The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, July 24, 2015


It hasn't changed. I still get up, run to the kitchen window and exclaim, " Horses!". I am in awe every single day of my life. I live with horses, beautiful, funny, intelligent, independent, fierce, emotional horses. 

How can I not be excited? 

A friend came out to visit. She'd never actually been up close to a real horse, only read about them, watched my posts and pictures. She worked up her courage, called and asked to come out. I almost always say yes. I love to give people, especially artists, the opportunity to meet a horse.

They're all individuals, like us. I see them as giant snowflakes, each one a different pattern, never repeated in exactly the same way. Some of them have softer, rounder, easier to understand and interact with personalities. Others are more reactive, higher energy, sensitive or athletic, funny, game players. 

My tiny herd is an eclectic mix of a tall, sorrel, kind and willing but very aware of changes in his environment Foxtrotter ( a gaited horse with different specific movements for every environment and, in this case, Lucky is also a jumper who can mule jump a four foot fence from a stand still.), a stocky, athletic and surprisingly graceful, independent Curly who holds my heart in his, a smaller athletic American Mustang with an efficient trot that goes all day and a zero to forty mph flat-out run that takes your breath away, and a wee, tiny Miniature Donkey named Willow who runs the show with hutzpah and attitude.

Each of them is at a different place in their journey as a skilled horse, and all of them are my teachers. I have a true diversity to offer people when they come out to see us.

I'm the only one that rides them. If a mistake is made I want it to be mine. But I am comfortable allowing people to be with them, happy to show them how to stand with a horse, introduce themselves politely to a horse. We talk about body language, energy, presence and whatever else the person asks me about. And I'm always careful to tell them I'm by no means an expert. I will probably be a student to the end of my life. Good thing I love to learn!

My friend was, not surprisingly, blown away by their sheer size and presence. We never knock the curiosity out of our horses, and all of them are treated with dignity and kindness. They are part of every decision we make here, for them. If it's one of those days that they just don't want to play/work, I sit down and wait. They always end up coming to me sooner or later. And I try to be aware of where their energy is for the day, the weather (extreme heat is very difficult to manage so playing in the Summer time is at a softer, quieter level with plenty of time to walk and cool off and a cool bath afterwards) and what we are working on.

 I keep books in the barn with lists. (and, yes, it's probably the only part of my life that has that kind of organization in it.) And, sometimes, we work for only five or fifteen minutes, and always until I see them relaxed and in a good place mentally and emotionally. We always end on a good note, always. Even when I broke my arm John put them away and stood quietly with them until they were calm and focused.

My friend said, " They're so quiet. And curious. I thought they'd be running around, hiding from us. I saw you having to go out with a whip cracking, whistling and yelling, to get them to run by." Uh huh. Too many movies. I think maybe she was a bit disappointed, wanted more trauma drama. 

I know they're beautiful in motion, poetry and music in every step. Their muscles ripple, manes and tails blow, hooves beat a rhythm that inspires. But I'm proud of the fact my foursome greets people quietly, calmly and politely. If they aren't interested in meeting you they turn and walk away. And that sometimes happens.  giving me an opportunity to talk about energy and body language, the art of being able to draw a horse to you. Everything, with a horse, counts. You're either teaching them something you want them to learn or another thing you didn't intend. The learning curve is steep and always fascinating.

A few evenings back I watched Stony, my Mustang, play a game of approach and retreat backwards through the door of the shed stall. I wanted to catch it on video, to post here, but my phone was full and I'd left the Canon inside, more the fool I. 

The shed stall is big, twice the size of the usual 12 foot by 12 foot space available for horses. And I always leave it open with a fan running in the Summer. It's deep and shaded, a place that deters flies especially with the fan blowing. Stony wanted to be inside the stall with Lucky and Apache but, every time he tried to walk in frontwards, Apache would pin his ears at Stony. Stony's solution? Go in backwards.

I stood there quietly, my hip cocked and leaning on the fence, and watched. He stood there, thinking. And his lips started to move, a small turn to the left and back he went, just a few steps. He was quite aware of Apache, could see him with that amazing peripheral vision that a horse has. He would step back just until Apache's face would start to tighten, then step forward until Apache relaxed. Forward, backward, forward, backward and each time just a tiny bit further in to the shed. It went on for almost ten minutes.And then, for whatever horse reasons, Apache completely relaxed and in Stony went, still backwards. He relaxed and sighed under the comfort of the fan and lowered his head. Game done!

Always, always riveting, always! 

My friend learned how to stand quietly with a horse the day she was here, how to be vigilant and relaxed, a kind of Zen place to be and so very equine. That was all we did that day, practiced being part of a herd. It's surprisingly difficult to do, but she got it first time out. She's a practitioner of martial arts and meditates, so she found her center very quickly, grounded herself and learned how to be in the moment, horse style. I've never met a horse who wasn't a Zen Master. They exist in a perfect state most of the time, letting go of fear immediately when the reason to be afraid has passed. 

When she left she was in that right brained place, time irrelevant, quiet. It's that way of being we all had as children before schedules and tests, peer pressure and bill paying pushed us in to adulthood. She arrived an adult with questions, left as her child within, content.

I think she'll be back. Her comment when she left, " Horses!"

I am, ever yours, Nancy, in the moment, learning, being and smiling, equine style

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