Much like people have mantras and chanting for their meditations, horses move and flow rhythmically. If we can watch, feel and be a part of their rhythms rather than imposing our own modern-day rushed rhythms on them, we will find they are much more likely to want to be with us, and will be curious about us.
For some people, getting from the house to the barn was a major nightmare. Many of my barn calls were canceled during this week or two when it was impossible to work in such conditions. But Lisa and Barb paddled around, greeting the horses and donkeys and mules, having a wonderful time. Because these floats were so natural and rhythmic, maybe, or because it was so odd to see humans floating around in kayaks, the equines were hugely curious.
What was also great about this was that the two women were sharing their fun and enthusiasm with the equines. The horses, donkeys and mules wanted to be a part of it and they got very interested. Lisa said, “The mules especially seemed to think the kayaks were new toys just for them…..they enjoyed mouthing the kayaks and several times got their mouths on the carry handles and tried to pull the kayaks into shore!”
We can’t always provide such entertainment for our horses but it’s great when opportunity presents itself.
If we could listen to their heartbeats, or our own, we would feel the way hearts beat rhythmically, perhaps a little faster if something excites us. We have our own rhythms organized around our heartbeat. In endurance riding, we take a heart rate reading of the horses when we came into a vet check. The horses’ heart rates had to drop down to “criteria” at 60 beats per minute, after trotting for many miles. It was important that it dropped down and that the horse pulsed down quickly, in keeping with their body rhythms and the ability of the heart rate to drop down after intense exercise.
When I watch horses move together in a herd, there is a rhythm to their movements like a heartbeat. Their walk, trot and canters have cadences that are musical, their interaction in the herd is also rhythmical.
We can do this on our own, if we have a place to be with our horses and just move with them, watch them move together, join them, as they move from place to place, grabbing tufts of grass, sniffing the dirt, animal scat, etc. They move along in a loose limbed way, heads lowered, fully relaxed. If they hear something startling, their heads will come up in unison, ears forward, eyes scanning the horizon for a sign of an intruder. They are connected by an internal radar system so that they move and react as one.
I see this as an important part of our being with horses and training. In some trainings, there is an emphasis on driving a horse which makes the horse want to go away from you. The observation of horses in the wild or just domestic horses interacting with each other, shows us that they move each other energetically, with a rhythm, sometimes a drive with teeth bared, but mostly, just a flow, from one patch of grass to another. Much like the float in the kayak, with the gentle lap of the water under the boat.
If you think of it this way, then it takes the human “must-get-it-done” energy out of the equation and allows you to simply go with the flow of the horse. Get into the flow of the horse, just like you would have a flow with your paddling if you were in Lisa’s or Barb’s kayak. You can’t paddle out of rhythm or you won’t get anywhere!
Kayaking photos credit: Lisa Westfall
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