Spending some quality time with Gin and Aero is an improvisational dance at its finest. Gin is 30 this spring, and Aero 32, if memory serves. Hard to believe. They really don’t look their respective ages. They live together, so spending time with one of them means spending time with both of them as they weave and bob around each other to insert themselves into the grooming zone. There are two humans and two horses today and still they bob between us, seeking the right hands, and the right grooming tool, for whatever they decide they need in the moment!
Both insistent, yet polite about it. We just laugh and accommodate their needs as best we can. It’s been a few weeks since they got this kind of focused attention. They have a lot to say when we ask them how we can help them feel better today. Gin just loves grooming and wants every inch rubbed and polished. Aero, tall and lanky, gets tight all over and he clearly wants some help with that. But first things first, coconut oil on all the itchy spots! They have taught me well, that just scratching the itchy spots is not enough, they appreciate it when I do something that actually alleviates the itching! After all, I can’t just hang around and scratch them all day…
Grooming complete we halter both horses. Gin marches off to our sandy work area when the halter comes out. Aero, of course wants to follow, so I dutifully tag along on the end of the lead line. He can sure stride out for an old man and it’s not easy to keep pace with him. That makes me smile. Soon Gin is haltered and Karin leads her around by way of warm up and assessment. Aero tags along, and so do I – it reminds me of the Pied Piper!
It’s almost as if the horses are self-assessing as they walk. Both in the zone with us, understanding our intended purpose. Aero peels off first, stopping near the fence and waiting for me to listen. Soon after, Gin and Karin are in a similar listening mode some feet off. It’s a quiet place of observation. Aero had already shown me that his neck was stiff, is that where he wants me to begin? Fully present, breathing, feeling my feet on the ground, I’m drawn to a particular tight spot on his neck. My hand is pulled like a magnet to the ‘right’ spot, knowing what to do without any conscious thought. Aero confirms by closing his eyes, wrapping his neck around my hand, leaning into the stretch, and sighing with relief.
He’s even more keen on opening up the right side of his neck as I find myself pondering the practical application of my recent shoulder stability training while using my entire body to brace myself so that he can fold his body around this point on his neck, and just lean into this deep stretch. This is nothing he and I have done before. Nothing I learned in a book or from a mentor. This is Aero and I working together, he leads and I follow. If I land in the wrong spot, or don’t have it quite right, he lets me know, shifting and fidgeting until I find the sweet spot once again.
Working with care from his neck back, gently mobilizing all those tight places. Sometimes he wants me to go deep, leaning in to the pressure along his ribcage, muscles twitching in that hurts so good kind of way. Aero is a task master when it comes to bodywork. If you don’t listen, he snaps his teeth and cow kicks in irritation. He taught me well all those years ago and it feels good to know that in the 20 years he’s lived with me I’ve learned how to be his personal bodyworker without any teeth or feet flying my way! I’ll never forget when I was studying The Equine Touch, and Jock left me to practice my Level 2 moves on Aero. His last words as he sauntered off to help the level 1 students: ‘good luck!’ Aero appreciates being listened to, and will not tolerate anything less.
Sometimes we hold ourselves back by thinking we don’t have the knowledge to help our horses feel better. That fear of doing something wrong can be paralyzing. But don’t underestimate how much you can do by just showing up in a listening frame of mind. Ask your horses how you can help them feel better, wait and listen. Chances are good they’ll tell you exactly what you can do. If you aren’t sure, try something. If you’re wrong, they’ll kindly let you know, and give you some hints about how to refine. Our horses are our best guides once we learn to listen!
It doesn’t take a lot, and the blissed out looks on Aero and Gin’s faces warmed my heart for the rest of the day!
To learn more about this intuitive way of working with horses:
The Tango with Horses Tribe (private group on Facebook):
The Tango with Horses Online Classroom (sharing courses that teach people how to do their own detective work, rehab, bodywork, animal communication, and beyond)