Recently, I was honored to work with a very intelligent horse by the name of Viejo. For several of my students, the session we witnessed was profound and life altering.
Ironically, the session was not grandiose. The horse did not behave as I have seen many other by lying down, protectively walking around the client, bowing, picking up the carrot stick and handing it to the client or pointing his nose at certain regions of the client’s body (yes, these things happen quite often in sessions). He also didn’t stand still, going into an altered-breathing cycle (that I interpret as a shamanic breath) that can take the client between the worlds and momentarily shift their consciousness, forever giving them a gift of experiencing the “world beyond.”
This particular week of study, I was teaching my students the key elements for coaching people while they are actively engaging with a horse. To start the session, the client is lead through a process to bring congruence into their heart, open their sensory awareness and connect deeply to the heart of the horse before asking them for anything. It is not uncommon that when the human shifts from an intention focused on being present to then creating action with the horse, many things can transpire that indicate a true deep resonance and understanding between the individual beings. Other times, the opposite is true, and the horse will reflect to the human where they may have lost connection, not only with the horse, but their own self and the present moment.
During this session, after spending time guiding the client to become present, body-centered and clear about his desire with the horse, the client asked the horse to begin to circle the round pen while he stood in the center. This student gently lifted the carrot stick as part of his process of asking. Ever so lightly, Viejo moved off in a gentle trot. However, I noticed immediately that the student did not “stop asking” by putting the tip of the stick down toward the sand, therefore acknowledging the connection and Viejo’s willingness to work with him. Instead, he lifted the stick not once, but twice, continuing to ask. I sensed that this was an unconscious action from my client and that that the horse interpreted the gesture of keeping the stick high to communicate, “You are still not doing it.”
Viejo is an older horse in his late teens. He has seen a lot as a working horse on a cattle ranch. His knowledge and wisdom are deep and his ability to read humans profound. Even though he has been highly conditioned to respond to these tools, now in his elder years, he quickly understood his role in teaching with me and immediately began his teaching with the student in the round pen.
Viejo stopped abruptly and stood still. The student digressed into a more assertive behavior by shaking the stick and trying to motivate him along. This is where the depth of the coaching began. Once I offered and reflected back to him what I saw, he quickly understood that he had continued to ask for something from Viejo; even though the horse had offered and given way to his request and instruction. He confessed that he often does the same behavior at home too, often getting the same results with his own horses. Some might call this nagging; however, in this situation, it was not seeing the give.
We spent time working with the Mind Body Method Coaching, helping him to see where the energy of this interaction was held in his body. He could feel how he came out of alignment in his own self during this interaction with Viejo. Then, the coaching went even deeper. The student explored the “felt-sense” of doing in contrast to that of “being.” We also explored what the horse might need, at this moment in the relationship with him, to feel partnership and respect.
He centered back into his heart space and started to articulate out loud what he appreciated about Viejo. He shared with him what he saw and recognized as his spirit and essence (not focusing on what he could do for him). As he did so, I could feel the emotion of gratitude rise within him in my own heart-space. At the same time, Viejo ever so softly lifted one hoof and moved it slightly toward him.
At first, he did not see the gesture from Viejo. I gently pointed it out to him. The client then continued to share his gratitude for Viejo from his heart. As he did so, Viejo’s body and eyes softened even more and he lifted his hoof again to inch a bit closer. My client looked at me with eyes and heart wide open, understanding the profoundness and subtly of the experience. He understood the significance of sharing positive affirming thoughts directly from his heart as part of laying the foundation of communication and connection with Viejo. He realized that he could not just go after something in partnership with another and expect to get it by having the other conform without question or personal requirements.
One more time, he centered in his heart and said out loud what he appreciated about Viejo and the wisdom of all horses. Viejo responded by stepping forward and placing his nose on the man’s heart.
Everyone sitting in the circle also felt this profound heart shifting and heart-shaping moment that Viejo, as teacher and spiritual guide, had offered, not only to the individual man but also to all of us. The sensitivity of his offering and the stoic way in which he taught was nothing short of magnificent. Many of us experienced tears of recognition, of the way things should be, that Viejo guided us to see. Even as I write this, my body memory returns to that moment with him and my client, and my heart swells with gratitude for all horses and their beauty and kindness in teaching humans “The Horse’s Way.”
- Where in your life are you trying to get something done, but falling short and digressing into less than pleasant tactics?
- When do you fail to see the efforts and ways that others are communicating with you?
- How might your interactions shift if you were to move from task to heart and acknowledge your horse (or others) before even ever asking for anything at all?
- What might be different if honor and acknowledgment were your primary goal in every relationship (horse, dog, human, etc.)?
I am in deep gratitude to Viejo for not only teaching my client this important lesson, but everyone present that day including myself. You are a wise teacher Viejo, and I send you a deep heartfelt appreciation through this story.
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