A Winter Gift

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Winter Solstice upon us and in these short, dark days there is a bit of light in my world already. My friend Cori used to talk about ‘synchronicities’ all the time. Defined as the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, Cori was a big believer. Perhaps she had a hand in the series of events that led me to have a new horse come into my life during this dark season, in more ways than one. A spark of youth and vibrant energy to bring balance back to my life, my herd, and my bruised heart.

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His name is Gray Feather, a four year old mustang gelding from Oregon. He made it to Colorado into foster care at Eagles and Wild Horses Ranch by way of Evanescent Mustang Sanctuary in Texas. He came unhandled except for the halter and lead rope unceremoniously shoved onto his head in a chute when he was purchased by people who thought that might make it easier for them to gain some control over this wild one.  I doubt they ever touched that rope… He’s still at Eagles and Wild Horses and will stay there until the days are longer and travel a bit easier on both horse and human. I can’t remember the last time I had a horse in my life that didn’t live with me! It’s not easy! In the time since I made the adoption official, I’ve been to see him maybe seven times.

 

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Our first meeting end of June. Already laying the foundation for moving together. That day I was just happy if he’d close the gap between us just a little.

He’s slowly shifting from extremely volatile, ‘mock charging’ out of fear frequently. I marvel at his sensitivity, his insistence on accuracy, focus, honesty and clear intent. I have always worked with domesticated horses that have been desensitized in some way. This horse is all sensitivity and undomesticated reaction. The opportunity of a lifetime for me to see exactly what is possible in building a true partnership. A partnership based in shared dialogue and mutual trust.

 

True Tango with Horses…

For several weeks my time with him was spent sitting down on a mounting block. It’s the only way I could force myself to be still and not try something. Every time I tried standing or moving around him he would go into fight or flight mode. Finally, on Friday, I thought he was trusting me enough to revisit standing up.  He was, and I could even stroke his face while standing, a first. I decided this would be a good day to lay the foundation for him to feel comfortable following me.

He senses and responds to such tiny impulses. I can imagine him meeting me half way, feel for the moment when he’s agreed, take a step in his direction and he turns and starts walking toward me. We meet half way. I can stand in front of him and create an intention to move towards him, he shifts his center of gravity back. If I take a step first, or move into his space too fast he turns abruptly and marches to his ‘time out’ corner. It’s such refinement to find the place where he might be able to take one step back, but he’s proving to me that it is absolutely possible to build a foundation of communication without being the dominant one. We can simply learn to dance together by mutual choice.

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Here is responded to my shift of weight and is preparing to follow my lead. One step at a time.

Right at the end of our time together I could feel that he had enough input. I almost walked away and let him be but then I looked at the clock and thought, ‘I have time, just one more try’….

I imagined him meeting me half way. I did not feel him agree before I stepped toward him. He did not turn to come. I took another step toward him, very much in my head now wanting to make it happen. He still did not turn to meet me as he had every other time. I took another step toward him and he came. He stood in front of me and then got stressed enough to mock lunge.

I call it mock charge and mock lunge because he doesn’t follow through. I know him well enough to recognize this as a clear sign of him experiencing stress. It’s his way of letting me know something is too much for him. In other words there is nothing here to punish.

I know him well enough to know all I need to do is raise a hand and he turns just as abruptly away. But then on the heels of that I have to apologize to him because I flat did not listen to my own instincts, or to him. I let my head jump in and convince me for one more try. Had I listened we would have had an entire session of beautiful communication with no mock lunging at all.

So, I could beat myself up for that and walk away feeling like I blew it, but I know that doesn’t serve any purpose. Instead, I sat back down on the mounting block and got still, back to our mutual comfort zone. Waited for him to recognize that I was sorry for not listening and then packed myself up and left him for the day.

IMG_4663My goal in life is to find a way to work with horses that does not involve being the dominant one. Working with horses is supposed to be fun, fighting with horses, dominating them, forcing compliance in any fashion has never felt right for me. I’m beyond thrilled to have this opportunity to develop a relationship from the ground up with a horse that has not been desensitized to anything. The level of sensitivity and communication available is remarkable and intoxicating. Just like dancing a really good Tango!

It’s an incredible opportunity I will not squander.

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If you want to follow along on my Journey with Gray Feather you can follow us on Facebook: Gandalf Gray Feather

or subscribe to my journal: Gray Feather’s Journal

Want to learn more about my philosophy, interact directly with me, and gain early access to learning opportunities? Come join the Tango with Horses Tribe on Facebook!

 

 

6 thoughts on “A Winter Gift

  1. Andrea,
    Thanks for sharing what happened with Gray Feather and you. Congrats on taking up the challenge of an untouched Mustang! I believe in synchronicity. I do not believe in coincidence. I have learned from women of wisdom and my own experience that there is only synchronicity.

    It sounds like you have stepped out of your comfort zone to take up with this new horse. Wow, I think you are very brave! As I age (I am a 61 yo), I love the steadiness of my mostly geriatric herd! But you are truly challenging yourself. Brava!

    I look forward to hearing more about Gray Feather. I can’t wait to hear more when you get him to your house.

    I took lessons from an Icelander in Kentucky many years ago. He had much knowledge from Icelandic way of horses, and was learning the American/Natural aka Hippie Horsemanship while he was here in the middle of the US. He told me never to start a fight with the horse that I could not win. What he was saying was to never start a fight with a horse. He said horses are bigger, stronger, and much quicker that we humans. It was an interesting 6 months with him. He was the teacher, but we both taught each other.

    It sounds like you have found a great teacher in Gray Feather!

    Andria

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Andria. How cool that you got to spend all that time with someone from another horse culture! I’m very excited about this new guy. Honestly I feel like I’ve been training for this my entire life so rather than feeling like I’m outside my comfort zone, I feel I’ve finally found a horse that can hear the whispers unimpeded by desensitization. I can’t wait to see how my understanding shifts and refines working with a horse that will hold me accountable in new ways!

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  2. Andrea,
    I am projecting onto you that you are outside of your comfort zone. I would be outside my comfort zone dealing with a mustang. I took an animal communication workshop with Anna Twinney and she always says to wait for the whisper. She does a lot of work with the wild ones. I love that you can’t wait to see how your understanding shifts and refines working with a horse that will hold you accountable in new ways. Best wishes on your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m super excited to see where he takes me. I think I am outside my comfort zone in the sense of how much he pushes me to acknowledge all the things I know to be true, and to go public with those things. That is very definitely outside my comfort zone!

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  3. Thanks for going public and sharing your journey with us. It is a blessing to be able to be vulnerable. One opens themselves to more in life while being open and giving. That is how I see you are with people and horses even though I have never met you in person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I do feel it’s so important. I feel sad that so many feel they need to keep the more intuitive side of themselves safely tucked away. I hope my going public will help others feel safer doing so as well. 🙂

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