I have a fabulous opportunity coming up from the 26 to 29 October 2016 at Sosian Lodge, Laikipia. You can enjoy 2-3 tuition sessions a day along with game drives, walking, bush riding or simply relaxing by the pool. Luxury accommodation, tuition and safari activities all included – see the PDF for more information and booking instructions.
Many years ago, I read a little book called the Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff), which is an introduction to Taoism, as described by Pooh bear (as he would). One of the things that he talks about is the big old tree growing in the town. It is a magnificent tree, with wide spreading, gnarled and twisted limbs, spreading out in an enormous canopy overhead. This canopy of branches gave deep, cooling shade and shelter from the glare of the sun. One day a tree feller came through the town, looking for trees that would provide good, solid, straight planks that would be used to build. He saw this huge old tree and set about to fell it. A wise old sage in the town approached him and asked why he would choose to destroy this tree – its value was as the centre of the community, as a shelter, a provider of support and a place to sit and think. As a felled tree, it would have no value at all. Its limbs were too twisted and bent out of shape from surviving the wind and storms. The tree feller would not get one straight plank out of that tree, as a source of building material, the tree was useless.
In this way, we are reminded that everything has a purpose and a place to fit – if you have a perfectly round peg, no matter how wonderful it is, how smooth its edges, how polished and prepared, it will never fit into a square hole.
I have been thinking about this recently. At a yard where I spend some of my travels, there is a lovely big mare. She is a solid, strong horse, sound, good looking with a lovely way about her and a sweet temperament. She is there to be a school horse for the more advanced riders. Unfortunately, this is not her idea, not her fit. She will work with her trainer, allowing him to get on and ride, but when a new person appears on the scene she gets stressed and anxious. She won’t stand at the mounting block for them to get on and is not happy in her ridden work. This is a horse who wants to be a one rider horse – to develop trust and partnership. She is upset by anything that is not part of her routine. After one lesson with a new person, no matter how good they are or how patiently they ride her, she needs weeks of retraining.
On chatting to this mare’s trainer, he said that he doesn’t like to feel as if he has to give up, or get beaten by a situation. Thinking about the tree feller and the old tree, there is no way the tree feller was going to make the tree straight. It wasn’t a case of being beaten; it was a case of accepting what is. What we have the power to change and what we don’t.
Alas, this happens with many horses and their humans. A rider buys a smart young horse. She has dreams of becoming a show jumper or an eventer, the horse has all the right ancestors in his pedigree, but he lacks the courage to let his feet leave the ground. He wants to please his rider but has to face his demons every time she asks him to jump, when he doesn’t want to. Makes for a miserable horse and a frustrated rider. The same can happen with the rider looking for a gentle, caring plod along to amble the quiet country lanes with, and she finds that the partner she bought is actually a little fire cracker, with ambition and energy that is just desperate to run and jump and do. This time it’s going to be a frustrated horse and a rider losing confidence.
If things are not going according to plan, think about your horse and who is he in his own right. Sure, we all hit difficulties in the schooling programme, a particular movement or exercise that your horse battles to understand or get his body to master, but the general direction should be working for both of you. If it isn’t, are you trying to force a round peg into a square hole?
Someone once told me, that if the same message comes to you three times, it’s the world giving you a smack across the head to listen. The same lesson seems to keep coming up for me, but it was a card in Costa Rica recently that has prompted me to actually think and take notice.
A friend and I used to spend a lot of time “talking” via text messages on our phones as I wandered the world. Her comment to me often, was “you make me laugh”. (I did wonder at times if that was a good thing?!) She got sick and I did debate moving back to support her more, but she always said that I was there for her just as much as if I was physically there, and that with my talking to her, it was as if she was travelling with me, I could paint pictures of countries with my words, she could leave her hospital bed and be transported. She said I didn’t understand the power of my own words.
When we teach someone, we have two options – either we tell them stuff – lecture – insert knowledge. In Latin the word for lecture would be similar in context to doctrine, indoctrinate, doctor. I could open your brain, insert the information I want to tell you, seal it up again, off you go. You don’t know this stuff, I do, therefore I will install it into your brain. You are the student, I am the all knowing teacher. The opposite is to draw out – as in taking water from a well. I know that you have this in you, and you and I will walk a path together to help you draw this information into a place where you can access it. Which of these would put you into a more confident, enquiring, playful, learning state of mind?
In the past little while, four things have come along and smacked me over the head.
The first was during a lesson. A lady I was working with had made some significant changes in herself and her horse, just by becoming more aware of her mind, body, thoughts and balance. She was quietly walking her horse around at the end, when I noticed she was in tears. On asking her about this, she said that for the first time, being questioned about her own mind and feelings (you know this, what are you feeling?) rather than being shouted at to make changes (insert knowledge here) she had suddenly been able to make the changes she needed to make. She felt empowered, liberated and whole. Had she learnt anything new? Yes and no. I hadn’t inserted much knowledge in there, but we had explored some pretty major territory for her.
Following on the heels of this was a lady posting on social media. She wrote about what we had covered in her lesson. In about five key sentences, she had absolutely nailed the main elements of our session and had created her own key points that she can access every time she gets on her horse. The power of words to reinforce what she was feeling and doing in the ride and the reference points to enable her to re-create it.
Last month I was lucky enough to spend a week teaching at a yoga and riding retreat in Costa Rica. Every day we would each draw a card randomly from a deck that would give us a message or thought. Something to work on, reflect on or inspire in some way. When I drew this card, it summed up everything I think and strive for in such a way, I just quietly put it down and walked away…
“Cherish the divine moments of communication as they are flowing to you at this time. See the sweetness of the sharing occurring in your life. Sparks of interest and truth surround you on your path and are enlightening. Be true to yourself and support your own opinions, holding strongly to what you believe. Others may try to persuade you to follow their viewpoints or agree with their values. Relax in your own values and take pleasure in singing out your own tune. Your feelings show through all that you are presenting. Your vibrations and energy remain in alignment and can intoxicate your listeners. Enjoy exchange as the communication showcases your gifts and unique self.” Melisa Pearce.
Finally, today I was playing with a mindfulness exercise. They ask you to paint, draw, create what creative mindfulness means to you. As I was watching their video, I was thinking I can’t even draw a stick man that doesn’t look like a tree, how am I going to create anything? Wham bam, universe smacks you over the head again. Words are as much creative mindfulness as are drawing or painting. Words made my friend laugh, one client cry, inspired another. Words can break you, heal you, torture you, and be a balm over rawness. For me, teaching and writing are my creative mindfulness – you know this stuff, all I want to do is journey with you, help you hear your horse so that he can walk with you too. I truly want to “intoxicate you with my words”, as an ambassador of my sport and voice to those horses who need help, I want you to choose to explore and play. We – you, me and your horse – are on this ride together. We all have absolute knowledge of ourselves – you know what your body feels like better than I do. Your horse knows what it is like to be a horse, and how you feel to him as his partner better that we can ever know. Yes, maybe I have more technical equine knowledge than you (at this point) but not about being you or being your horse. Life (and riding) is a journey, our use of words is what guides us along the way.