The air is crispy cold, blowing snow one minute, with bright sunny spring tinged winds the next. The horses seem to reflect the volatility of the weather, taking any excuse to rip roar around the paddocks and pastures at break neck speeds, all snaking necks and flying hooves. When the sun comes out between storms, the air warms to slightly less than freezing. The horses reflect this change too, a sea of lounging bodies resting in the relative warmth.
Being mindful around horses is a given. With finely tuned senses and lightning quick reflexes, a horse can go from relaxed to gone, in less than the blink of an eye. Moving among horses is a bit like moving around a crowded dance floor. Try moving against the flow. Try stopping when everyone else is moving. You’re likely to take a few hits if you do. Horses when spring is the air are a special kind of unpredictable.
They keep me on my toes, noting flight paths and potential flight paths. When they’re behind me the eyes in the back of my head ‘spidey’ sense is fully engaged, feeling what’s happening and ready to move accordingly.
Horses aren’t sneaky. They project their intention with shifts in energetic tone for all the world to read. Smokey positively crackles with energy when he feels the weather shift, another storm coming in on the breeze. My toes curl and turn away in anticipation of smashing as I duck under his belly, fishing for flapping blanket straps that seem always to flit away beneath this electrified beast! He doesn’t hide his energy, unleashing it out of nowhere. I can feel it as surely as I can feel the electricity in the air during a summer lightning storm. I don’t fear him when he’s like this, I just ground myself even more. I know how much he likes his food, a hand on his shoulder tests the water, I can feel him settle, he’ll stand while I blanket, and my cautious toes will move me as quickly as the need arises.
Wayne does his best popcorn routine when the weather is changeable, bouncing around the paddock more up than forward. Wheeling and spinning, circling like a dervish, makes carrying his feed to his tub like running the gauntlet. There’s no electricity in Wayne, he’s all sweetness, there’s no spook waiting in the wings here. I can feel it because he transmits it with every fiber of his being. My body knows because my toes don’t shrink away in anticipation of impending smashing! He falls in beside me, matching my rhythmic, measured strides, it doesn’t matter how excited he is when I arrive. He matches my pace and tone instantly.
I know my horses well, but more than that I keep my senses open so I can feel their moods, their energy and their intentions. Hard learned lessons woke me up. Hundreds of horses led from stall to pasture and back again. Hundreds of horses held for veterinary procedures. Hundreds of hooves trimmed and body’s rehabilitated. I’ve been smashed into gates, stepped on more times than I can count, knocked out of my shoes when I collided with Dad’s roping horse – yes – we ran headlong into each other, thrown off, jumped off – yes – I’ve done that too, and spooked into. I have a deep respect for the nature of horses. No matter how much we train them we can’t take that essential ‘horseness’ out of them.
And why would we want to?
There is no need to squash that exuberant, thrilling energy. There’s nothing I love more than being around my horses in the spring, when they are all fresh, volatile and just slightly unpredictable. They remind me to stay in my body, in the moment, and on my toes. The epitome of the crowded dance floor, I get to claim my space and find my rhythm in relationship to them. I get to practice setting the tone, so that Wayne can fall in beside me, letting go of his popcorn impersonation to quietly follow along to his feed tub. Energy can change so fast.
I am learning, there is a pace when I move through the herd that keeps me safe and mindful. It’s the pace at which I feel my feet on the ground and can hear the birds sing. At this pace I am agile, responsive and adaptable to the environment at large and the horses in particular. Too fast and I no longer feel my feet on the ground, I hear nothing but my own internal chatter. From this place I no longer feel, or sense the horse’s energy levels, or intention. That’s when I’m likely to get in trouble. Feel my feet on the ground, listen for the sound of the birds, or the wind, and engage my senses, breathe, and set the tone.
Bring it on spring weather! Blow and howl and rage, be sunny and warm one minute and bitter cold the next. Bring on your rain, then snow, then sleet. Let the horses be horses, changeable and frisky, anticipating those first green blades of grass. I hear you. I feel you. I can adapt to your energy, grateful for the opportunity to open my senses so fully.