Wellness with Horses

Cherish Update: Creating New Space for Growth


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Yesterday Cherish and I had quite the amazing Liberty session. Much of it was new for us, despite feeling as comfortable as a well-worn glove. With so many new feelings, I’m having a hard time putting all that feel into words.

I went out with the intention of just doing my homework around the horses for a while, and perhaps at some point playing with them. Each of them came up once I got settled on the ground to rub me and check out my papers.

After taking a break to play with my dog, bounding and leaping around with sticks, I noticed Cherish watching us, mesmerized. I offered for her to play with me, just at Liberty. (more…)

Mindfulness

The Path of Confidence: Feeling the Role You Want


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The path of confidence is a funny one. I can’t say that it’s been straight, or easy. I wish I had some grand secret to share with all of you, a piece I’ve learned that trumps all others and fixes everything.

The truth is, I don’t.

For those of you experiencing anxiety, I get it. I’ve been there.

My own path of confidence has been closely intertwined with horses. Every step of the way, the horses have helped me in some way or another. Sometimes it has been to nurture me, to show me that I am safe. Other times it is to push me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it is seeing the reality versus the dream, and knowing that a large part of what is standing in the way is my own confidence. (more…)

Wellness with Horses

Cherish Update: Finding our Flow


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I am a very sensitive person. I’ve been around a lot of people for a consistent string of days. I love people, and I love sharing with them and learning from them, but it can be difficult when I don’t have some time to be by myself and with my animals, to feel peace. Yesterday morning when I went out to be with the horses, I really needed to take a breath and be connected to my heart, to nature, and to the horses for a while… nothing else.

Each grass blade was a crystal–the earth looked like an ocean of jewels. Cool air and warm colored leaves painted the backdrop. I waded my way up the pasture toward the horses, trying to decide who to play with first and telling myself about reducing decision making in my life. As I got closer, I noticed my pressure. I paused, and felt into heartspace. I stayed there for a while, just waiting for myself to join the scene. (more…)

Wellness with Horses

Feeling the Hoof, and Asking the Horse


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I am no professional hoof trimmer. I am not amazing at hoof trimming, though I tend to be intuitively as helpful as I can be to horses in that area one day. So I’m learning, and evolving… lots of evolving.

I picked up Cherish’s hoof under the light of the stalls in the night. Thoughts of David Landreville’s photos swirled through my head. I took a deep breath.

Instead, I cradled them. I felt gratitude and I released judgment. I stroked her legs, her pasterns, and the bottom of her hooves. I felt with my fingers, in the crevices and along the edges and right along the sole. I skirted the heels with my fingers. I picked up my rasp. I breathed. (more…)

Wellness with Horses

Horse Journal Update: Sharing and Connecting


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I walked out to the barn in the cool fall morning. It was Halloween, and I had a funny spring in my step because of it. I had brought the Photonic Light with me and was red-lighting my pelvis and back with halter in tow as I walked around the back of the barn.

I paused to see Finale happily trotting up a hill and around my mom. She was actually using her body quite well, and looked like the picture of joy. I welcomed them and the morning with all its warm colors. (more…)

Wellness with Horses

Horse Journal: Releasing Judgment


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On All Hallow’s Eve, we always put the horses in the barn for precaution, because their pasture fences come close to the road. It makes us feel better.

I took the opportunity to spend some time with them under the lights in the nighttime hours. Everyone was munching. The air was cool. It felt good to be out in the silence.

I decided to just be with Cherish. I turned on mindful quiet music and breathed beside her for a while. The brushes came out and stroked across her teddy bear coat slowly and with care. I felt each area of her body with my hands, tenderly, taking extra time to stroke and feel places where the hair curved a different way, or where the tissue felt different. Sometimes I paused in an area and just held space for it. Other times I would put one hand on one spot, and connect it to another with my other hand. I breathed. I loved. I cradled this healing space for her. She breathed, and sighed, and slowly released gas. We cycled between softening and releasing together and being in our own spaces, but together–her eating her hay, and me breathing and enjoying the sensations of her and the barn at night. (more…)

Mindfulness

Take a Breath: Connection through Breathing


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After our post and exercise about allowing yourself to breathe through releasing the ribcage somatically the other day, I’d like to add another layer.

Taking a breath is both physically and emotionally and mentally restorative. We give ourselves a break for a moment. We relax a little deeper. Each time we breathe deeply, we change the stress (or threat) response to one of a relaxation or perhaps a challenge response. We prepare ourselves to cope and to enjoy.

Taking a breath can also give us a moment. It can give us a moment to reflect, or to shift our perspective, or to shift something else. It can give us a moment to smile, or to think before we speak. It can give us a moment to soften. (more…)

Movement

A Reminder to Breathe: Peggy Cummings and Hanna Somatics Exercises


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Monday morning I opened up Peggy Cummings’ Connected Riding, An Introduction. The night before while riding Hope I knew that I could use some guidance on moving with her more freely.

I opened up to the first exercise–breathing. I appreciated that she approached breathing first, rather than a technical movement. If we aren’t breathing well, and then we force ourselves to change our posture or our movement, there will still be a great real of restriction in that adjustment.

While doing Peggy Cummings’ first two breathing exercises and feeling my neutral position, and relaxation through my thorax and abdomen, and the subtle movement that the breathing rhythm creates, I realized that I was too restricted in my chest, ribcage, sternum, and abdominal area to be able to breathe fully into my abdomen. This natural deep breathing is something I’ve had before, so I knew clearly that it was missing now that my awareness was focused on it.

Rather than continue to breathe and try to cause or force my body to be able to expand more deeply, I decided to do somatic breathing exercises based in Hanna Somatics. I began very slowly, gently, and with awareness, breathing into different areas of my ribcage and subtly expanding my body into that direction with the inhale, and then slowly contracting with the exhale. As I continued the exercise, I began to breathe, expand, and contract in different areas–right lower lung, left lower lung, the back of my left lung, the side of my right lung… I targeted whichever areas felt most restricted, breathing and slightly moving into them, and then slowly contracting, melting and then slowly expanding again.

As I continued, my ribcage began to open. My head began to unclog. I began to have a more integrated feel for my whole body. When I sat up, I was naturally neutral in general, with slight restrictions in specific areas. I felt like I had energy. I felt good.

A reminder to everyone to breathe. Next time you realize you can’t breathe or that your breathing is not as full as it could be, try this simple exercise:

Breathe into an area of your lung or lungs. It may sound and feel awkward at first, but just go with it.

As you expand into that area in the inhale, you may put your hand on the region to increase your sense of the area.

As you slowly exhale, very slowly begin to (gently) contract–going in the opposite direction of expansion.

Slowly relax, melting all the way. You might take a breath in neutral before starting again.

Play with this, and then move to a different region. Keep breathing into different areas of your ribcage and then abdomen, remembering that breathing should be three-dimensional: the front, sides, and back of your body should be rhythmically and gently expanding.

Something else that helps me in this exercise is making noisy breaths. It helps bring my awareness to it. You don’t have to make any specific yoga noises or overthink it, just try it. If it doesn’t work for you, leave it out.

 

As we soften in our ribcage, as we are able to breathe more deeply, we can sink deeper into the parasympathetic nervous system response. This is where rest, learning, and healing happen. This is where we want to guide our horses to be as we learn with and teach them. The more we are able to guide ourselves to this state, the more we will be able to share it with our horses. Get ready for softer riding, and softer being.

Once you’ve gotten the feel for it, even before you’re perfect, take it out and share it with your horse. I imagine they’ll be happy to relax with you.

Enjoy feeling. Find that rhythm. Soften. Share with your horse. And remember to breathe.

 

Wellness with Horses

Horse Journal Update: Hope and Cherish Evening Ride


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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.

 

 

Lifestyle

Getting Back On Your Feet


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I make it no secret that I’ve experienced health problems–you can find it right in my bio. The past several months have been full of excitement, growth, and travel. When I’m home, I’m working, learning with my horses, practicing bodywork, or researching something. I enjoy moving. I relish in doing things I love–especially since for so long I found it difficult to do them.

This past month I’ve had to extend some extra self-love and patience to myself as I’ve begun to experience dizziness and some other old symptoms have cropped up. At first, I was fearful. I avoided them–looked the other way and kept going. My body was giving me plenty of warning signals, but I wasn’t quite listening. I began to feel worse, to the point of where I found myself walking up windy stairs to an acupuncturist office.

I’ve been in love with the idea of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and herbs for a while now. I use acupressure on myself and my horses and occasionally incorporate it into my practices with references and suggestions from more experienced practitioners in tow. I’m a big fan of herbs, both for myself and my horses. Needles, on the other hand, are something I’ve never really been fond of, but my heart (and the world) kept repeating acupuncture and TCM to me. So there I found myself, in an eclectically oriental-vintage office with little splashes of humor and emerald green, sitting in front of a friendly and determined Chicago gal.

For me personally, the experience was amazing. At a time where my body had begun to close doors, it opened them so I could do more in the area of self-healing. The acupuncture connected me to my roots, to something greater, and to a healing flow that deserves its own post to be described.

Since then, I’ve realized the other things my body, mind, and heart have been asking for. More love, more positivity. More time doing what I love, rather than just learning what I love. A slower travel schedule. More connected. Definitely more sleep, and more water–but among the things I’ve learned, there’s something that needs to be explored more clearly.

Cherish hug

My path has shifted. Rather than just being a learned, I have also stepped into the path of a sewer–a doer, a practicer. I’m getting back on my feet, but with a different rhythm in my dance this time. My horses are sharing with me the feelings I’ve yearned for… because I’m ready for them.

Getting back on your feet isn’t always immediate. It isn’t always fast, and it isn’t always gentle. You usually can’t do exactly what you did before–that’s why you ended up here anyway. What these periods do for me is guide me, always. I learn and become better and stronger and more connected than I ever was before. I have to say, I’m so grateful for health, including the whole spectrum: what feels good and what doesn’t. I’m so grateful for learning to listen. I’m so grateful to be connecting more with my heart. And I’m so grateful to my horses, for guiding and supporting me all along this journey.

There’s a special thing in sharing your wellness journey with your horses, in having the intention of always helping each other to develop more wellness, to flourish more. With this practice, even less-than-perfect moments can be embraced fully and in love, because you have some of the most amazing partners sharing with you some of the most amazing things.