Friday, February 27, 2015

Letting Go....... Again and Again

The scene is a sufficiently cold New Year's Day, on horseback (of course) with an old friend on the trail and new 2.5 year old Arabian filly being ponied at my side. That's the way I like to spend New Year's, appreciating the old and taking on the new adventures. And this gorgeous, intelligent, sensitive, and spunky little black filly, by the name of Isis, is obviously chock full of new lessons for me. But as is appropriate, this introductory lesson she gives me on this day is really a reiteration of an old one. (See "Letting Go"-2011)

We were walking the back dirt roads behind the mill pond, and had gotten a bit lost, but were heading back to the trailers. It was getting to be dusk soon. Everyone else in the area was ready to head home to, so a few trucks began to go by. It was a tight road and we pulled over to the side. To our trusty  trail horses this was old hat, but little Isis thought jumping in the air and scooting around was her only option.  I held the rope tighter to keep her close and safe. Another truck came by, same thing. I knew three times makes a pattern,  and horses love patterns. I didn't want this unconfident behavior to be what my  little horse learned, so I began to rethink my strategy. As the next happy park visitor began to roll out, I thought about my horse's typically very investigative and thoughtful way, and I realized that she was probably upset because she couldn't see the trucks coming up behind her. So there, when that last truck came by, on that tight little wooded road, instead of holding on tighter to try to keep my mare safe, I loosened the rope to give her the room so she could turn her head to see. And she watched the truck roll by with calm curiosity.

Horses are constantly teaching us these counterintuitive lessons of letting go. As upright, verbal, opposable thumb owning predators, we learn to think that holding on is the best way, or the only way. Horses don't have thumbs, or words, but they do have intention and space. A lead mare can clear a horse from the herd from across the field,  and can keep a frantic racing herd together without touching, without ropes and halters. But for some reason, humans think the more control, the better. Control of others, control of our life, control of our emotions. Until we realize it is an illusion. The fact is, humans aren't built like horses. We need to practice letting go.

I guarantee you that ten years ago, I would not have thought to loosen that rope for my horse to see the truck. But I've been practicing being a horseman worthy of the horse, and loosening my rope has become slightly more of a habit than holding on to it.

In my life there's always opportunities to practice letting go.  Letting go of a thought, an expectation, a habit. Not trying to make it go away -that's more of the same.  But giving it the space to be, like a horse sees another horse. Setting my intention and allowing the beings around me to do as they see fit. And then the next moment doing it again. Noticing when I try to take back control, and then letting go again.

Like tossing rose petals into the air to watch them fall around you. And once they fall, tossing up another handful.

There will be another day, another horse, another rope to let go. And perhaps I will. There will be a million chances every day to let go of the ropes and even chains that I've held on to in my life. And maybe eventually, with continued practice,  I will play without ropes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Hard Way

The horses on this farm have lived for over ten years like horses. No barn, no stalls, no tack room, no feed room, no blankets or buckets of mash on a cold night. Just pasture, grass, a few trees, water and a little bit of shelter. This means that the humans who love these horses have had to live with the same inconveniences. So it's been trudging through snow drifts lugging buckets of feed, tending to sick horses in the dark, and managing all aspects of horsemanship in the rain, heat, snow, windstorm and bugs. Though it is a great deal of work and sacrifice, I have found there is something about this way of living with a herd of horses that is very rewarding. 

A new beautiful barn and indoor arena is up and on its way to being finished and drastically changing the way of doing things around here. And though it's an extremely exciting dream come true, honestly,  it makes me a little sad. For many years we have lived in our horses world. All our activities have been in their space and in their way. We've had to do it the hard way, and in doing that had to be flexible.  We've never gotten to throw a horse in a stall when they have moved to the farm, we've had to work with the herd and listen to what they needed to assimilate. Vet visits and hoof trimmings have all happened with a few good buddies standing by in support. Deaths and illnesses in the same manner. We've had to manage our herd in a way that takes into account who they are. And we've built an incredible herd bond because of it. 

I'd say if there's a word to describe how we've been in doing it the hard way, it's humility. Something draws a line in our relationship with horses when we bring them into our world and do things our way.  They become the beasts of burden, made to live how is convenient for us. When we live more naturally their way, we become the beasts of burden, and what a lesson that is.

My point here is nothing about how we keep our horses, rather in who we be when life hands us difficult circumstances.  I've seen a huge difference in people who fret over having to do something the hard way, and in those who handle it with grace and humility. One definition of humility is "having a clear perspective and respect for one's place in context." In other words, the understanding that things are perfect as they are, and being present to the learning opportunity available.  

Doing it the hard way for so long has had its difficulties, but what we leave it with is an invaluable understanding of who our horses are, and who we are to them. This chance we had to be open to a different way of being and learn from our horses has left me looking for a way to keep the spirit of who we are with our horses alive even though our circumstances are apparently improving. Having a clear perspective and respect for one's place in context leaves an openness for all matter of lessons no matter where one is in life. This gives us the opportunity to move to the next place in life better suited for its own challenges and lessons, and hopefully with more gratefulness for what we have, and what got us there.