Hello, and welcome back.
Let’s start with a nice deep exhale … how long do we sometimes hold our breath? Way too long, according to our animals.
Listen to podcast #55 Horse Crazy Girls here.
Whenever your animals stare at you and you wonder why … most likely you are not breathing fully into your body, but instead, you’re holding your breath close to your chest.
Now horses are different than cats and dogs … horses usually do not stare at you when you are not embodied. Horses walk away from you. Or stay away from you because a human who holds her breath feels like a predator, ready to pounce.
As with all animals, they want to hang out with us when we are at ease in the body. That’s why girls and horses work out so well together. As young horse-crazy girls, we headed to the barn with bated breath … meaning excited … and the moment we saw the horse, our body immediately went for a big exhale … because there s/he was, standing in a field by the creek or in a paddock eating hay, or in a stall waiting for us. Our energy melted with one look at the furry fabulousness that we got to spend the next few hours with.
Nowadays, if you are an adult and still love horses, you probably have one. Or you work with horses, or you take care of horses.
And, like so many of us, the moment we engage with horses as adults, we lose a little bit of the girl-like quality we brought to the barn when we were younger.
Today I want to share a few ways to connect with the horses in your life. No matter if they are your horses or the ones you take care of or work with.
First and foremost. Make one conscious shift and breathe deeply as you head out to see the horse. Just take one seriously conscious breath. As you do probably realize that you haven’t in a while. That’s what I usually feel … kinda like … oh, hello, there you are … I actually forgot that I have a body … interesting. And then I usually feel I want to give my body a second and third breath that fills my lungs.
Now, your body is already softer.
And the horse will know that.
As you approach the horse, be it yours or not, say hello with curiosity. Do not go right to work, but take a moment and allow the horse to share with you how s/he feels. Breathe together. Do not touch. Just be. Is the horse pointing up her nose for you to scratch her under her chin?
Is the horse quietly standing next to you, enjoying your calm company? Is the horse itching his side because spring is here and fur is flying?
Watch and respond to what the horse is sharing with you.
I talk a lot about benign in dialogue with your animal.
To be in a dialogue, we got to give the other being a chance to express what they want or need or are feeling. And if you already touch, assume, and direct the conversation right away, the horse doesn’t have a chance to express where she or he is emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually.
After hanging out for a few breaths, noticing, responding, and sharing space, tell the horse what’s on the docket for today.
We’re going on a ride into the bogs today.
You are working with Jimmy today.
You are staying in for now because the farrier is coming.
As you get the horse ready for what’s to come, keep communicating.
How? Well, instead of doing everything to the horse, you go about it mindfully, which means you do things with the horse.
So, for example, when you mindfully engage with the horse as you groom, tack, and ride, you let your horse be part of the process.
When I start brushing my horses, I always let them smell the brushes and pick a brush if they have a preference. They might pick a brush out of the grooming tote, or I might hold out two brushes and ask, “Which one do you want me to start with?”
If the horse picks the soft brush, I start with that.
If the horse picks the hard brush, I start with that.
Who says you must begin every grooming with a curry comb unless, of course, that is what the horse likes best? But still, I do not assume. I will still ask … choice matters. And being asked is such a wonderful way to give agency to the other being.
Then, as I get ready to pick the hooves … I look for the hoof that bears the least weight. If one of the hoofs is resting on the toe … that is the one I will start with.
And I will speak about it to the horse. “Ah, you already got one foot ready for me. I will start with that one.”
After picking the hoof clean, I tap the sole with my fingertips to wake up the hoof portals similar to our reflexology points. What is different here, according to the horse Zander, who taught me this, is that we don't have to tap specific points. We simply tap the sole and frog and bars and heel to awaken the portals so they can release any toxicity into the earth and pull up pure energy from the earth.
Then, once clean and tapped, I gently place that hoof back onto the ground and tap the outside of the hoof wall. Tap, tap, tap, all the way around. Bringing my intention to the hoof brings the horse’s attention to the hoof. In so many domestic settings, horses live under a lot of stress. Often the stress starts showing up in the feet. Laminitis, foundering, navicular, white line, growth rings … caring for the hooves in this way helps the horse release and exchange energy with Mother Earth. If your horse wears pads tap anyway, your intention matters almost as much as the contact finger to the sole.
Once I release the first hoof, I look at which hoof is the lightest now. Once the second hoof is picked and placed back on mama earth, the other two legs usually stand solidly, and I pick whatever hoof is closest and go from there.
Once the horse is clean, I always run my hand down the spine. You start at the withers and slowly move your hand down the spine to smooth and soothe the nervous system. I respect the nervous system and how much it holds us and our horses together. Giving the spine some love for housing the central nervous system is a sweet thing to do.
Then, if you use tack … let the horse smell each item. The saddle pad, the saddle, the first, the bridle. Sometimes, you see the horse reacting to the equipment during that little interaction. I the horse pins her ears when the saddle comes near her … take that as a sign that something is not working for the horse. The saddle might be too heavy or unbalanced or maybe the horse is not feeling well, and has ulcers or a backache. Thai is important information … you don't want to override those expressions of communication.
“I would say something like, ”Oh, I sense something is not fitting you right. Is it the saddle?” And then watch what the horse says about it? Does she sigh and exhale …? Then it is most likely the saddle. Does she stand stoic and doesn't respond? Then I would ask another question out loud, “Is it your body? Your back?” I would pause and watch. If I get no response, I ask, “Which part?” and keep observing. The horse will most likely give you an indication. She might want to turn her head to point to the hind end, one reason not to use cross ties. Caught between cross ties, the horse has a hard time communicating. The horse might lift a leg, or … if you're present and accounted for, your eyes might simply move to an area that is the culprit of the discomfort.
For now, let’s assume the horse was fine with the equipment. Well, then, it’s time for mounting.
So as we head to the mounting block, I share what we're about to do. Most often, the horse exhales because it is comforting for the horse to know what comes next.
The horse’s breath reminds me to breathe as well.
Because chances are, my breath has gotten more shallow as I lifted saddles, observed, and got us ready.
Deep breathing before mounting up is a wonderful way to make the entire process easier for you and the horse.
And here is the fun part. As a young girl, you did all that automatically.
For me, Burton Candy, a.k.a Cindy, the New Forrest horse I got to ride as a young teenager, Cindy was a friend. We did everything together. And I mean that literally. We did everything together. I didn't decide. We decided.
It’s the gift of our younger selves, the ability to go with the flow — to assess a situation and come up with a plan that fits the circumstance. It didn’t matter what we did as long as we did it with our horses. We decided from our hearts, not our heads.
I invite you to go back to that feeling and the energy you brought to the barn when you were young.
When you came because of the horse and not to get a job done. The beauty is you can still get a job done. I just showed you how you can connect, groom, tack, and mount up mindfully. It doesn’t take much time. It simply requires you to engage the horse in the process, so it is not done to but with the horse.
That is really the difference, isn't it?
When we come with our hearts full to the brim with the love we have for horses, it is easy to engage with them from the moment we enter their space until the moment we leave. Being present and communicative is the adult way to relive our childhood dreams and memories.
Try it out. Re-member the feelings. And I promise, your days with horses will again feel like the old connection, the love that drew you to horses in the first place. The horses are still the same. We are the ones who changed.
Come back to that place of awe you held for horses when you were young.
As Rumi says, “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Believe me. Your horse will always meet you in that space.
Until we connect next time … I am hanging out in the field.
Goodbye and so long …