Wellness with Horses

Horse Journal Update: Hope and Cherish Evening Ride


I’d like to start a horse journal that I share with others. I’m not sure that it will be an everyday thing, or an every-session thing. My hope is that you’ll get to imagine how I spend time with my horses, and also that it might give you an idea for exploring your movement, mindfulness, your horses’ movement or wellness, or connection with your horses. I hope you enjoy.

It was late, the ponies’ dinner time. I had homework to do, but I was determined to ride.

With Cherish, I slowly put the bitless bridle on. She got a little tense a few times–each time we softened. I girthed the bareback pad up quickly, in a slight rush to get on both horses before dark. I was reminded to slow down; she froze, something she hasn’t done in a while. We spent some time releasing, softening with each other. I breathed in and out with her, doing some touches similar to T-Touches on her neck and moving toward her face. I noticed she didn’t want her face touched–an old tension pattern cropping back up with the feeling of being squeezed or trapped.

I decided to copy something I had seen our equine dentist do, which is essentially just approach and retreat with gentleness and love. I moved my hand toward her face, to the point that she could accept happily, and then took it away. I shifted which space I was going toward around her face, and kept the movement slow and soft, with soft fingers. She started releasing each time I took my hand and paused. Soon she was releasing, licking and chewing and blinking, when my hand was softly cradling her muzzle or her chin. I had talked today with some people about how my mare didn’t like the bit because of bad experiences–I realized that even if I never put a bit in her mouth, it would be lovely to be able to share that space and that gentleness of strokes and cradling around her muzzle, and to be able to check her teeth, gums, and tongue with her feeling safe and happy. This is something we’ll start practicing regularly.

When I went to get on the mounting block, we again had some sticky spots. I encouraged her to step forward and soften, and got on her once she took a big sigh. In hindsight I probably should have waited until she and I had both softened further–her fully licking and chewing and both of us breathing deeply with softness and relaxation throughout all the muscles in our body. Again, I did have a minor agenda that I probably should have been willing to put aside.

I found a place of heartspace, but not total relaxation, and swung my leg over. We walked for a few minutes, playing with my balance, pelvis, and encouraging her to move in different directions by feeling my pelvis and back and shoulders. I breathed with her, and enjoyed the feeling of her walk. We stopped together, and I promptly hopped off. It wasn’t until that moment that she released fully, complete with large yawns and big soft doe eyes. I stroked her for a minute while telling her how special and kind she was. I slowly untacked her with the intention of kindness, and we stood in soft heartspace for a minute before saying goodbye. Next time, I would like to start there, rather than end there.

I walked toward the mounting block with tack bundled in my arms and asked Hope if she wanted to join me. She met me there, eager but also slightly disconnected. We spent a few minutes checking in with each other, touching base. I rubbed the dirt off of her on the couple spots that were dirty before slowly tacking her up. She placed her head kindly in the “bridle”, but was a little tense around the bareback pad. This time, I took my time, waiting for her to be soft and connected with me.

Before I mounted, I took a moment to set the intention for the ride and share it with her. I joined with her in heartspace and let her know how capable and brave I knew she was.

As we rode, it began to get dark. I played with using my body in different rhythms to help her move better. We both played with balance and arcing in our bodies while being soft together. A few times we trotted, all when I asked. Sometimes she offered more or less–it varied greatly depending upon where my pelvis was, how it was moving, and how my hands were. I found a place where I could offer her a gentle but clear connection, like dancing, both in my body and in the reins. It was nice to hold her hand like that; I don’t believe we’ve found that place of soft flowing through the connection with the reins while under saddle, just in-hand or in groundwork. There were other times where I let the reins be loose while I explored my body movement with hers. The darker it got, the more I noticed an unease about my riding–there was an undertone of tension, of worry about her spooking. I tried to breathe deeply, and remind myself of my own and her courage. I took moments to breathe with her, to connect with her, to make sure she was connected to me, and then carried on. I spiraled into grounding with her. The ride ended softly in general, with her arcing her body around curves at a slow trot that felt very different from her norm… just the slightest hint of carry and the feeling of being here. I hopped off somewhat abruptly while telling her how amazing she was. She looked proud, and a bit surprised, almost like she didn’t expect she had done well.

We played in hand for a few moments, trotting together and feeling the gentle connection and rhythm in the outside rein. I clarified for her at a standstill what different feels meant for different arcs or bends in her neck. We connected with T-Touches. She softened more. I slowly took of her tack, gently and with kindness. As I did, I realized that I had still had that level of tension underneath it all… this time, rather than criticize myself, I started breathing and then sent myself self-love. Turning, I began to walk away from Hope–but I had never said goodbye, and so she followed me all the way to the gate. I stopped before the gate, and she stopped with me. I spent several very grateful moments rubbing her and again telling her how amazing she was and how grateful I am for her and all that she’s taught me. After doing this, we stood in heartspace and quiet for a while before we said goodnight.

On my walk back to the barn, I continued breathing, noticing my tension had not been all about her, but mostly about the clock and that homework I had to get to. I found a place of expansive connectedness, feeling the breeze, noticing the grass waving, the stars, the night crickets. Mindfulness is a big practice for me, one that is ever evolving… In this practice, I am not perfect, but it is my intention to continue to explore being able to mindfully go through life despite distractions or stressors.

 

Some things that I’d like to keep working with–

I’d like to set the intention to start in total relaxation and heartspace, and then maintain it, rather than end there. Whatever this means, whether it’s taking time to tack up or meditating with the horses before hand, I’d like to take the time to do it.

I’d like to set the intention that if it’s almost dark I’m going to go out and spend valuable time doing bodywork or going for a no-pressure walk, not riding.

I am going to continue playing with Cherish around finding a soft, loving, cradling feeling around her mouth.

I am going to play with Hope more in-hand.

I am going to do some of the Peggy Cummings riding exercises for Hope–Cherish and I have found our groove, but I haven’t found it with Hope. I need some guidance on what to do with my body and my pelvis while joining in movement with her.

 

 

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