Thursday, December 27, 2012

Undemanding Time: Money in the bank.

Ah winter. Its cloudy and rainy, the days are short and there is mud everywhere at Northwood. The upside is that there are not that many chores to do or projects to start or the looming pressure of "the rain is coming!" Its a perfect time to rejuvenate and study. I suppose that's what winter is supposed to be anyway. As I've been realizing these last few weeks, it also ideal for spending some undemanding time with my horses.

I forgot how critical undemanding time is to a relationship.

Recently a few new horses arrived in my barn and it illustrated to me how deep my relationship is with Nigel and Lil. I mean, we know each other. That feeling of familiarity doesn't just magically appear. It is developed over mutually shared time. That closeness is easy to take for granted until a comparison is available. The new horses have really done me that favor.

Relationships have a bank account. Buck and I were just talking about this in November. Beth and I refer to it a lot. In fact, I think my friend Aaron (one of the smartest guys I know) talked about this with me in reference to marriage way back in the day. Gotta have deposits. Too many withdrawals and the whole account gets shut down. Plenty of deposits and you can "cover" a challenging moment or a mistake. (I make lots of mistakes as I'm trying to become a horseman so this comes in very handy.)

Horses bond with whom they spend the most time. And for those of us that aren't doing a cowboying job on our horses, this can put us at a disadvantage because our horses spend more time with other horses than they do with us. I personally will not be able to compete with my pony's heardmates but I will be able to mitigate the deficit by banking some hours just hanging out. While its raining, while its dark and while its cold, I can bundle up, tuck my tablet or magazine under my arm and head back down to the barn.

I forgot how much fun it is actually. Especially if I do have enough clothes on and my toes are warm. I love horses! Just listening to them chew and breath is relaxing. And of course, they smell wonderful.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


How many times have we heard great horsemen talk about horses wanting safety and comfort? Most recently I've heard Buck Brannaman
talking about horses wanting peace and comfort more than anything else.

I've also heard him talking a lot about "comforting the horse". In almost every exercise he talks about balance and how physical balance is comforting to a horse. All of a sudden it dawned on me. That's what he means by peace and comfort. Peace and emotional comfort.

One of my friends and mentors believes that horses are just fine by themselves. That they only have trouble when the human comes into the picture. I don't think I agree with her anymore. I have personally observed a fair amount of horses and now that I have better ears to hear the great horsemen describe their experience, that theory doesn't appear to bear out.

Certainly we can cause our horses even more unrest and fear than they would have innately. When I think about it though, maybe horses are not designed to be completely composed. As prey animals (and more specifically flight animals) they are designed to be on some degree of alert at all times. And yet the desire for peace is there. Just as it is in every living thing.

Horsemen say to "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult but not impossible". They are not talking about making the horse do anything. I think they are talking about causing the horse to search for and be empowered to find, the peace and comfort that we can provide for them.

Studying Ray Hunt's book and DVDs, I notice that he talked all the time about "operating the life in the horse's body all the way down to the feet". The LIFE. I finally made the connection. By the time the message is manifest in the horse's feet in a balanced way, it has comforted the life in him. Comforted their being. The same way we would comfort an upset child or friend.

Buck says a horse will always, ALWAYS choose peace. If you offer to exchange peace for movement, they will always take you up on the deal. No matter the horse's age, breed or personality. Their spirit is unquiet if they are afraid and it is equally unquiet if they are dominant and pushy. If we can offer it, they will choose harmony over disharmony every time.

In a very deep place inside me this is resonating. Better yet, each day my horses confirm it. Its like a dream come true. It means I really do have intrinsic value to my horse. Just me. Just the way I was born. And no one can take that away. I need only develop it in myself. Its like a giant relief. It feels like coming home.

I guess this is where it gets spiritual. ComfortING. Its just a tiny detail.....