I work at a stable part time and I love seeing the confidence a horse brings to a child's inner spirit. I have come to see clearly how this work is doing great things inside of my own spirit. The scripture says, "Have a child-like faith" and mine is really relating to this lately.
You see, when a child is young, they have a teachable heart. I use the word 'heart' because by the time I was four years old, I got diagnosed with grief. My parents divorced soon after my birth and my mother and three older sisters, left New York to head to Texas. I lived in a home filled with broken hearts. Grief spills over and for me personally, nobody had "died" to cause my grief, but I was passed around to family, neighbors, and eventually ended up in a child care facility. I didn't know who my mother was at this point. I never knew where I would spend my day, and who would be taking care of me. I say this to allow you to understand where my grief journey began. It grew from there, but I will continue with my point of Leading Horses and Talking to God.
You see, when I arrive at the barn, I start my day by putting the horses back in the stable. They are free to roam, and graze until then. My talk with God begins with my drive into work, and I love playing the songs by James Taylor, "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You" - I sing it to Him. It allows my heart space to open up to a spirit of gratitude. I begin to ask him for protection for the children, staff, and horses. Some days, the horses are not ready to head to the barn and resist my lead. This is one of the lessons I believe God is showing me.
Respect their space. To give respect and allowing the horses to see that I see they are not ready, shows the horse I will give them their space. So I go to the next horse, and they are ready to head in. I eventually go back to the resistant horse, and they see that it is their time, and comply with grace and dignity. I have noticed they return the respect in the area we call The Post, where we saddle and prepare the horses to ride. There are a few horses who have had a past experience of being cinched too tightly, and they let me know quickly by pinning their ears back and trying to nip, that this trauma is still an old tape playing in their head. Again, Respect their space. I reassure, using a calming voice, and stop the process for a moment. Pause. Touch gently, speak gently, proceed. I want to regain their trust in humanity. Not always easy if you have lost trust ...
Loss of Trust. A loss of trust can form from abuse, whether verbal, or physical. Maybe you can relate. I certainly can and betrayal is also a cause to lose trust. I personally can reflect back and see how I know that feeling of losing trust in humanity can be haunting to say the least. Rebuilding trust is a process, and it takes a lot of patience for both parties. The one trying to help rebuild as well as the one trying to obtain the ability to trust again. Patience is a primary key, but more imortantly is the ability to forgive the one who created the loss of trust.
Patience. This is a tough one for those who claim they just don't have the patience for certain behaviors. Whether it be from another human, or a horse. Let me explain by saying the first time a horse pinned its ears and tried to nip me, my reflex created a reaction, to strike back, to defend myself from getting bit. What this showed me was I was mirroring the horse's behavior. Wrong on my part. My lesson here was teaching me to RESPOND. As I became aware, and began to respond vs reacting, I can now say that a form of trust is being rebuilt between me and the horse. I have been shown that I can also do the same with humans. Simply pause, and respond. Sometimes I don't even feel the need to respond, much less react. I have become aware that I now possess ears that hear, and eyes to see.
Blazing the Trail. There are times in life where it will be in the best interest for all involved, to simply allow the human, (or the horse) to blaze the trail. Think about it this way; a trail is like a path, and we all know we have a different path in this thing called life. You will look out ahead and see that others have blazed the same trail you find yourself on, and you may have blazed a trail previously in life, and glance over to see others are on that same trail you just got off. You left that trail with much wisdom when you think about it. You may have passed others who blazed the same trail, that offered advice, or warning, yet it was up to you to take it or leave it. I have learned to simply listen, and retain the words of advice, or warning, and if it applies, then I apply it. There are even times when I hear the thundering sounds of hooves running up from behind me, and I will need to apply caution and simply move out of the way and allow them to pass. They are obviously in a hurry to blaze the next trail, and they don't have the time nor the patience, to simply take in the beauty of the trail they are currently riding. It's their lesson, not mine. I just try to courteous, and move out of their way.
Leading Horses. Now, for the lesson I have come to know all too well. I love this image because I have spent much of my life in this stance. Mainly with humans. Let me now explain what the horses have taught me. I can choose to tug, pull, strain, and become frustrated, angry and fed up. Most of us can relate to trying to take control of a situation, or maybe another person. Leading horses is no different. They have just as much free will as we possess. Now, picture two stubborn mules battling it out as to who is going to win this battle. Take into consideration that the horse weighs between 800-1500 pounds vs my 130 pound frame. Our brains are in two very separate places and if I show my frustration, the horse will mirror me. Nobody wins and we are now in conflict. He outweighs me and in the physical sense, he is going to overpower me, or worse, cause injury. My goal is to avoid this from happening. God showed me that when my life is out of control, and I desperately want to maintain some sort of control, the horse will sense it first. I have two horses that are currently teaching me this. A pony, and a mare.
The pony is easy to catch, and lead. He saddles up nicely and is cooperative 99% of the time. Yet somedays, when I am leading a small child on him, he just wants to graze. My concern is that the child is holding the reigns, and doesn't expect his head to go down to the ground, and the child is pulled forward. My need to control this is to prevent an accident. The pony is simply doing what comes naturally for him, he sees/smells the fresh green grass, and he wants a nibble. He is not thinking about causing any harm. So in order to react to his instincts, I simply prepare for it by keeping a little tighter hold on the lead rope. I watch his eyes, and apply what he has taught me with through his body language, to help me prepare for his urge to grab that snack. As a reward to his good behavior, as I lead him back to his barn, I take him to places and allow him to grab a bite of that fresh green grass. It's a win/win.
As for the mare, well ... let me take a deep breath first. She is currently has raging harmones. As a female, I can look back and relate - God put all species on this earth to be fruitful and multiply, right? Horses are no different than humans with that said. Now this mare is on medication to help her remain calm, and try to subisde her "wild child side". As I attempt to lead her, she has taught me that she is like any other female who has her mind made up. Now, try to visualize two head strong females going in opposite directions. Made you laugh there, didn't I?
My first attempt looked much like the photo visual. I am pulling, tugging, and getting more frustrated in the process. Luckily for me, I had an instructor who had obviously blazed this trail, and kindly said, "If you turn her head, and lead her in a circle, she will move." I scratched my head and thought, "I don't want her to walk in a circle, I want her to walk staight ahead." But, as I stood there looking at her, as she is looking at me, I decided the differences in our size and weight, and could see clearly she was winning this battle, and I took the advice and turn her head. She walked the circle and as soon as she did, she took about four steps and stopped again. Needless to say, we walked in circles all the way up to the gate, and once I got her through the gate, she allowed me lead her right up to the post.
My lesson here was I had to learn to compromise, and sometimes that means I will have to walk in circles until I get the desired results. Redirecting her attention was on me, and as she complied, she received praise in a soft touch on her shoulder, and a calming voice of encourgement. The battle was neither won or lost as we both submitted and showed respect. Sometimes in this life, we have to make hard decision about whether we are going to react, or respond - even if it means we have to walk in circles to get to the goal.
I enjoy this work immensely and it continues to teach me, that as I work with grieving hearts, I will respect their space, as they rebuild their trust in humanity. I will display much patience, and love them where they are on the trail of tears. Lastly, I will lead with praise, encouragement, and resist a stand off, even if it means we have to walk in circles until we reach the desired destination.
I have learned, through the wisdom of the horse, that God created for humanity, that they will mirror our souls. They sense our sadness, abuse, disappointments, and yes, our frustrations and need of control. They taught me to submit those emotions that are not serving me, and they taught me the art of compromise. They have displayed openly, and lovingly, to trust their instincts while we blaze the trails of life togther. Horse and rider, becoming ONE - Just like God desires us to become with him. It's a beautiful lesson.
I hope this spoke to your heart as always, it comes from mine to yours,