Posts Tagged With: wisdom

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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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

Without Pain…

“The whole idea of struggle brings you to a point of conflict, the antithesis of horsemanship.”  If things seem to be going wrong in your training, first look to the possibility of confusion.  The horse wants to please.  It is his nature to yield and to avoid conflict.  If he seems unwilling to comply with your wishes/requests/demands, consider the possibility that he is confused and does not understand your aids.  First look to fixing yourself.  Make your language clearer, your communication more basic.  Go to a simpler task, a slower gait, a smaller jump, use a milder bit, remove force, and concentrate upon influence.  If your hose is acting out of character, consider that he feels poorly or that something is hurting him.  Check your equipment, his body, his hooves.  Give your horse a chance to tell you why he is not cooperating before you decide to attack him.

My beautiful picture

Consider how often he is ridden.  If you work him hard every day, be sure to vary your routine.  Drilling him over and over with the same patterns of schooling will either bore him into quiet, dull submission or drive him to rebellion.  Neither is appealing.  If you can only get to him once a week, the excitement and newness of your contact with him many be overly stimulating.  He may have trouble concentrating for the first hour you are together, so do not make any demands upon him in the beginning of your time together beyond simple safety.  After the freshness has worn off, begin a schooling session that takes into account the time that has passed since your last contact.  Much improvement can be had with a review of old skills, a lesson on new, logical movements, finishing with a session of easy, well-honed skills that allows the horse to feel successful.

 

This building of successes for both of you can eliminate the use of pain as a training tool.  Equipment that inflicts pain is unnecessary if you take the time to school every small detail consistently from the most basic to the most complex.  It is important that your horse feels successful and be rewarded for his cooperation.  His desire to repeat the experience will be increased.  If he feels that he can never please you or that he is never quite food enough, he will lose all desire to participate with you either under saddle or in the stable.

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Chiron

Chiron is a centaur… “the Wounded Healer”. When I did my first Vision Quest, a centaur came to me. Usually, one communes with a more “normal” animal or nature spirit.

The Vision Quest is simply being alone in Nature for a period of time to “cry” for your vision. I sat on a mountain after the death of several animals I cherished. I was feeling as if I needed to join them. I wanted to leave this life. I needed my vision. When, at night with a bright but not full moon, a being of human and equine merging appeared to me, I knew. I saw my vision as a calling to merge our worlds and our spirits – horses and humans. And to heal. To be healed and assist the healing of others.

To talk about it is difficult because it is a supremely personal experience. Yet, what I gleaned from that experience was something to share.

I had always taught gentle horsemanship and classical Dressage (NOT the kind of “Dressage” being practiced these days), but to become the centaur was a new way to see the relationships. First, I felt a need to abandon all the “let him know who’s boss”; “be the leader”; “you have to win” (and the horse loses?) rhetoric. Yet, we could not have horses walking over and through us and galloping off at will… so, I practiced my connection with my horses and taught a more integrated handling system of compassion and gentleness with enough assertive behavior to maintain safety. It worked. While I was aware that the wild Mustang needed to be approached with a kind of “morphed” horse/herd language expressed by the human – the horse who had grown up with us strange beings had a pretty good handle on what human language was all about.

And the healing, well I had been taught by the best. Herbalists and Reiki Masters and Travelers had honored me with their methods and knowledge. Horses would show me what they needed. As I studied modalities from Ayurveda to using Zeolites, I found that no one system applies in every situation. Simple was always best. Flexibility was imperative.

Chiron… I think all healers are wounded. We are wounded by loss. We are wounded by life, even wounded by love. What makes a healer rise from the devastation a wound can inflict is an awareness of things much larger than ourselves. Voices calling us to task from our own heart, singing us across the pain to see through new eyes. We become the merging of life and death, recognizing the bound relationship between the two and the truth that neither need be feared.

I am grateful for the times I was (and will be) guided by forces of Light and Love. It is truly the only way to live a life full of reason and, ultimately, joy.

Onward.

Categories: healing, vision | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Special Needs Horse

The horse who is blind or losing his sight feels so very vulnerable. He must never be startled by a silent approach followed by a touch. We must talk to him in soothing tones and touch him on the neck or shoulder in a direct and comforting manner.

He should be led wearing a halter with lead shank and you keep your hand touching the cheek piece of the halter and his cheek. In this way, holding the lead in your other hand, you can direct him with a light, steady pull toward you or gentle push away to have him know to go left or right. If the ground rises, raise his head with halter and slow him while speaking to him. If the ground drops, stop him and take one slow step at a time so he can keep his footing. You may need to keep your other hand on his neck also to support him.

When grooming or massaging him, always keep a hand on his body so he knows where you are (starting at his shoulder). Leave his whiskers and feeler hairs on his face long so he can feel before he bumps his face on fences or trees and the like (we do this for ALL horses!). Remove objects he could stumble over, bump into or fall onto. Wrap pipe fences with spongy insulating foam to cushion a bump.

LOOK where you are leading him! Think ahead and prevent trouble.

equine eye

The horse who has foundered starts out with a lot of pain and even when healing well will be tender in his hooves for a long time. It is imperative that the coffin bone is supported and there are many pads available for use inside of boots or to be taped on the bottom of the hooves. In a sudden hoof crisis, I will cut a thick styrofoam cooler into a frog shaped piece that goes right on the frog and a circle that covers the bottom of the hoof (placed over the frog cover) that I duct tape in place to support the internal structures.

The foundered or Laminitic horse should be led on straight lines with huge curves to turn around – any stepping sideways can be extremely painful as the stretched laminae tear even more as the hoof rocks sideways! Therapy includes diet details, supplementation to maintain good circulation and many methods to restore the energy flow in the legs; restructuring of the hoof capsule. Hard ground, rough and uneven footing and going downhill can all be torturous for the foundered horse. Protect him.

The horse with back or hip trouble needs a large stall or pen that allows lots of room for lying down and getting up. Deep bedding helps prevent injury for the horse that must “plop” down or throw himself sideways to get up. Unless using it for therapy in healing, backing the horse up is to be avoided since it can stress the haunches and the spine.

Tendon problems need support wraps and spongy, firm ground rather than deep footing.

Bone problems need cushioned footing, no concussion, and a balanced diet (especially minerals).
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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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Deep Breath… thinking in simple solutions first, holding the form!

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Years ago, I took my Lipizzaner mare, my friend Judy and my little Iberian bay mare to a Maj. Gen. Jonathan R Burton Dressage Clinic at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas. We were joined by a student of mine, Pam, driving her own truck and trailer while I took us over in my big horse van.

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As I pulled off the highway and made my way to the base, the van suddenly began groaning and making scraping sounds that were every bit as scary as the startling sound of a blow-out! I still had control, so I pushed onward to the stables and leaped out of the cab as soon as I could park.

We pulled down the ramp and sides and got our mares out quickly. They both had strange expressions across their faces.

I walked around the van, smelling a hot but not smokey odor… I looked under the box, but didn’t really know what I was looking at. So, I went over to Pam’s pick up and looked under it. I saw that her drive shaft was held up by a little cushioned bracket (I came to know as a “pillow block”). I observed that my van’s drive shaft was tilted downward and there was no similar object supporting it.

We all rode in the Clinic and worked with our horses. Then I started searching through my boxes and bags in the cab of the truck. I found a hugely thick leather strap with a clunky buckle, a can of hoof dressing and a big piece of wire that I figured might serve me.

I pulled the drive shaft up with the wire and secured it to another shaft running along the length of the van’s box. Then I covered the inside of the strap with hoof dressing and fastened it also to lift and hold the turning drive shaft. Then I started the engine, pulled forward and back a few times… it all held, seemed to be balanced… so Judy and I loaded the mares and set off for Las Cruces!

We made it!!

A few years later I was backing my old (very old!) Suburban out of my driveway when it made a hideous sound reminiscent of that horse van – drive shaft episode. I figured I was in real trouble (financially). I called my friend Judy (same Judy). Her husband immediately came out to try and fix my Suburban. Judy and I went in the cottage for tea and biscuits while he crawled under…
He walked in with a tiny stone in his hand, smiling. That stone had gotten itself into my brake pad or shoe or whatever and had made the sound that stopped my breathing for that awful moment.

My car was fixed. No big repairs. No bills. No problems. I taped the stone to the metal glove box as a reminder to think of the simple things first!

And to take a Deep Breath!

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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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