Mindfulness, Wellness with Horses

Love and tumbles with horses. Learning to gather together.


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4/29/20

Today out with Hope and Cherish. The grass was green. The sky was beautiful. Clouds rolled in more as we went along. The day was fairly quiet. There was a glad roaring wind–like a toddler flapping branches, saying, “See mommy! Look how much noise! Flying! We’re flying!” While he runs across the tree tops and stirs the forest to come alive.

It felt like a group day. The last few days I had been focusing on getting the horses more comfortable doing things alone. But today? Today felt like togetherness. The horses felt it, too. And we all breathed a little deeper for it.

We came up to the barn together, a rope looped around Cherish’s neck, Hope’s rope draped with slack. It was nice, the feeling. Like walking hand in hand with someone you’ve known for a long time and care for deeply. We stopped together, turned together, slowed together. Not for technique, but for being together. For helping each other. They forgave my tumbling and lack of coordination–for some day, I felt almost as tumbly as the wind. My hands dropped, my arms missed, I placed halters against eyes and forgot what I was doing. And I laughed. I laughed at myself, my apparent tumbliness for the day, and took a deep breath. So they laughed with me. Or at least… patiently waited.

I groomed them both, Hope first and then Cherish, while they were tied at the barn posts. I paused several times to chat with my mom, or stroke one of them. We were in no rush. I talked with them casually as I un-knotted manes and cleaned dried mud off of legs. And we breathed.

Today, I wasn’t perfect. I woke up feeling the heartache and the beauty and the love of the world, all together. I had a tension in my stomach that made me not want to eat. My hands and arms were as tumbly as the wind. But the horses didn’t mind, I imagine because I have been soft and kind with them, and even among my lapses, I was here. With them. Together. It wasn’t just tumbles and tension I felt. Those feelings lived along with an embracing feeling of love. For them. For those I love. For the world.

I tacked Cherish up slowly. I let her smell the bareback pad. I waited for her to shift her weight toward me and soften and breathe. Just stood. I put it on her gently, tenderly. The same way I would put a sock on an infant. With a lot of love. I fumbled with her bitless bridle. Hope waited patiently, watching us (until Finale left–honestly, she was a bit worried, so I stopped to speak with her and touch her gently, stroking her down her neck until she settled and realized she was not alone, and she was not being left). And when I brought them together, I gathered them and their ropes slowly, with thought and care. We had practiced this many times now in the last few months, just walking with each other, back and forth to different places, and then while we were working on different things. They knew to wait. I like to think we’re all learning to enjoy waiting.

And so, we went. Together, the three of us. We fumbled in slow motion with our setup at the mounting block. Everyone was calm. I didn’t mind gathering together slowly. We turned, lined up, I called Hope to turn and stand with us when she got a bit ahead. I even got on awkwardly. I laughed at myself, lightly–sometimes you have to. Cherish breathed out. We paused, all standing together. We gathered. I breathed. And we went.

We walked. We trotted–what great fun! We turned softly. We paused. We walked some more. But mostly, we gathered. In each moment, we gathered, leaving slowlness, leaving space, having time to transition, to change. I started the feelings in my body. I opened my heart, for me, and around them. And we gathered. Together. Like a happy little slow motion tumbly family.

Not every moment was perfect. Today I was not stellar with coordination. The rope got under Cherish’s tail at one point, and she clamped it, starting a slow-motion spin that stopped when I soothed her, stroking her deeply. Hope snatched grass at one point and the motion tugged at my arm awkwardly. But there was no harshness here. No quickness, no corrections, no chiding. But I loved my horses. I stroked them, I stopped with them, we watched things together, I brought them together, they touched each other, Hope touched me on the leg, I touched them each on the neck. We took time. But I shared joy with them. I laughed with them. I talked with them. I praised them, I giggled with them. I smiled with them. I didn’t pay mind to what didn’t matter. And we gathered. So the rest–the imperfect stuff–it didn’t matter.

Isn’t that why we join with them in the first place–to be together (to-gether=to-gather)? To feel love? To feel joy?

Enjoy your horses. Forgive yourself for your tumbles. Give yourself time. Trust me, they do not mind. They will learn to wait for you. And in learning to wait for each other, you will begin to receive the gift of being together.

Bodywork, Mindfulness, Wellness with Horses

Unwinding Tension and Fear Together, for you and your horse.


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4/26/20

Hope was a bit nervous today. It was chilly, windy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I thought the weather was beautiful. She thought it was a bit cold. I talked to her softly while we went to put her blanket on. Once clothed, she was able to breathe much more deeply.

There were other distractions, too, and she was a bit worried. I smiled while we walked together, her head low, her stride matching mine, long slow walk steps with an occasional stop to look at something or have a quiet snort to herself. This way of being worried, where she could reassure herself and gain reassurance from me is a new normal for us. Many moons ago I would have been flying a runaway kite (or being ski-dragged by a runaway boat-horse). Now, here she was, softly walking with me, gently closing her eyes and leaning in ever so slightly each time I stroked her.

When we wandered far from the other horses she got more nervous–a bit high-headed and looky. I asked her to trot at one point and she snorted, head and flag raising. I breathed out a low “whoaaa” and she stopped gently beside me, but her head was still high and she was still looking, eyes wide.

I asked her to walk and slowly helped her find the rhythms in her body so she could come back to slowness and peace. I gently pressed my fingers around the rope more, allowing my elbow to swing slightly with it, each time her head swayed toward me. I walked in sync with her front legs step for step. I turned my shoulders so she could wrap around me in a gentle arc. I placed my hand on different spots of her neck and gently pressed as she swung outwards. As we went in circles like this, I remembered to breathe. She remembered to breathe with me. I never told her to lower her head, never told her to relax, never told her to look toward me or cuve around me–she did these things because it felt good, because I encouraged her, because I reminded her that she could find calm.

She stopped and I stopped with her. I stroked her nose very lightly when she turned to me. She blinked her eyes–and then a gate clanged. Her head shot up again, looking wildly, worrying her friends were leaving her for good. I started tapping her on her body, gently. My words started off as soft whispers, and surprised me a bit as they came out of my mouth. “Even though you’re worried and scared, I still believe in you,” and, “Even though you’re worried, I deeply love and accept you,” were repeated many times as I slowly tapped all over her body. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Cha-cha–cha-cha-cha. Slow drum beats of love. Over and over. Slow reminders. She was okay. I believed in her. I believed in myself. I loved her. I loved myself. I accepted her. I accepted myself. Nothing was needed from either of us. Everything, right here, no matter what, was good.

She had huge yawns, unwinding all that internal pressure and fear as I unwound my own version that I hadn’t realized I was holding until it began to let go.

I started whispering to her and myself “Big breath of love in… big breath of love out.” As I did this I slowly, ever so gently stroked, first up and then down her nostrils, then up and then down the side of her face, then up and then down her neck, multiple times, until I reached her chest, where I placed my hand on her heart and felt deep love and gratitude for her. For everything about her. Even for the sensitivity, the fear, the worry. And again, she released a lot of internal tension. Blinking, chewing, yawning, lengthening… and I found the little knotted spirals unwinding in myself all the same.

As we walked back toward the other horses, she began to quicken her pace. So I wondered, “what would child me do?” I smiled and created a silly game. I stopped her gently. Then I took one ridiculously large and slow step forward, and plopped my foot on the ground. She took one unsure step forward and stopped. I doted on her, gently but joyfully. And another silly large and slow step. And she took one step and looked at me. And an exaggerated amount of emphatic praise and love and strokes and glee. And another step. Soon I was giggling, and she was taking slow tender steps with soft eyes and loose, slowly moving lips.

And we danced, like two slow goobers across an entire field. It was love at first sight, and for every sight after…

but only recently has it become fun.

I’m the one who changed.

She was more than ready to adjust with me. 

Thank you, love, and all the other ever-patient equids who so graciously agree to be with and teach us. 

May I never give you reason to feel afraid

or impatient,

and if I do,

please forgive me, 

and I will try again.

Wellness with Horses

Feeling Good Feels Good, Little bit by Little Bit.


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Hello, friends. I wanted to start sharing some of the experiences I’m having with horses, mindfulness, and movement. This has been a time of learning and opening creatively for me. Perhaps if I share what I’m experiencing and learning it will help some of you a little along your way, too. I thought if I just shared a little at a time that I might actually keep up with the sharing. 🙂

Today was the first day that Cherish truly understood going out on a circle, not hyperflexing her neck laterally, basculing and trotting softly all in a cavesson. It was beautiful. I let her know it with lots of priase. Over time I’ve realized horses love to be told “yes! You are wonderful. You are amazing. I love you so much. Thank you.” They love the joy, the love, the release, the gratitude. It feels good to us, why wouldn’t it feel good to them? Most beings agree–feeling good feels good. I asked for it once more and then we ended the session.

Sometimes just doing a little bit goes a long way.

Part of me was also just proud of me today–before I started with her I was a little tense. That used to lead to more tension and impatience with the horses. But now, I soften. I was happy and light by the end of our little dance together. It’s all a practice… each time we try a little, it gets a little easier.

Let me know if you like this or if it helps or inspires you! I love hearing others’ stories. 🙂 If you’re enjoying my little journals you can subscribe to receive emails (I think at the bottom of the page?) when I post new things.

Be well, dear friends. I hope you “see” me more often, and I hope to ACTUALLY see many of you soon!

Updates

Changing Wellness Based Horsemanship to Kara Cumberton, LMT


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I’ve been working under my name for a while now… the only thing that still hasn’t changed is my Facebook page, mostly due to some Facebook admin requirements.

Nevertheless, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to update you and set everybody straight. Now, rather than going under the guise of Wellness Based Horsemanship (which I used as a blog and social media platform but never really had as a business name anyway), I simply going under my own name, along with my licensing credentials for my massage license: Kara Cumberton, LMT.

Why the change? Well, my goals have adapted a little in shape and quality, and I really didn’t want anyone thinking that my intention was to teach natural horsemanship with some wellness flares. What I’ve been doing all along is more along the bodywork and therapeutic movement side of things for people and horses, and I realized the name was, well, confusing. In reality, my work isn’t changing–just the name I’m choosing to use on social media is.

Why not pick a different name? I have some specific dreams and goals for my work, but I am also aware that things will keep evolving and changing… and I’m not ready to pick a name that could potentially define or restrict those changes or evolutions. I want to be free to grow and be creative and let my work adapt as my philosophies, education, and experiences grow.

I anticipate working under my name from now on, and so hopefully, Facebook will allow the page to roll with the name change. If not, I’ll be creating another Facebook page or group underneath my name (Kara Cumberton, LMT) to clear up all the confusion.

To clear up any confusion around previous emails:

The email I’m now receiving (and will continue receiving emails from) is karacumberton@gmail.com

The past two emails I have used with very little traffic (kara@wellnessbasedhorsemanship.com and kara@wellbeingwithhorses.com) are dead now. So if you email those, unfortunately, you’ll hit a dead end.

I also accept texts, calls, and facebook messages from clients. See my contact page for more info.

Lifestyle, Relaxation

Offering Yourself Space & Time


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For those who know me, most of them already know that I need alone time, or at least quiet time. What I’m realizing recently is I didn’t realize just how much of it I sometimes need to truly thrive.

Needing time to unwind is not about not liking people or being introverted.

It’s not that I don’t love connecting with those I love; I absolutely delight in deep connection and sharing love with others. I love deep conversations, walks through the woods, talking about horses or healing work, and moments spent physically close to those who are special to me. And for those of you I haven’t seen in a while… trust me, I miss you.

Some people might think that the only humans who need time to be quiet, reflect, or express are introverts. I would argue that everyone’s nervous system needs time to unwind, relax, and reflect, even if that is in the company of others doing the same thing. Even if you don’t think you need to relax, how can we expect to help our horses find relaxation when we’re not relaxed? 

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Wellness with Horses

Using Groundwork like Bodywork


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My mom and I were out with the horses together. I was giving her instructions and demonstrations for the Peggy Cummings’ exercises and then playing with them with Hope.

I found that watching my mom use my incomplete directions was extremely helpful. Giving fuller directions, showing her the feel, and showing her how I would do it on Finale (the horse she was with) painted a more complete picture of the exercises for me.

I realized that while doing them, it had been important that I had unconsciously turned and shifted my body so as to allow the horse to turn their head into me. Once we both started doing this more consciously in addition to softening our bodies and opening space for the horses (like an open door invitation feeling), they had a much easier time joining us.

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Lifestyle

My Health Perspectives


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This was originally an assignment in one of my college courses. It brought forth some interesting and different threads of thought around health and wellness, so I thought I’d share it with you.

My own personal health views are grounded in the perspective of each person having a mind-body-soul unity or connection that makes up the perception of self, while simultaneously being connected to the well-being of the ecological, sociological, cultural, and environmental communities we live in.

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Wellness with Horses

Finale: Cheek Press, Caterpillar, and the Dressage Arena


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img_6137It surprised me a bit when Finale waltzed up first to join me. She often lingers back, but I’ve been giving her more love and heartspace recently and I believe she’s feeling it. As I put the bridle on, I let her know how proud of her I was, how special and beautiful she was, and how glad I was to be able to play with such a lovely lady.

We went off to play in the newly set up Dressage arena in-hand with a clear purpose. She seemed to enjoy the clarity that I was providing with both my intentions and my body, and for the most part gently obliged to anything I asked, or only gently tested the line once before joining me in my request. (more…)

Wellness with Horses

The Dressage Grid & Creative Structure


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Tuesday night I watched a video from Karen Rohlf in her Upward Spiral of Successful Gymnastics Course. The video was on easily setting up a Dressage arena, and practicing thinking about the “Dressage grid”.

If you’ve been reading my posts you know that I struggle with the balance between structure/consistency/discipline and creativity/spontaneity/intuitive feel (with my tendency being more skewed toward the latter). This can be a lovely problem in some regards, but in many ways also prevents me from improving–without structure or consistency, practice and learning jumps around a bit from topic to topic. (more…)