Friday, July 20, 2012

A bit of bliss...horsey style. No, not that.

I have been spending my summer living above my parents' barn.  It sounds glamorous but the situation that led me there is not so great, so I will forget that for a moment.  While the dancing horses are sometimes loud, even 3 stories above, in my bedroom, they are wonderful for the soul.  Yes, I am looking at you "Mister I Love Hugs and Peppermints."  Here is a picture from last night

My daughter, for all of the strife and pain she is feeling right now, loves these guys.  For those of you that do not know, horses are therapy.  They are like being hooked up to a biofeedback machine.  Since dogs and humans are both predators, dogs do not always react to us the way a prey animal will.  A prey animal will react to you as a predator if you approach them the wrong way.  So, they will mirror you, they can show you how you are actually acting.  They are not judging you: they merely being themselves.  So, if you are angry, they will tell you.  If you are stiff or nervous, they will tell you.  But if you learn to be comfortable and to ask and not to force (try forcing an 1,800 lb animal to do ANYTHING), you can gain a ton of ground, and learn about yourself in the process.

My summer has consisted of writing lectures, riding horses, doing yoga on stand up paddle boards, free yoga in the park, and other things.  My riding instructor is a licensed "centered riding instructor."  Sure talk therapy is great, but you usually end up crying during that.  I leave my riding lessons having learned how my breathing and relaxation effects my horse and with a smile on my face.  

I am lucky enough to ride two different 6 year olds: one is a big black Friesian and one is a dapple grey American Sport horse.  Both are goofy and test me, but I have literally found such peace riding these guys.  And since they are owned by friends, I can take lessons on them but also practice on them outside of lesson time.

I ride dressage on the Friesian (no, not like a certain person that has her "therapy horse" entered in the upcoming Olympics) but switch between dressage and hunters on the mare.  I have been riding for almost 30 years and I am re-learning some things and having to unlearn a whole bunch more.  My heels are less jacked down, I am looser, my grim look (I swear that is my look of sheer happiness and peace on a horse) has turned into laughter and smiling.  And even if I get three great steps of the horse riding up into my hands and folding into me, I have a little celebration.  

Yes, it sounds expensive, but it is cheaper than combining a therapist, anti-depressants, a physical therapist, and a personal trainer.  And getting to exercise the horses for friends and practice what I learned in my lessons is good for me and good for the youngsters I am riding.

So, here is a picture of the mare, one of the most comfortable, goofiest horses that I have ever ridden.  She is so comfy, that she makes me think that I can ride like I did when I was competing.

She is young enough and her genetics are such that she will stay dappled longer than others.  This is her, "You want to WHAT?" look.  

And this picture was on my last mare, who I retired.  She flipped over with me while cantering, not even jumping.  She was a fabulous Westphalian.

Fat kitty vet my ass.  Notice the heels jacked down and the stiff elbows.  I have lost some of that.  Now, instead of stiffening when a horse acts like an idiot, I just melt into them and go with the flow.  The youngsters have tried some stupid things, but I was loose and ready and each incident lasted less than 1.5 seconds.

So, bliss on this morning of strife.  And go pet a horse, or a dog, or a cat.  Try to avoid alligators please.


  1. Just recently discovered how actually breathing can affect the horse in amazing ways and wrote about it in my post 'yoga'. Sorry for whatever you're going thru but so glad you have horses to help you along the way. They really are magical.

  2. My friend and I joke about how our riding instructor, who has experience doing trauma work, is healing one person at a time. I was always taught to extend my toes to stop the gripping. But at my last lesson, my instructor told me to breathe down to a walk and the mare did. There was no fussing or fighting.... I think that riding like this is teaching me how to respond and not to just react.

  3. I agree... that's how I have been taught to transition down as well. It works without reins or stirrups too. I am still amazed.

  4. My college horse was awesome: warmed up without reins, full circles, transitions, serpentines. It was like our minds were melded. She might have been one ugly thoroughbred, but she would go over jumps without me holding the reins and not break stride.

  5. Horses are good friends. I miss mine. It's not really the same when I'm just poking them with needles!