joy

Living in the Past

Happy… and I’m smiling… with apologies to Ian Anderson, I find myself reviewing so much of my life with horses and the lessons they have taught.
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As a riding instructor, I often quote old instructors from my own past and even more often, tell the tales of horses (also teachers) from my past experiences.

When working in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, I saw the deep learning that occurred with equine contact and felt it myself, as well. The past might be, at times, a lingering vision of dreams not realized or a small voice drawing one into regret – but it need not be. Just as we choose our focus in the moment, we can choose the things remembered.

I have had riding instructors ask me to dismount and tell me that I had “no idea how to put a horse on the aids”. What I chose at that moment was to learn how to do so!

I have had instructors teach me how to breathe properly; how to understand gravity; how to calm and center myself and how to raise my energy and my vibration. These things have served me well beyond the riding – they have kept me safe in bus stations; helped me find strength when I needed it (when loading hay or changing a tire) and allowed me to feel grace and peace most of the time. I draw these positives from my past.

The horses set examples beyond my expectations year after year by being the greatest friends anyone could have. They always have shown me the energy I was projecting by reflecting it honestly back to me. That has been a valuable gift.

When I talk and teach about the “Well of Experiences”, those drops that have filled it (both positive and negative) actually are subjective in a way. At least for us as humans – we can choose to learn from every experience and therefore make them positive in their end results.

My beautiful picture

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Beyond Aggression

In my favorite book, “Shambala, sacred path of the warrior”, Trungpa Rinpoche talks about the true warrior attaining a  state of gentleness. About the Dralas, energy beyond aggression and how our true natures are fearless.

“It is not just an arbitrary idea that the world is good. but it is good because we can experience its goodness.” He says, “Shambala vision is tuning in to our ability to wake ourselves up and recognize that goodness can happen to us. In fact, it is happening already.”

In her book, “Excuse me, your life is waiting”, Lynn Grabhorn says about Joy and Fear:
“When we’re experiencing anything that Joy isn’t, such as fear, worry, guilt or even mild concern, those emotions are sending out low frequency vibrations. Since low frequencies are every bit as magnetic as high frequencies, they’re going to attract only cruddy stuff back to us, meaning anything of that same low frequency that will cause us to feel (and vibrate) as lousy as what we’re sending out”.
While some fears can keep us from driving fast on icy roads or walking down dark alleys at night (and I tend to call those wise discretion…), attaching to any fear by giving it more than a fleeting consideration is to allow its invasion and influence within your very soul.
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Many years ago a teacher told me that horses are only afraid of two things, “Things that
move and things that don’t move”. I was speechless, having not heard it before.
Tonight, I’m thinking about how very clearly we hold ourselves hostage if we connect to fear…
Some fears come from a “what if” dialog about the health and well being of our horses – often generated by drug companies and a medical system that sees through eyes of aggression:
“Attack” dis-ease, Vaccinate to make immunity (the body does have an immune system), use chemistry to rid a body of what’s not wanted, synthesize properties from nature for supplements and medicines without regard for all the other subtle properties that prevent side effects – it is an aggressive system that, on specific instances, can be useful temporarily. But, as a philosophy, the fear based protocols can be devastating.
Energy Beyond Aggression
That’s how I want to be.
Categories: Horse Training, joy, Life | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Simple horses

There is this strange “sophistication”, a consistent “polished” look and way about the horses these days. I was looking through old photographs and papers, smiling at the memories of old competition days and the work we did preparing. Old boots shined up and well-worn… bridles that were both “at home school tack” and “show tack”… saddles polished well the night before and that one fancy saddle pad kept clean and spiffy just for the shows.

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I know riders these days whose Spanish top, zippered, posh black boots cost more than the horses I rode in my youth. And that’s okay. Times change. People have different priorities. People have more money (or so it seems).

Now, I grew up in wealth, actually! Yet, my absolute adoration of all things equine left the rest of my family cold. It wasn’t until I fell through a window (beside the entry door at my grandfather’s estate here), severed most of my hand from my arm and died in surgery, then was resuscitated that my parents decided they might ought to get a horse for me… it was worth it 😉

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My father chose a shiny, fancy young gelding over the older, plain, “bomb-proof” gelding I really should have had and the adventure began. Even with my new horse, in 1968, his presence was nowhere near the impression made by the modern mount these days!

mink and chili

I look at old photos and feel that deep pang of loss… a loss of the simplicity of just loving and bonding and struggling with horses. While I left the competitive world years ago, I watch the “horse world” around me now and wonder about what satisfaction there could be in the purchase of a made show horse, the repetition of drilled coaching, the need for extravagant clothing and equipment just to able to ride into the ring in the first place.

Do the current horse persons find that same tingle of butterflies in the tummy at midnight before leaving for the horse show while they clean tack on the living room floor? Do they laugh out loud with friends at the in gate, nervous laughter to make it easier to face the strangely complex course of fences painted in colors their horses have never seen before?

Do parents sit in the bleachers, as mine did, beaming smiles and offering words of encouragement? Or was it just that my parents were so very glad that I was even alive?

horse van at show

I feel particularly blessed to have known the “old days” of simple horsemanship; of wanting a horse so badly that I “cantered” all over the place on my two legs with such abandon that I slid across the slate entryway and through a plate glass wall… hand first, thank goodness, not head first!

I love that my Mum and Dad came on board with the whole horse thing and got us a horse van, built a barn (with their own hands) and helped me establish my own stable yard.

snookie jump

Horses. They healed me (and there was so very much to be healed). They made a life for me. And now I make their lives better, hopefully, as best I can. Since that dynamic childhood, I’ve been homeless. I have lived as a caretaker for a friend’s farm as she died of cancer. I have found a way to buy my own place in 2010, after driving home to New Mexico with everything I owned stuffed into my Jeep. And that home has now become a Sanctuary for horses in need and the people who who love them.

My favorite definition of love is:

“Love is the active promotion of the well-being of the love object” ~ E. Fromm

I love horses.

 

Categories: healing, joy, Saving Horses, vision | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wind Horse (Lung Ta) Appreciation and Gratitude

They are not quite the same thing: Appreciation and Gratitude. I appreciate someone or something by seeing the goodness in them. I am grateful, generally, for a quality or act or gift that is offered or expressed by someone.

I appreciate horses. I am grateful to horses.

There are so many ways that horses have served humans and so many ways in which we can now repay them, on all levels.

The concept of “Wind Horse” is ancient and Tibetan. This being carries our dreams to the stars and connects “Earth and Sky”.

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Wind Horses are on prayer flags; dancing in the wind, releasing prayers of Peace and becoming threadbare then merely threads atop the highest mountains of our Earth. It is not simply by chance that horses are chosen to represent our dreams and the best parts of us. Horses have made our dreams possible.

The little horses of Mongolia, Tibet, China – past and present – were the “technology” and transport that built civilizations and cultures. Even choosing to stay as herds in the company of their humans without fences or ropes, they shared and share a rich and difficult way of life. Mares’ milk sustained the nomads and remains their only source of Vitamin C! And respect, appreciation and gratitude require that the mares’ foals get the milk first.

The horses of Europe fought great battles. The horse in the Americas built roads, hauled logs, tilled fields and also fought bloody battles. Miniature horses and ponies went into mines to pull carts of coal or minerals and lived their lives in the dark depths for our benefit.

Donkeys remain “beasts of burden” throughout the planet and mules pack, ride and pull for humanity.

I appreciate equines. I am grateful to equines.
All of humanity is indebted to the horse and his cousins.

My beautiful picture

So, I have some specific horses that I am honored to love and, just like having a human soul mate, having these equine soul mates gives me focus, purpose and contentment. The very act of allowing me (and my students) to ride and direct them is a testimonial to the generous equine nature.

There can be days when nothing seems to go right – hooves are tender, ears are itching, backs are sore or mares are in season… these are the times of the greatest lessons!

It is never the horse that lets us down (although we can let our horses down by not honoring their needs or by forgetting that they are just as vulnerable as we are); we only fail in our horsemanship if we fail to learn. Every situation within an encounter with horses is an opportunity for growth and healing… for the human and for the horse. If it is a lesson situation and things are not going according to my plan – I quickly open to the lesson the horse has to teach!

Children who are scattered, squealing and oblivious to the horse will be taught to be focused, quiet and aware by the wise equine who will ignore them until some sense of composure is achieved. I, as the instructor, am simply the “translator” of facts and dialog between the rider and the horse, hopefully helping each attain rapport with the other.

Adults who are pushy or aggressive quickly learn that they frighten horses and become better able to exercise self mastery and calmness to find communication skills that honor the relationship. This can extrapolate to other relationships in their lives.

My beautiful picture

All this points simply to the need that exists for human beings to value the past gifts bestowed upon our species by horses and celebrate the new relationships we are forming with them based upon mutual respect, Appreciation and Gratitude!

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Reduce Scarring…

I saw that on a jar of ointment yesterday. It is a blend of Chinese herbs in beeswax and oils to use on burns and wounds. It got me thinking about scars. I have a few! So have most of my horses.

The funny thing about scars, they are made of tissue that is stronger (after they are set) than the original skin, muscle or bone. Physical scars make the body stronger if allowed to “do their thing”. Emotional scars can be strengthening if we see them through the eyes of a student. A student of Life.

My beautiful picture

There is no way we get through this unscathed. Life is a full spectrum. It is gentle and rough. It is great fun and it is scary. It holds us up and it knocks us down… but we have to get up again. Each time. The wound to our bum or our ego or our soul will form a scar. That scar will make us stronger if we see that spectrum of experiences through eyes of compassion. We become empathetic and compassionate when we experience this life fully. If you have never stubbed your toe, you do not wince in awareness when a friend tells you that she ran her little toe into the corner of a cabinet in the dark last night. Without experiences, we have no empathy. And paper cuts… well, just thinking about them and I can hear the sizzle of sheets through skin (I used to run printing presses!!).

If we look deeply into our pain as it is on us, we can sense the way through it. Scars will be physical and emotional and mental, but they will always make us stronger if we accept them, even honor them. Dear friends, be compassionate with yourselves!
Love is what matters.

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Running on the bottom of the tank

Several years ago, I had an art studio in Tubac, Arizona. Across the courtyard from my place in “The Tower” was another artist, Linda. She and I both drove Jeeps.

Artist Complex

Linda kept her gas tank full all the time (back then, gas had climbed to over $5.00 a gallon there!) by filling it each time it got down to 3/4 of a tank. I frantically, holding my breath, made it to the gas station as the gauge read empty and put in 1/4 of a tank’s worth each time… we were spending the same amount of money, but I was in a constant hyper-vigilant state, living in limitation and fear (as far as the petrol was concerned!).

Tower Studio, Tubac

I was running on the bottom of my gas tank. In doing so, I created misery for myself (all through that part of Arizona are long stretches with no gas stations) when a simple solution, obvious but ignored, would have given me peace of mind. I could have filled my gas tank to the brim when a painting sold and adopted Linda’s practice of keeping the darn thing full!

I see this situation unfold in other strange ways in my life now. I was letting dishes gather in the sink to be washed because I “had no time”, but I did have to make time eventually to wash them. My solution now is to unload clean dishes from the dishwasher the moment they are done and place the dirty dishes as they are dirtied into the dishwasher immediately. Now, I’ve not had a working dishwasher until this home, so my appreciation for this is great.

What may seem so simply obvious can become overlooked and unknown when a person (especially a horse person) crams 24 hours worth of work and projects into 12 hours! Yet, I think about Linda a lot.

What would Linda do? I have asked myself – about laundry piled beside the full hamper; the full trash cans and it is cold and dark outside (to take them to the dumpster); the empty toilet paper rolls, dust bunnies in the corners, houseplants wilting, nose prints on the storm door (canine) – would she walk by and intend to address these later. I think she would just do what she saw needed to be done. And, unless it interferes with a lesson I have to teach, I just do what I see needs to be done now, too.

I remember being more like Linda in my past. I was organized and focused and had a great deal of confidence. I now remind myself (and am reminding you) that – if I can do something once, I can do it a hundred times – if you can trot one twenty meter circle, you can trot a hundred of ’em!

And, if you are feeling overwhelmed or disorganized, think, “What would Linda do?” It’s working for me.

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Falling…

We “fall” in love, we fall off of horses, we can “fall” into a situation, we are often falling for something that isn’t as it appears.

We are falling. (Tom Petty & “Free Falling” is now in my head!)

So falling has really good and really not so good implications. I recently had a student, who is a friend I care very much about, take a fall from one of the horses. It was no one’s fault. It was a series of circumstances that set the situation into motion too quickly. She was not harmed, but it hurt! And I know her confidence was shaken. It happens to each of us who ride horses. Sometimes we fall. But we hope fervently that those we instruct can be spared the experience. They cannot. And it isn’t fair to believe that not falling will build their confidence. Sometimes, it needs to happen to allow the student to move forward and let go of the dread – the wondering what it will be like. With helmets, safety stirrups and constant attention to the footing (soft place to land), I hope to set my students up for a protected ride and even a protected fall should it happen. That is common sense.

I know of horsemen and horsewomen who choose not to wear helmets when riding – I even used to be one! In the old days the “standard” was: riders under 18 years of age had to wear helmets, anyone jumping had to wear a helmet. I adhered to it in my schools. Now, no one rides at all at Dharmahorse without a proper helmet (all ages, all types of riding). Still there are gurus of horsemanship who even jump horses sans head protection and encourage others to choose that “freedom”. I don’t get it. When I see a precious student come off of a horse, I can at least know their brain is safe! There may be “road rash”, bruises, aches and pains – but a protected head means they will still be thinking and functioning – to be blunt.

Now, falling in love can be just as startling as falling off a horse! Loving another human is its own world – loving an animal, well, that is a gift and an honor that can expand into deep love for an entire species. I feel such love and admiration for each of these horses! They work so hard to help people and try so hard to understand the students who do not yet have control of their bodies and the signals they give! It is all a journey we take together. We just want to find rapport and be cherished – no matter our species.

Falling into a situation denotes something good has happened without effort or focus. I often find that, when people say “she just fell into that good fortune”, no one is aware of the work and attention that it took to “fall”! I firmly believe that the good stuff is attracted to us when we put our attention on it. It is a disciplined way of thinking and acting in life that creates the energy of the situation that manifests. Falling into it may happen, but the landing pad was likely being prepared well ahead of time.

And falling for something holds the image of being deceived or manipulated. “I can’t believe he fell for that!” is often the judgment leveled. We’ve all believed something we later found to be false or misrepresented – the best way to look at these experiences is as learning opportunities. And for me, a negative outcome strengthens my resolve – I hate the feeling of “I knew better” than to do something! No one ever gets me to agree to anything over the phone. I no longer give my power away to others to make them feel better.

So, falling asleep is good! Falling all over someone probably isn’t good. Falling through the cracks could go either way. Tonight, I’m thinking about all the beings I’ve fallen in love with so far in my life and I do not regret a single one. I’m thinking about all the falls I’ve had from horses… those I do regret to a degree, but I learned so much each time. And to all who read this, I strongly suggest that, if you ride horses, you wear a helmet. If you fall in love, I salute you! Love holds the world together, love heals us. My life is now more filled with love than it has ever been!

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At Dharmahorse tonight we are getting ready for sleep with little solar lights that look like stars sprinkled about the stable yard. Our weather has been odd, but this day was pleasant and I had the honor of bringing people and horses together to love and delight in each other. This is a good life. The love of my lives sits nearby, sharing this simple, joy filled time. I think I’m falling in love with this new, good life! “Free falling……….”

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