my horses. And I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. What I am saying is that in doing this, even if you are pursuing a ‘natural horsemanship’ approach, something precious is at huge risk of being lost in the process.
I’ve spent ‘undemanding time’ with my horses on many occasions over the years. This is different. By doing it over a longer period of time where all thoughts of progressing at tasks or going on rides has ceased, a space is opened up for a deeper communion to take place. By spending hours hanging out with the herd, I’ve had the privilege of having one of my horses seek me out to fall asleep with me. Sharing space together in moments like these, time begins to lose its hold as my own consciousness blends with the horses and the surrounding landscape. An overwhelming feeling of oneness and connection blankets me and it really is a wrench to leave the herd when its time to go. On a daily basis I find all three horses becoming softer and quieter in my presence as we all tune in to each others frequency easily and quickly. It is nothing short of magical and I know that when the time comes to pick up a more dynamic existence together, it will be different. I look forward to feeling that intense feeling of connection in activity and now have a much clearer idea of what I am seeking to achieve in a very vivid sense.
So… if your curiosity has been stirred, why not try the same? Even if you feel unable to make such a long commitment, why not experiment with a week or two of sharing space and time with the horses in your life? Just one warning though… if its done in the correct spirit, it’s addictive and it will change you, 100 percent for the better, guaranteed!!