About 5-6 weeks ago I was very fortunate to begin a horse-share arrangement at a yard not far from where I live. The horse in question is a beautiful dark brown gelding called Knight. Over the past month or so we’ve been getting to know each other and he has been teaching me so much.
When I first met him, I was told that Knight had some back issues and was showing signs of pain when ridden, in fact his young owner told me that he would try to buck her off. He had been seen by a vet who recommended a session with an equine physio. The physio had found that his back muscles were tight and painful so she used a massager on him. He has now had 2 sessions with her and will soon be getting measured for a new saddle.
I started by offering Knight some healing, some gentle massage and a few acupressure points that I thought might be helpful. (During an initial scan I’d noticed that Knight reacted at 2 points on his neck and was also sensitive around his lumbar area.) Knight ‘tolerated’ these therapies, briefly, but didn’t seem to be enjoying them so I shelved them for now and instead we practised some gentle exercises in the school, including walking over poles, weaving, doing circles to encourage him to bend and increase flexibility in his spine, carrot stretches to release any tight muscles and walking backwards to strengthen his back and his hip flexors.
Knight seemed to do most of these exercises quite easily and it helped us to get to know each other a little better. He appeared to be curious about this newcomer and even followed me through the exercises without being led. It was a lovely feeling for me that he was choosing to be with me – even if only out of curiosity – and it made me want to develop our relationship and connection further. This is something that is very important to me, and a big part of what I focus on in my work, but spending time with Knight has opened up a whole new level for me.
Every horse is an individual and brings a whole series of new teachings. I get the impression that Knight is a very ‘contained’ horse – calm on the outside but holding a lot of emotion inside. Whether in the school, paddock or stable he would comply with what I asked or gently show me that he ‘didn’t want to play today’ but without any real emotion. I got the feeling that I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg, like a mask – a façade that he shows to the outside world, while keeping his inner thoughts very private. I felt that he was letting me in just so far, but no further. While respecting that this is his choice, I also want to make sure that he knows he is completely safe around me. I always keep my energy low when I’m with him, moving gently and keeping my hands and voice soft. I want him to know that he can trust me always to be reliable and to never use punishment with him.
I also often spend time with him, just being present, not asking anything of him, other than for him to be himself. I want him to know that he is free to express himself and make his own choices, to encourage him to be self-aware. I would like him to to feel safe to show me his wants and needs, knowing that I will listen. I still keep boundaries, and hopefully I do this consistently, so that Knight learns what is or is not ‘ok’ with me, just as I do for him. I watch his body language and encourage him to take the lead at times. This seems to be encouraging him to open up a little more and to be more relaxed around me. The other day he actually yawned for the first time with me – and not just a small yawn either! It built up into a massive jaw and tongue release which was beautiful to see.
Some of the best times we’ve had have been in the paddock where I often just spend time sitting on the ground while Knight and his 2 field buddies graze around me. It’s very touching how these large animals take such good care around me. They are always very gentle and are conscious about where they put their feet! I love to watch the buzzards riding the thermals, the swallows swooping after insects, the rabbits hopping about and the butterflies enjoying the sunshine. I also love the sound of the wind in the trees and the feel of it caressing my skin. These are magical times that the horses allow me to share with them.
Yesterday, before going to the yard, I watched ‘The Path of the Horse‘ . This is an amazing film and I highly recommend watching it. It was one of those moments where the Universe delivers exactly what you need, at exactly the right time – a gift … and a challenge! Many parts of the film were difficult for me to watch, some because I have been guilty of less than gentle handling in the past (partly due to ignorance but also because I was lacking the confidence to question what I was taught, even when it felt wrong and also, to my shame, I have at times taken out my pain on these beautiful, patient animals) also some scenes reflected my pain, as the horse does, showing that I have much personal work still to do.
I realised that this is what I was bringing to Knight – and that this was what he was reflecting back to me! No wonder he appeared reserved and very self-contained. No wonder he didn’t seem to trust me with his innermost feelings. I’ve been doing exactly the same with him – and with myself!
Being honest with myself I’ve known this to be true but needed to be confronted with it. I’ve been making excuses that it was ‘ok’, ‘not really important’ or ‘not about me, anyway’, but being with Knight has shown me that I must be willing to ‘show up’ and fully own, and take responsibility for, all of my emotions before I can expect the same from him. At the same time I can be free to go with the moment with a very light, soft touch, allowing my ‘E-Motions’ (Energy in Motion) to ebb and flow naturally without the baggage of guilt or ‘navel gazing’ that we humans so often get caught up in.
After watching the film I went to see Knight. I brought my drum (an Irish bodhran) and Kindle with me and we played and danced together. It felt rather strange at first (and I was glad that no-one was watching) but it also felt liberating and joy-ful and Knight seemed to pick up on this energy and join in.
We then just stood together, Knight dozing, feeling the wind in our hair, the sun on our backs and enjoying each other’s energy. It was a very beautiful and special time and an infinitely precious moment of connection between us that we can build on.