11.03.05: Journey of Learning

Today was the first day of another round of Tao of Equus workshops that Anne is facilitating. I am working as horse handler, which she graciously allows me to participate as well. This is my fourth course, and I am thoroughly enjoying it yet again. We have a group of three in addition to myself, Joan is from down the street and runs a therapeutic riding center. Michelle, I am not quite sure what she does, but she definitely has some challenges, so I think it is a good thing that she is here, and Christine is some sort of psychiatrist or therapist, and really brings some great insights to the table, but at the same time has had some pretty profound Aha moments herself. It seems that Joan and I have the most horse handling experience, in the daily grind of things, and Christine and Michelle tend towards the more fearful side. It was beautiful to see both of them coming out of their shells today and getting some really powerful accomplishments for themselves and the horses.
Since the weather tomorrow is quite threatening Anne shifted the schedule around a bit so that most of the horse exercises were finished today, and so more of tomorrow will be spent in discussion working on the theory and things. Anne bought a nice tent (that is actually rather sturdy) so we have been able to get somewhat out of the wind today, but the damp has still been invasive. Anne drove her car down to the end of the arena close to the round pen to make it a little easier to unload everything and had her Keurig coffee maker set up on a barrel next to the outlet at the light pole, so we had quite a fancy setup.
After lunch we started the horse exercises, and I headed up to get Storm. The wind was kicking up by this time, and so I was a bit concerned about that coupled with additions of all of the stuff down by the round pen. I headed down to get him, and he seemed to be pretty reasonable, though alert. As we approached the top of the hill and got ready to leave the gate, an odd looking man in a car with a very barking dog pulled down and around in front of the edge of the pasture, I asked if I could help him. He said he was just coming to get some manure, and all the while trying to quiet the dog in the car. He laughed a bit nervously and said that the dog was much calmer when she was out of the car. That made me a bit suspicious, but I told him to drive on over to the pile. I waited until he was well parked before pulling Storm out of the pasture and carefully starting down the hill. About half way down the hill I noticed that the dog was all the way at the bottom of the hill sniffing around Anne's car and the coffee machine. The man suddenly realized the dog wasn't close and looked around, calling her back. I tried whistling, but he didn't hear me in the wind and I finally hollered loud enough to get his attention (while still attempting to balance Storm's attention and nerves) that he had to put a leash on the dog. He called her back to the car and got her in and after rummaging around brought her back out with one of those extendable leashes on her. He kept her tied while he finished his business and I continued on down the hill with Storm.
As we approached the coffee maker Storm got a little more concerned about everything, and so I slowed way down and made sure that I had his attention and focus with his head down before we proceeded. He got a little excited when I finally got into the round pen it took me a minute to get him to a point where I felt safe enough to take his halter off. The group had moved out of the tent, and Storm was concerned about all the people carrying these strange large objects that might eat a horse. I got him calmed down and then took the halter off and moved out of the round pen. Anne wanted to demonstrate the boundary work first and headed in as I came out. She did a beautiful demonstration of what it means to define your own personal boundary and work with the horse as a relationship involving two beings. Storm responded very well, and so she came out of the round pen and Joan volunteered to go first.
As Anne and Joan were working through the body scan and prep discussions, Storm wandered around a bit. At one point, he sort of spooked, and spun back towards the gate, but didn't really run off. Michelle and Christine asked what he was doing and I told them that he had spooked just a little bit, but that he was really doing very well emotionally, despite all the chaos and change that was going on around him. Joan finished her preparations, and went into the round pen to begin, and Storm watched with some interest, but stayed further from her. She moved to the far side of the round pen and began approaching, pausing when he acknowledged her looking over his shoulder at her. He watched her for a moment, and turned to face her and approached, and when she gently moved the carriage whip back and forth in front of her, he stopped very politely. He remained focused on her very intently as she approached him and rubbed his nose. I was really pleased with how gentle and polite he was with her despite the circumstances. She returned to the group and we chatted about it she was really pleased with how he reacted and how he responded to her.
Christine and Michelle expressed some concern working with Storm, so got him organized to put him away and get Tali or Bonnie out instead.
As I took Storm out, he was concerned about the car and coffee maker, and gave them wide berth, but moved up the hill very nicely. I was pleased that he was maintaining himself so well despite the extenuating circumstances. I got him into the gate, and turned him around and shut the gate behind us, and that was when something gusted in the parking lot, and he decided to spook. He pulled the leaping backwards trick, throwing himself around and attempting to bolt free. I held onto the rope and managed to stumble forward with him, trying to get a wide enough base so that I could brace myself against him in a position to be able to do something about his movement. He stepped sideways and back several times with me doing the stumbling forward and each him he leapt backward he pulled me off balance but there was enough weight in the rope that it pulled him and he yielded. After a quick succession of these steps and stumbles he stopped standing facing me with his head up. I took a deep breath and told him that he was under no condition going to act like an idiot when I put him away, and that we were going to proceed as if we had manners. I gathered my wits about me, tried to settle the crazy adrenaline and organized myself to move backwards down the hill with him so that I could maintain control and keep two eyes on him in a position of safety. We made it down the hill without incident, much to my relief, especially since going backwards down the hill provided a challenge for me since the terrain was very uneven and pitted in spots. I was not happy that he decided to act out, but I was really pleased that I was able to manage him and get him back under control. That is no small accomplishment for me.
I took him to the hay bale and removed his halter, and gathered the rope so that I could simply put it around Bonnie or Tali's neck, whoever was move cooperative. I approached Bonnie, only to have her pin her ears and move off a bit. I discovered that I had a large gray shadow that looked mysteriously like Storm. I had to shoo him off twice before he finally just watched from a distance. Since Bonnie was now in no mood to be caught, I headed down to the bottom where Tali had been nibbling on any hint of green that threatened to become grass. She didn't seem to be all that keen on getting caught either, but I persisted gently, and finally she stopped at the hay feeder, and allowed me to drape the rope around her neck. We headed up to the top of the hill and met Christine and Michelle returning from taking a smoke break, and they were both much more pleased so see the tiny Tali.  We headed in the barn really quickly to swap out the halter for one that fit her instead of the Storm sized one and headed down the hill. Amusingly, all she wanted to do all the way down the hill was try to eat grass. The coffee maker, car, and tent did not matter one bit to her.
Anne prepared Christine for her turn at the boundary exercise, and Tali beautifully connected with her after some persistence to draw Tali's attention away from the stubble of grass that was attempting to grow. Michelle had a similar experience with Tali's willingness. Interestingly, Michelle had to work a little harder at defining her boundaries, and at one point Tali was following her and actually stepped on the end of the carriage whip. Michelle was in a bit of a predicament, and Anne instructed her to gently push Tali in the shoulder to ask her to move off of the whip. Michelle and Christine fairly glowed when they returned from each of their sessions. They both were so pleased to have overcome the fear that they each had before entering the round pen. Michelle was quite thrilled that she had physically moved a horse, which is no simple accomplishment when you really think about the mechanics of it. That a horse would want to move from only a simple suggestion is quite a feat.
We wrapped up with one more exercise of actually having a task to move the horse. The exercise is simple to someone that understands the mechanics of really getting a horse to move about. Anne demonstrated the task of asking Tali to walk once around the round pen in one direction, change directions and walk one lap the other direction and then stop. Christine was excited to try it and volunteered first. She began and was unknowingly blocking Tali's forward motion by being too far in front of her. She got stuck in attempting to get Tali to follow, not realizing the principle of pushing a horse vs pulling a horse. She asked Anne for help, and so Anne entered the round pen and they worked side by side and were able to get Tali to move forward and around the round pen. When she came out of the round pen after finishing up, she was asking questions about why Tali hadn't responded at first. I offered to explain a few things to her, and she eagerly accepted. Once I explained the principle of the drive line and being behind it in order to move a horse forward, the light bulb came on. I noted to her that she was also almost standing in front of Tali asking her to go forward, while at the same time moving the carriage whip back and forth, which was telling Tali not to go forward. The light bulb came on, and as Michelle and Joan prepared to do the exercise together, Christine commented to me that she realized that she was blocking Tali's forward motion by simply getting in the way and she had an Aha that she often does that with her clients as well. She smiled and said that we simply needs to get out of the way and everything will happen just as it is supposed to. Joan and Michelle had a great time together, and it flowed beautifully once they really established a connection together. It was interesting to point out that until the pair of humans established a good connection together, Tali couldn't respond.
To wrap up the day we all drew one of the cards from the deck. As usual, each person's card was really relevant and made complete sense to that person. I drew card 40, which is the final card in the deck, and is titled Illumination. It speaks to the same things that I have been getting in the other readings I have been doing with Heather and the runes as well, and I am very pleased with the results.
We finished up and stored the stuff that didn't need to be moved in the tent and loaded everything else into the car and headed up the hill for the evening. I was glad to get into the house and get warm again!
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11.03.06: Point of Balance