The Not So Great Escape - Part 2
Today we continue Connie's story of the bond she has forged with her herd of horses, a bond deepened and made more rewarding by the Waterhole Rituals... Hope you enjoy the conclusion of her tale and I'll back Thursday with more on the Uberstreichen Excercises.
It helped me to smile and say outloud what a beautiful day it was to be alive and remark on the stunning view--it took me to a place of gratitude and presence that caused endorphins to be circulating within me rather than adrenaline. These regular 'conversations' I have are not lost on my animal companions, of that I am certain.
After a few more minutes of reverie, I told Chasta that now that I was here and allowed her continued freedom, it was my obligation as leader to take them to the grass that I promised them and that there was some nearby in a swale where water drains down from the top of the ridge. I asked her to please come to me when she was ready and that I would lead her there so the others could follow. She acknowledged me with her eye and ear but did not move. I laid back down and thought of the lovely conversations I have had with Carolyn Resnick and the many times I have watched her DVD's and heard her soft and direct extraordinarily communicative voice. "Wait. Trust and wait", I felt sure she would have told me. More minutes went by without benefit of a watch since I was on 'horsetime' and I raised my arms up over my shoulders in a lazy stretch and opened the eye closest to Chasta. Max and Gaela had moved down below me but Chasta had closed the distance between us by half in a wide arc!
I cannot express my elation in that moment!! This supemely intelligent friend had chosen to respond to my suggestion!! I laid back down and whispered, "Thank you God, Thank you, Chasta. Thank you, Carolyn, Thank you, Mom." My body felt limp and wonderful, as if melting into the ground. I had also heard my Mother's voice when Carolyn's was present. "Be just like a rag doll," she would tell me, whenever there was a need to relax. "Just like Raggedy Ann", she would say soothingly giving me a visual reminder of my childhood favourite. So there I was ,Raggedy Ann in her calico summer dress, (though I was wearing a dirty shirt and shorts) lying on a grassy hill in the sunlight dappled by the large trees closeby.
Within another few glorious moments in that state of complete and grateful presence, I opened my eyes again to see what I knew was happening since I could now completely feel and smell and hear my wonderful Chasta girl. She stood by my side, grazing lazily, as if we had these kind of encounters all the time. And we did , but in the context of our own fenced acreage. But because of the heartstrings of connection that Carolyn had exposed us by experiencing her Waterhole Rituals, we were able to take it to a level of freedom that was beyond fences or ropes.
Tears of gratitude filled my eyes for this horse, this journey home to myself and my Creator and for all the wild and wonderful moments that had taken me to this point in time. I sat up and asked her if she would put her head in the halter so that I could lead her herd safely to the grassy place . She leaned into the opening as I exchanged breath with her and fastened it from the ground. I tossed the soft rope up over her withers and got to my feet, resisting the temptation to throw my arms over her in exhuberant joyful hug. Instead, I remained quiet and grounded and allowed her to bend toward me in a tender gesture of friendship as I shyly put my head toward hers and we held our foreheads together in a deep simultaneous exhale. One I will remember forever. Especially since the inhale was filled with the intoxicating aroma of her sweet scent.
"Let's go find that good grass, pretty girl," I smiled and walked beside her. It was so important to me in that moment to trust her to stay with me, the halter and lead only symbols of how far we had come to be able not to use them. Gaela and Max fell into place behind us and we stayed there in the shade of the mighty evergreens surrounding us for as long as it took my heart to fill with the memory of this amazing experience. Each of them grazed lustily, knowing this was the mid day dessert I had promised. Then I walked toward the gate onto our property, with two quiet horses and their pony boy by my side and led them to more green grass surrounding the house that had been kept watered. "As soon as Tom leaves, I will close the entry gates and allow you to stay here on this sweet grass for the rest of the afternoon as a thank you for your incredible cooperation." Then I led them down to where Tom was just coming down from the ladder after completing his repair.
He shook his head again and asked me "How did you do that?" noticing how calm they horses were, Chasta practically napping as we walked toward him. "We just had a really honest conversation from a distance. I feel very fortunate. On another day, maybe this circumstance would not have had such a happy ending, but I feel truly grateful that today, in this moment, you arrived at the perfect time, our close relationship prevailed and I did not make too many mistakes." I led the horses through the gate that Chasta had opened with her teeth and told them to watch for Tom's departure. For good measure, I clasped a rope around it. They walked off onto the dry brown pasture and headed for the shade of their loafing shed.
Tom and I visited awhile and I shared how blessed this journey with horses has been for me and how different I feel inside now compared with when Chasta entered my world. How my belief in the interconnection of all of life is so much more real and embodied for me today. How my senses are more horselike and my emotional spectrum broad and far more agile. How my gratitude is my greatest emotional presence. I thanked him for restoring the hundred year old lamp to its former glory and knew we would be thankful for its illumination in the coming months as the long summer days grew shorter and darker. I watched him head off down the long driveway, aware of the perfect timing of his arrival and in my peripheral vision realized that Chasta was heading to the gate with deliberate purpose.
Turning to acknowledge her, I told her I was heading to close the property entry gates behind Tom and then came to open hers so that she had liberty on our land for the remainder of the day, which meant access to the grass that was not considered pasture, but "special treat grass". As Gaela and Max trotted up to get in on what Chasta had already expected, I smiled at her and said, "A promise is a promise! " I wasn't about to lose any momentum that we had gained in our relationship.
Chasta has never been effusive in her praise, but the nod of approval she gave me shot a shudder of delighted contentment up my spine, the flush inside my body matching the warmth of the sun on my skin outside. One I can close my eyes and feel in this moment. Remember when the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz film realized that he had a brain and exclaimed "Oh, Joy! Oh, Rapture!" I was learning to use my brain and my heart.
Being in nature outdoors with them is my true joy and anyone who has read my first book, Beauty From Brokeness knows that I was told that I would never be able to connect with my mare Chasta, enjoy her as a riding horse or override her habitual pattern to be a "confirmed bolter". Today, we have the deep magnetic connection and bond where we have found a way to trust each other, and to be confident in ourselves and in our partnership. So though I do not feel that either Chasta or I have had any more real "training"---me as a rider or she as a horse who carries a rider, we confidently ride the trails at every gait with a rope halter and rein and our communication is wonderful. Her impulsion is perfect, but she is no longer impulsive. She seems to enjoy our outings every bit as much as I do and in fact, has become the 'steady' horse for other horses with less confidence. She is happy leading other horses or being in the middle or at the back, because I am comfortable anywhere I am as well.
The ability to be present in the moment and confident with where we are is the difference. Now when we "train", we have a language that is built on that trust, confidence and interaction and everything works better, faster and with more clarity. I had been learning a great deal with my studies in natural horsemanship and made many strides, but the real change came for Chasta when she was at liberty and could choose how and when and where she wanted to interact with me. This story shares the fruit of that change and is the basis of our relationship today, which I trust will continue to bloom and grow.
If I had any advice on how to get to the place where this method will translate to whatever it is you love to do with your horse, it would be to take the time to get the rituals in place, especially the first one. Be patient and trust the process. Riding with ease and joy has become a by-product of the rest and the cherry on top. The rest is the most delicious dessert I have ever experienced. Have fun!!!! Isn't that why we have horses in our lives?
Connie Funk - www.constancefunk.com