As the weather gets colder and wetter, the client work quieter, the horse work busier, it is a good time for reflection. Horse work, for those who love it, has this meditative quality that often adheres to repetitive, physical tasks performed in natural or otherwise sympathetic surroundings. In the stables, with the noises and smells of the horses, or out in the fields, with the horses in my peripheral vision, I let my thoughts and sensations flow with the rhythm of the work. Soon they go their own ways to new places. Sights, sounds, impressions that at the time just came in as part of the general throng suddenly lift out and assume new relevance.
Humans, unlike horses (as far as we know), are continuously seeking meaning. For each individual, meanings are so different, so personal, that sometimes communication seems a hopeless task. The speed and edge-of-control of motor racing makes it a thrill for one person and irritating or frightening for another. Yet, thrill and fear seem to be universal experiences that can be communicated and discussed. We often use stories and metaphors to illustrate and transmit our experiences. Words paint pictures in our minds, but they are different pictures in each mind. Say “table” and many different tables appear in many different minds. They mostly have four legs and a top, but otherwise they look and feel completely different to each person. Memory, experience, perceptive bias, physical presence in the world all determine what each of us pictures as “table”.
This winter my task is to give myself plenty of my own medicine. With each individual horse and the whole herd to go deeper into the experience of my being in the world, moment to moment. How I relate to myself and express myself, body and soul. Take my time to listen to those wonderful horses, animal co-facilitators of my clients' experiences. To sharpen my perception, my sense-ability to notice and notice and notice. How much further can I go in learning from the horses to pick up every clue, every twitch of a muscle, fleeting thought, skin reaction, flick of an ear, softening of an eye, puff of air from a flared nostril? And deeper, to the levels of cell-to-cell empathy that we do not quite understand but know we have experienced, with humans, with animals, with the elements.
Much has been written about the benefits of awareness and how to bring it about. In horse facilitated work we are the beneficiaries of thousands of years of co-evolution with animals who are masters of it in their world and in ours. When working with horses we are in the roles of leader and follower at the same time. Horses cannot survive in our world without our care and guidance, and we have made them live in our world. Yet, when it comes to the pure essence of being alive, they are always one step ahead and winning. The complicated, entwined relationship between humans and horses now moves into a new era – we do not need them any more to carry us and our possessions. We can choose how to relate to them now. We have time to listen, to feel, to perceive what they are saying. “Awareness consciously and mindfully noticed (without judgement) of feelings flowing through each individual consciousness present is the essence of this process.” (Barbara K. Rector)