Friday, September 10, 2010

What horses will offer

Last night I went out at 7:00 to teach one of my regular students, Bridget and her horse Star. They were not at the barn when I arrived so I started to walk out to the field where Star lives. It is about a 100 acres and she shares it with a large herd of about 20 horses. I was about to go looking for them when I see a head coming over the hill. Bridget and Star, her 5 year old Percheron cross mare are walking in together. Bridget is carrying her halter and Star has chosen to leave her friends and follow her owner down to the barn. In a bit, two of Star's horse friends decide to join them and are frollicking about, but Star does not falter and holds her course down to the gate. I open it and Bridget choses to trust Star to be out in the yard without her halter on. We head off, not sure if Star will keep with us as there is now timothy grass up to her belly on either side of the lane. But she snacks on some heads, hesitates here and there as her friends are now calling from the field, and continues on down the lane to the barn, also ignoring the horses in the nearby paddock. As she nears the barn she remembers there are good things in there and takes over the lead. Bridget is beaming. Proud of her baby and I am sure pleased with herself for letting go of fear and trusting Star. For Bridget this journey has been all about trust.

Star and Bridget have been playing in this new way to be with horses for the longest, nearly a year now. Bridget has never faltered. Never fallen back into the old ways of make 'em do it. She shows up at the barn each time with unconditional love, no agenda, no expectations, open and aware, listening and ready to try whatever Star suggests might be fun today. Because Bridget has chosen this way to 'BE' with her horse, they are teaching us all so much about what the horse will offer when we get out of the way.

Bridget came from a traditional riding background, having competed in hunters in Florida in her youth. She is not an overly brave rider. Like most of us fear can come sneaking in the back door and create all kinds of wild scenarios at a moments notice. Sometimes this makes it much harder to let go of how we think we have to behave around horses. To reject all the old tapes that are playing in our head, telling you that the horse must obey you, that you can't let them decide if they want to come in today, can't let them decide if you should be allowed on today, can't let them decide where they will go, can't let them decide if they will wear a saddle or not. Bridget decided to fully let Star decide and decide she has. Bridget has let her past be past and has embraced a new way.

A year ago Bridget was in a 'yoga on horseback' class that we were running at the barn. The instructor Margit McNaughton had had to reassured her that she could do yoga with all of her tack on even though others in the class used the preferred bareback pads. Margit had reminded me of this just last week, after I was telling her of the wonderful adventures that Star and Bridget go on now. She could not beleive that Bridget was now riding without saddle or bridle or halter out in the field. She could not believe the level of trust that Bridget now had.

We realize that Star is teaching Bridget. To let go. To trust her. She has always presented things when Bridget was ready. To ride with a halter instead of a bridle, that was the first big step, then a bareback pad instead of a saddle, then no saddle, and now no bridle. And Star keeps her safe. On her first ride without a halter Star just stood in the arena with her head very low and they breathed together. Next she tried a small circle, with small steps, taken very carefully. Step by step their world got bigger until now they are trotting over small jumps in the arena and then Star is taking Bridget out into the herd with her and going on small adventures, all without anything on. Everything that she presents, Bridget sees as a gift.

Just last week we observed something interesting. We realize Star does her own 'ground work'. When we are out in the herd or last week in the yard she appears to be just wandering off taking us in various places and then we discovered that she takes Bridget when she is riding exactly where she has already gone. Her own form of groundwork.

I am sure you will hear more of the adventures of Star and Bridget as we keep observing and learning what the horses will offer.

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