Dancing Tango with Kastani

Screenshot_2019-04-08 (13) Phase 2 Kastani in hand second session - YouTube

Something has shifted. I feel calm and deep as the ocean on a still day. In tune with myself. In tune with my horses. There is no attachment to outcome, only curiosity and a sincere desire to connect. The horses feel the shift, showing they approve by seeking interactions with me.

Kastani is my barometer, his body reflecting my emotional tone like a finely tuned antenna. Past reflections highlighted how intense I could be. Focused, determined, tense. I thought I was relaxed and breathing, but Kastani would stand still as a statue, head high, back tight, not breathing. Guarded. Working in hand he was often resistant, and on my really bad days he’d resort to poking my arm with his nose or grabbing my shirt cuff in his teeth, so frustrated.

Maybe I wasn’t breathing after all? Maybe I wasn’t as relaxed as I thought I was?

Horses are so good at letting me know when I still have work to do. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to ‘fix’ them. Change or shape their behaviors to suit my needs. My goal was to help Kastani feel better in his body and enjoy movement. We have to start somewhere. I really thought the movement inefficiencies I saw were HIS patterns that I could support and shift. Now I wonder if what I saw was mostly a reflection of my own issues? My own inefficiencies impeding his ability to move freely?

People that immerse themselves in Argentine Tango get addicted. In some circles they call it ‘the sickness’. It happened to me. I became addicted to moving together in ‘close embrace’. Dancing in close proximity highlights everything. Everything the leader does is amplified tenfold on the receiving end. I can smell him, taste him, hear him breathe, feel his heart beat, sense his emotional state, and every move he makes instantaneously translates into my body, moving me inexorably with him. When there is rapport with a leader it is intoxicating and mesmerizing.

When I follow, I am an accurate reflection of my partner’s state of being. If he’s intense and critical I feel it and brace myself. I know how much trust it takes to let go of my own guarding and fully commit to my partner and the dance. Whether or not I can let go and dance freely has little to do with my own skill level. As a rank beginner I danced quite well with leaders who gave me room to breathe and couldn’t dance at all with a leader who was tense. The leader has so much responsibility to pay attention to how his partner is feeling and adapt accordingly.

The leaders who inspired me were calm and deep as the ocean on a still day…

Yesterday Kastani walked right over and offered himself up for interaction. I was so surprised I thought he must be looking for a good scratching. But he showed no interest in being scratched so I grabbed a halter and put it on him. We know each other well enough by now that I know he likes to get on with it, get into the meaty stuff and not belabor kindergarten moves.

He wanted to interact with me because he could sense the change in me. He could sense the calm, deep well that is no longer interested in fixing him or making things happen. It’s a funny place to inhabit as the leader of the dance. There are clear parameters, the rope and halter replacing the arms to create the Tango ’embrace’. Kastani, accepting my suggested parameters, lifts his back, becoming light in my hands and we dance.

There were no movement inefficiencies for me to ‘correct’ or fix. We refine and adjust our connection to one another fluidly, by mutual agreement. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being this intimately connected to a horse. Bound to each other by physical means gives us immediate and accurate feedback about the quality of our communication. Our senses awaken, present in each moment, adaptable, forgiving, accountable to one another.

I have ‘the sickness’ again, but this time it’s for dancing with my horses!

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