Saturday, June 25, 2011

"A horse doesn't care how much you know, until he knows how much you care"

"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
Only worry in the world
is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
never been so happy
never felt so high
and I think I might've found me my own kind of paradise"
Zac Brown Band

Six weeks ago you couldn't have gotten me to willingly walk up to a horse if my life depended on it, today I received the lease papers for Cheyenne. Life is sometimes totally unexpected and confusing and flat out wonderful.

My friends keep asking me where this "horse thing" came from and why am I so into it. Truth I havent explained it to any of them, because I am not sure I totally get it yet, I think this is an evolving lesson, but the one thing I know is there is more to this than being "into it". I am "into" working out, I am "into" my gun and my shoes. They are hobbies, pasttimes, stress relievers. There is more to this than that.

I wish I knew how to put it into words, but when I walked into Woodloch stables a few weeks ago and put my hands on Snapper there was this feeling, almost like that of meeting someone and feeling like you have always known them, even though you have never met. There was this feeling that came over me of being totally safe and totally at peace, and anyone who knows me knows that is not how I feel about the world. And that feeling only intensified once I rode for the first time. That day I figured it was about Snapper, but I have had that same feeling when I have hung out with Abi, with Kass, with Cheyenne and even with the horses whose names I don't know at Sunnyside. I couldn't explain it, I couldnt find the words to translate it to, until today.

Over the last couple weeks I have heard the term "Natural Horsemanship" used over and over. In short it is a philosophy of working with horses based on communication and tapping into the natural thinking of a horse instead of trying to bend it to the human way of thinking. I started doing some reading on it today, partially out of curiosity and partially because that is how Cheyenne has been trained". And as I read the first few pages of the book, I was struck by how many times the author (Pat Parelli) kept saying that humans think different then a horse, but then he would describe horses..."they are born cowards and with the absolute instinct to flee first and ask why later....despite their size and power they inherently are afraid of all humans.....respect for a horse means an absence of fear....when something happens that scares them a horse doesnt think logically, they automatically go into full throttle, he tries to escape any way he can even if he hurts himself in the process...they give clear communications with no ambivalence". The descriptions go on and on, and as I read it, for a moment, I lost track that he was talking about horses and found him talking it about me!

That moment of realization helped me start to understand what I felt that day with Snapper and what I have felt since around horses. I felt understood, I felt like I fit, probably for the first time in my life I have found a place, at the side of a horse, where I felt normal. That my fears and insecurities seemed understood in a way they aren't with humans. That the look I saw in Snapper's face that day crossing the stream was him telling me, more than "chill out" but more so "it's ok, I get it" and the same with Cheyenne last week, it wasnt just her knowing she had a purpose, but her telling me "don't worry we are in this together and will figure it out".

I know some of my friends reading this will say "yeah right, like a horse can know that much". But it is one thing I have learned very fast about horses. They do sense where we are at, and they do communicate on an emotional level. All I have to do is watch Cheyenne get impatient when things aren't moving at the pace she wants to know how alike we are.

When you read anyting about horse you see the phrase over and over again "Prey Animal". Horses have an instictual fear of their world, they do everything they do to remain safe in a world that they are unsure about and feel threatened in. And while the same texts describe humans as "Predator Animals", that is not the case for all of us. The reality is for myself and many other people who grew up in less than safe homes we have grown up feeling like prey more than predator. We have lived our entire lives the same way as horses do and still do to this moment. We live on the edge, waiting for people to hurt us, expecting the bad in everyone, giving trust only to find it broken and it reinforcing our fears of the world.

My riding instructor Etta made a comment during my last lesson that really hit me. It should have been such a simple comment that went in one ear and out the other, but it has done anything but that. I have replayed it a million times in the last week. She simply looked over at me riding and said "You look so relaxed". I realized as I was processing that. I have LITERALLY never had anyone say that to me at another moment in my life. I live my life on guard, and she was completely right, that moment on Snapper may have been the first time in my life I felt truly safe, truly fearless and truly relaxed. In another word, like I was finally at a place where I truly fit in.

When you are working with horses they tell you the goal is to become part of the herd, for me I think I started a lot more a part of the herd than I even knew and that I have finally after all these years found my way back to the herd and THAT is what this "horse thing" is all about!

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