Follow your Heart and your Horse

Nothing else matters!

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“Learn to sit still, to wait until your dust has settled, and your air has become clear.  Wait for deep stillness. Then, start.”[1]

My path has been fraught with painful lessons that stem from prioritizing someone else’s expertise over my own inner knowing and the direct feedback of my horses.  It is not easy to stand against knowledgeable, trained, professionals and disagree, with nothing beyond instinct and gut feeling to back you up.  I am learning to listen, with the help of the living, breathing world around me, to those whispers of communication.  I am learning to let those whispers be my guide and to add the insight from the experts to my own perception and most importantly from the feedback of the horses.  When I listen this carefully to the horses and my own heart it creates a bigger picture that takes into account communications that come directly from the wider world, my own inner world and my horses.

The trick is to allow ourselves permission to step outside the linear, rule based, perfectionist mode most of us have learned.  This paradigm convinces us that we don’t know enough, the wisdom of our hearts and our horses becomes suspect. Furthermore, if we try something outside our area of expertise or training, we may make a mistake.  We are trained to think of a mistake as a bad thing, something with dire consequences, something to be ashamed of.  Really, we are trained to be perfectionists, terrified of getting the wrong answer.  The educational paradigm of the modern world robs us of a sense of free will and confidence in our own inner guidance and wisdom.  We lose access to our endless well of creativity, however, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain it!

Whether you know it or not, you are in direct communication with the world and the beings you share it with all the time.  When you meet a new person, or a new horse, massive amounts of information are being processed and sifted to determine what pieces are relevant enough to be brought into your conscious awareness.  Every being we encounter, every environment we enter, has a feeling tone to it that we assess automatically.

What we feel guides us.  Is the person we just met open to a handshake, a hug or do they prefer no physical contact?  Is the horse we just met defensive and guarded, or inviting us in for a head rub?  Do we feel comfortable enough in a room to sit in the middle of the auditorium or are we seating ourselves close to the nearest exit?  Do we cross the street to avoid passing too close to the person walking toward us with their large dog, or do we walk past them and say ‘hi’ and give the dog a pat?  Thousands of bits of information are entering through our sensory system to help us make split second decisions about all kinds of things.  For most of us these things happen outside our conscious awareness.  We respond instinctively and don’t give it a second thought.

There is so much richness available when we work consciously with this ‘sixth sense’.  When we allow ourselves to experience the feeling tones of the world around us we drop back into our bodies, we can stop second guessing ourselves and access creative solutions to any problem we face. It’s easy enough to re-awaken your capacity to access this endless well of creativity, this capacity to be in direct communication with the world around you.  All you have to do is begin to ask the question:  how does this room feel?  How is this feeling different from the last room I was in?  How does this horse feel compared to that horse?

This is not asking the horse, “how do you feel?”, as in assessing his emotional state.  This is asking our own body sensory system to begin to distinguish between the feeling evoked by one horse vs. another – how does this horse, right now, resonate or vibrate within my own being?  For example, the coffee mug sitting beside my computer – it’s my favorite pottery mug, it has its own life force that feels warm and inviting, its glossy rounded surface is perfect for wrapping my hands around the warm mug – it makes me feel warm all over.  It has a different feeling than the Himalayan salt candle holder sitting next to it – which feels cold and crisp and ancient, very much alive.  As we learn to let the feeling of things in our world wash over us, we begin to open the doors to perception on ever deeper levels. [2]

Yesterday, I took two geldings who are new to my place out for a hand walk around the pasture.  Their pasture abuts my neighbor who has a small group of cattle living on her field for the winter.  These two horses have not lived in the company of other herbivores and they are quite terrified of them.  I led them out across the pasture, turning south as we neared the western boundary of the property.  Right away I could feel them hesitate as they realized we were walking towards the dangerous, horse eating cattle who lay basking in the sun, prone bodies scattered across the field.  This was a physical sensation, they were no longer eagerly walking with me, they were lagging behind, focused on the cows.  So even though they continued to follow me, I could physically feel their hesitation.

Suddenly, on a whole-body level, I felt fear crawling up my back, overwhelming my senses.  This is an example of how developing my natural ability to allow the feeling tones of the world wash over me has practical application.  This was not my fear, this was the horses reacting to the increasing proximity of the cattle.  Responding to their fear in that moment, I guided our small herd left and circled back away from the cows until I felt them walking freely, felt the fear abate.  We continued our circle and started back toward the cows.  This time they did not hesitate, they continued to walk with me and the overwhelming fear never returned.  Without any fuss or ‘training’ we moved through a threshold moment for these horses without any fuss at all.

This is one of many ways accessing this kind of perception is so useful.  Make no mistake, those horses knew I felt their fear and responded to it.  And I responded in a way that let them know I was listening and they weren’t wrong for having those feelings.  I never turned it into a lesson in obedience or into a challenge to push them over their fear threshold.  We worked together to find a mutually workable solution that helped build their confidence…in themselves, in me and in the cows.  Nothing to fear here.

It is indescribably fun to be in direct communication with my horses, to allow them to guide me in discovering what works best for them.  You can start developing your own abilities to do this today.  Start paying more attention to how everything you encounter feels.  Start building your own library of felt sensations and your mind/body will automatically begin to bring these subtle things into your conscious awareness.   We are capable of receiving and processing so much more information than we realize.

Every single person has access to endless wells of creativity – the kind of creativity that allows us to realize solutions to any situation on a moment-to-moment basis.  We are born with the capacity to live in direct communication and connection with the living world around us.  From plants to non-human animals to technology and beyond, when we are in ‘the zone’ we are able to creatively problem solve beyond what we have learned or been taught.  And in this way, we have only to allow our heart and horses to guide us to our own unique path where there is no doubt.  Horses love that!

This is a somewhat shorter version of the blog post: Learn to Listen with Your Whole Body.  The content seemed timely to share again but with more focus on developing our ability to sense our horses.

[1] Hugh Milne, The Heart of Listening: A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work (North Atlantic Books, 1995), p. 2

[2] Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth (Bear & Company, 2014), p. 28-44

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10 thoughts on “Follow your Heart and your Horse

  1. On that note Andrea…regarding your post…Kyle is a new find for me.  I like the way he puts itgYou’re Only Manipulating Yourself

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    | | | | You’re Only Manipulating Yourself See Kyle Cease Live at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA May 27th & 28th, 2017 http://www.evolvingoutloud.com… | |

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  2. I see two listeners here, each listening with their heart…I sense two friends enjoying walking together. Listening can be like a single red rose or it can blossom into a gigantic bouquet with a variety of colorful flowers from which to choose. Jean

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  3. So beautiful and heartfully written Andrea…everything starts with awareness… and for me that began with the ability to honestly , authentically and, of course, without ego and arrogance,..accept, acknowledge and fully experience all that the horses have to offer…all life has the ability to ‘teach’….but do we have the ability to ‘listen’?…that’s where the awareness of finding our place of a human ‘being, not a human ‘doing’ begins….. thank you for this!..

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  4. Lots of food for thought in this writing…or “food for feel”:).

    I especially appreciate the recognition of creativity and horses to thrive in an area where comfort zones are expanded, with tact, consideration and intuition.

    I added the books you cited to my wish list.

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  5. I love this Andrea, thanks for the reminder! I am working with two new mustangs and I am a newbie to horses in general. My horses are boarded and I feel sometimes I must abide by the rules (of training), so horses comply with the basics…. while I feel like taking my time, letting us develop our relationship, so there is less “training” and more “being”…. By and large this barn is a small operation and no one is forcing me to do it a certain way, but suggestions often leave me puzzled…as in “is that the way to work with them? really?”. So I appreciate this reminder!

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    • Thank you Vittoria. I’m glad it was a timely reminder. It is a challenge in boarding situations to not succumb to the internal pressure to perform. I have struggled with similar issues when I go to teach a lesson or have a horse come in for rehab. How do I balance the expectation of the client with my desire to be there for the horse? I’m learning that the pressure is almost always within myself vs. ‘out there’. Wishing you well with your new equine friends!

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