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.
There is a Norwegian story about the birth of Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem, that claims that the animals in the stable watched the birth and then they began to praise God for what they had just seen. Apparently this went on before the shepherds came on the scene. When the shepherds appeared the animals fell silent. The only ones purported to hear the animals were Mary, Joseph and the Christ child.
My mare Zuzka comes to stand beside me at the gate, ready to have her halter slipped on. She is one who often will want to play games about being haltered, suggesting, no, I’m too busy today to go ride. Or maybe it’s just the game she likes. But this day she really wants to go out. I can often tell if she wants to go out on the trail, by how she stands looking off in the distance, when there is no activity on the horizon that can be seen with the naked eye. A sort of longing to be out there.
One of the interesting things that comes up for me in practice is how people will feel that their horse can do no wrong. That he won’t suddenly get excited by a herd of wild horses in the distance, he will absolutely never step on their toes, and he most certainly will never suddenly jerk his head up and rear if something startles him.
I moved my horses recently, and I took the gravestone I’d had made for my departed gelding Khami with us. I was concerned that we would have to create a new sacred space at the new location, because the horses would no longer have Khami’s grave to roll on. A few days before the move I went out to the grave and it had rained hard so the center was squishy, smooth mud that took on the appearance of the surface of peanut butter upon opening a new jar. One of the horses had walked around the mud center, hoofprints marking the perimeter of the grave.
One of the hardest things for people to grapple with is the fact that their horse is not always nice. I talk about good behavior and model that for the horse, but sometimes the horse does not exhibit good behavior in spite of all the modeling. Sometimes we get a dose of teeth and hooves.
I stood there at the side of the grave, then knelt there and heard hoof falls behind me. Zuzka, my dear black mare and lifelong companion of our departed Khami, came up behind me. She left a respectful distance and looked at me as though to say, if you want some time alone that’s okay. I said and motioned to her, let’s be here together.
What is the conversation between horse and rider?
Recently I’ve been working with a horse and rider team who are deeply bonded. After an accident the owner is building up her riding time. Her concern was that he would not sustain a trot for a length of time and that her body was not seated in the saddle evenly. Each side of her felt different, and one side felt unwieldy and unable to really connect.
Years ago, when I got my mare Zuzka, the trainer I was working with at the time was so happy when we were able to put her in the same corral space with my gelding Khami. The trainer said it helped her training because the mare would be moved around all day by him.