Last week the season kicked off with six lovely ladies who are part of the Equine Assisted or Equine Experiential Learning Facilitator Training for the year. We had a full week of wonderful activities with the horses. It is easy to see how horses help humans to heal. Does the interaction in round pen sessions help the horse?
Black Ace (we call him Ace), was the star Equine Facilitator during last week’s program. He is a 10 year old Tennessee Walker who has lived at the ranch since he was two. Ace has been out to pasture and not ridden or handled much since last summer. When I arrived at the ranch in December Ace and Moon became pasture buddies. Ace was tentative and a bit nervous when I first met him. He appeared a bit unpredictable and immature. Throughout the winter I slowly began to build a relationship with him. He had plenty of time to get use to me, and the different objects I carried around. He clearly demonstrated a high sensitivity. Even when he and I were twenty yards away from each other, a slight rub of a bucket or a hose on the snow, or the swing of my rake, could send him galloping to the far side of the pasture.
When the winter snow melted into spring muck I spent sunny afternoons saying hello to all of the geldings in the pasture. Moon showed signs of jealously by turning his back and walking to the far side of the pasture. I would continue to visit each horse to give them a few strokes, whisper sweet things in their ear, and pull out their winter coats with the curry comb. Ace seemed very fond of this and for the first time he would stand still allowing me to pull off massive amounts of his black winter coat. When I would move on to the next horse he would follow me.
Ace seemed like a good candidate for the Equine Experiential Learning programs, although I was slightly concerned that he might be a little too sensitive for the reflective round pen sessions. His first trip to the round pen he seemed a bit skittish and not fully present in his body. When I picked up the whip softly, keeping it to my side, Ace began whirling around the round pen with his head high and body nervous. Terri, my co-facilitator and I continued to work with him and he eventually became more present and calm as he adjusted to the new location and working with us.We decided we would give him a try during the workshop.
Ace was the star of the Equine Experiential Learning weekend. He loved every second of attention he got. He relished the moments the group practiced mind body centered processes. This created a calm atmosphere around him. When he had an audience he toyed with his water bucket, wiggled his nose, blew bubbles in the water, and eventually dumped it over. He provoked us all into laughter. What an adolescent he can be! He befriended every person who chose to work with him. Moving about the round pen with them with ease he demonstrated his willingness to join up. Other times he was stood perfectly still and held a warm sacred space for his human student; his tall lanky body composed and full of grace. When working with clients he demonstrated respect and maturity. Ace seemed to bring the perfect teaching to each person, one after the other.
Ace has turned out to be a diamond in the rough for this work. Because he is seldom used he craves the human connection and companionship. Spending a week with humans who were practicing body centered awareness helped to stabilize him. It provided him an experience of being around humans that were calm and grounded. Ace was a natural and will be invited back through out the summer.
The owner of the ranch, Pam, took Ace out for a stroll and ride later in the week. She was surprise to see how much calmer Ace seemed to be after his Equine Experiential Learning Sessions. Little things that had spooked or frightened him the past were not bothering him at all. Does this work help horses? Yes! Many times it provides a horse something he/she needs that if often overlook or unseen. It might be that they experience humans respecting their boundaries, a heart connection, a sense of purpose, or simply belonging, being understood or being part of the human herd. Horses love it when we simply ‘be’ with them. Both humans and horses heal when time slows down, heart based connections are made, and everyone is practicing the way of the horse!