This year was one full of change for me, my human family and horses. What is most significant to me about a year is that it encapsulates everything you’ve done, everything that’s happened to you, and all what you cannot control and that which you have put into action.
In spite of sadness, we move on in life. In spite of financial burdens, we continue to find a way to make things work. In spite of career challenges, doors open and perhaps more doors open because there is room for so much more. But this isn’t the case for everyone. Why is that?
Throughout this, I’m drawn to the understanding of rebound – in our bodies, our horses’ bodies, our lives. The universe has a natural rebound so that when there are losses of lives, land and so forth, it goes on to try to repair the loss and put back what is lost or heal itself in some way. The human and animal bodies have the same capability, on a smaller scale, of course.
Since August, I had been going around saying we “lost” Khami, my beloved Arab gelding, but he is not really “lost.” In fact, I think that although I miss him being here physically on earth, he is somewhere without stress now, finding those who have gone on before him, a herd in heaven. To feel that knowledge is to have a certain rebound about his death. Because a death puts us in a state of shock sometimes, as it did with him, then it’s sometimes harder to rebound from it than if your loved one had had a long illness. As long as I can feel him around me in some way, I am okay with his leaving. Where he is, he is free from the pain of aging, the passage where the body ties you down and you remember leaping for joy but your body won’t go there with you.
So in that way, 2015 marked his passing, and marked a lot of change for me. It marked a time of seeing with new eyes and taking guidance from the herd: what needs to change, how can we better our lives? Humans have the intellectual capacity to research, make decisions, pay bills, find a cheaper way, find a richer lifestyle, much as though were are looking for greener pastures or a good watering hole, but leading with our minds, rather than rhythm and intuition, as horses do.
In all of that we need the ability to rebound. We need to be able to “roll with the punches,” so to speak. If we suddenly need to move, or seek a new way of doing things, or get a new job, then that’s what we must go forward and do. The ability to rebound in life – as well as in our bodies – is essential to human health.
When people are unable to do this, they can end up wallowing in situations that are unhealthy for them. They react – their flight/fight mechanism is stuck and they rail against the change. If others don’t live up to their expectations, they get horribly upset. They need a little softening around the edges.
This is not to say that a little anger and upset isn’t normal, it is. Nobody likes for people not to live up to expectations. Outrage at injustice is perfectly acceptable.
But take a look at the horse. The horse has a bigger flight/flight reflex and we seek to tame it in order to have the horse safe to be around, and to ride. We spend a lot of time on this in training. We want that horse to be able to “roll with the punches” and eventually become our protector as well. That’s why we build a relationship with the animal.
When we encounter a horse that is stuck, albeit he has an unwanted behavior and we have trouble disengaging him from it, then we are faced with a lack of rebound. Something in the wiring of that horse is not adjusting to change. I can go between working with the unwanted behavior or ignoring it, or bringing in someone else to help with it. But how about supporting the positive behavior in him so that it leaves less room for unwanted behavior?
When I look at this challenge, I look to ways of reinstating rebound in the horse and the person.
When my horses and I moved to a new location, I had the challenge of getting some weight off my young mare Jazzie, who pushed everyone out of the way for food. I made a separate place for her to eat at first, and she calmed right down, knowing she didn’t have to push anyone off hay. At the same time, I needed to make sure that Patches, our Paint gelding, was able to continue his rhythms of moving from hay source to hay source, because he needed to gain weight. I felt intuitively that if I gave him a separate place to eat, he would not have the ability to move rhythmically with another horse which was very important to him. My 23-year-old mare Zuzka held the center, her weight and health wonderful. She moved Patches around enough to keep him in rhythm and to keep him thinking.
I introduced slow feeding gradually. Prior to this, the horses had eaten from haybags but they emptied them so quickly they were worried about where their next meal might come from. It was a form of slow feeding but not very effective. In all our domestic horse care, we are in one way or another, compensating for captivity.
With the new setup, once Jazzie stopped being fearful of not having enough to eat, she was able to join the others. With slow feeding, hay was freely available and she didn’t need to gorge herself. They all eat together now, but if she wants to be in a separate stall to eat, she can go there. Patches gained weight back and his overall health has improved greatly. This way they also all get to enjoy the rhythmic movement from hay source to hay source, without fighting for a place.
For horses, it can be as simple as this, but it took me awhile to get it right. I had to look at: who has the best rebound? Who would you say it is? The horse that is pushing everyone around is not really the best example. The horse who needs to gain weight because he is at the bottom of the pecking order is not it. It is the one who quietly maintains her weight and health no matter what is going on. Zuzka. The whole herd revolves around her.
In people life, we can take this example and look at who is our hub. The people who shoot from the hip, are reactive and causing confrontations are not those we want to put our trust in. We don’t want to put our life in their hands. The one who is uncertain, unable to make his mark in the world, always pushed around, can be easily ignored. In the first case, that one needs to tone it down, work on the rebound. In the second case, he is slow to respond, to get out of the way, also needs work on the rebound. Once his sense of self grows, he will be trustworthy.
In this case, food had a lot to do with restoring rebound, by restoring a more natural way of eating for the horses. Horses’ natural rhythms can restore the rebound to them. Bodywork can also restore the rebound. It is our most important reflex. It is the same in humans, although we have a lot of conditioning to conceal it or to even support reflexive action that doesn’t serve us. Working with horses helps us get into rhythms with them, that brings us better rebound. I think that’s why Liberty Foundations is so very helpful to people as well as horses. Energetic bodywork gives us better rebound, from inside out, engaging our self-corrective mechanism.
So looking back, how did I get through 2015? I have to say rebound. We have heard the expression “rebound” from illness, or injury, but we also can rebound from life, from shock, from sorrow, loss, disappointment, from disaster. Some situations are harder than others, some take longer, but in the care given to each situation there is rebound, a new beginning, neural pathway, seed sown, forward movement.
This year we will be working with rebound and other reflexes in classes, both in Liberty Foundations and Equine Body Balance. Be sure to join me!
Happy New Year.
Copyright (c) Susan Smith
Articles in Horse Around New Mexico
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Let me know if you want to do a clinic in your area. Scheduling now for 2016. Prices will vary according to location & travel costs. PayPal and credit card payments available.
Saturday, January 9th 12 – 3 p.m. – Equine Body Balance Study Group 2-3 hours. Arrowhead Ranch. $75.
January 30-31, 2016 — Weekend Liberty Foundations Clinic in DeLand, Florida at Curly Dee Ranch. Early Bird sign up: $350 by January 2. After that date, $375.
Saturday, February 13 – Equine Body Balance Study Group, 2-3 hours. Arrowhead Ranch, Santa Fe. $75.
Saturday, March 12 – Tenets of Equine Healing, 1-Day Equine Body Balance Workshop, 9:30-4:30 p.m. Location TBA, Santa Fe. Early Bird price: $140 (deadline March 1)/$150 thereafter.
Saturday, April 2 – Liberty Foundations Introductory Class & Liberty Transitions, 9:30-4:30 p.m. Arrowhead Ranch, Santa Fe. Early Bird price: $140 (deadline March 15)/$150 thereafter.
Friday, April 22 – Tenets of Equine Healing 1-Day Equine Body Balance Workshop, 9:30-4:30 p.m., Spirit Horse Ranch, Jones, Oklahoma. $175. Please sign up with Susan 505-501-2478 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday & Sunday, April 23-24 – Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations Clinic, 9-4:30, Spirit Horse Ranch, Jones Oklahoma. Early Bird price: $325 (deadline April 1), $350 thereafter. Contact Ruella Yates at email@example.com for details and enrollment.
Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8 – Working with the Equine Spine, two-day Equine Body Balance workshop focusing on the importance of the spine in the locomotion of the horse. Location: TBA, Santa Fe. Early bird price: $280 (deadline April 25), $300 thereafter.
Please see http://www.naturalwhisperings.com for Workshops in the Portland, Oregon area June 10-12 and August 12-14 2016!
Equine Body Balance 2-day Workshop
June 10 & 11, 2016, Friday/Saturday
($350 Early Bird/ $400 reg)
Working with the Equine Spine We will observe ways to address the spine by observing spinal curves and movement, with non-force, specific techniques and point work. We will also look at the range of motion available in the spine and discuss common areas of pain.
August 12 & 13, 2016, Friday/Saturday
($350 Early Bird/ $400 reg)
Working with the Equine Limbs We will address the equine limbs and common areas of restriction through looking at range of movement, hooves as an organ, limb structure, types of joints and joint articulation, ligaments and tendons, musculature, relationship of the limbs to the spine, efficient vs. inefficient movement.
Liberty Foundations 1-day Workshop
June 12, 2016, Sunday
August 14, 2016, Sunday
($175 Early Bird/ $200 reg)
Horses at Liberty Foundations Liberty Foundations are six foundations based on horses’ cooperative natural herd behavior, using no tack. Working with energetic principles, we come into relationship with the horse by first learning to relate in his or her language, through body positioning, touch and rhythms. As horsemanship methods have evolved, the horse’s true voice has not always been heard. For horses, true Liberty work can feel like a song from the herd, perhaps a herd they never had. The differences in horses’ behavior can be profound, leading to deeper connection in other work done on the ground and under saddle.