Best Friends Stick Up For Each Other.

I remember many years ago when I became the proud ‘owner’ of my first horse, Stanley (who’s still with me today), I wanted to have a go at a bit of dressage. There was a small competition happening quite locally to us although it still meant a lorry ride for Stan, who we had discovered wasn’t over keen on loading or travelling. We spent a bit of time working with him and eventually he seemed to accept that it was OK and he’d be OK.

So off we went and as far as the dressage, he was wonderful. He did everything I asked of him despite new surroundings, lots of new horses and hustle and bustle. We would never be ‘Dressage Divas’ but I didn’t care, we had had a nice time and it was a good experience…..well, until we got ready to go home.

Stan wouldn’t load back into the trailer…he literally planted his feet and said “No, thank you” I know now that what he was actually saying was more along the lines of “I’m really not comfortable getting back into the tiny box, that I can’t see out of. It’s too wobbly and I can’t get my balance and that really scares me and makes me get very anxious and fidgety……” but I was still very naive then (not that I thought I was) and as many horse owners did and still do, I just thought he was being ‘difficult’ and ‘naughty’ after all he’d got in on the way here and now we were going home so what on earth was the problem!!

Anyone who’s ever had a horse that wouldn’t load either at a show or at a big livery yard will be very familiar with what happened next….

Everyone who’s ever had any contact with a horse in their lifetime suddenly descended on us and our little trailer and before I knew what was happening there were perhaps 10 people pushing, pulling, shoving food in his mouth, trying to physically move each hoof and generally surrounding him in an effort to overpower his ‘naughty will’ and get him into the trailer!!!

I remember standing there about 10 feet from the trailer, still clutching my ‘Special’ rosette, mouth slightly open as If I was going to speak up for him and make this craziness stop….. but I didn’t….. I just stood and watched my best friend manhandled and frightened into submitting the will of the ‘mob’. Oh yes, they got him in but by the time we got home, he was shaking and drenched in sweat – not really conducive to creating a good model for the next time.

I would like to say that I learned from that experience but I didn’t and wouldn’t for a few years yet. There was would several other incidents of me allowing someone to do something to one of my ponies that frightened them, hurt them or confused them and perhaps as I look back, it was a reflection of what was also happening to me in my own life, but that a story for a different time. It is interesting though that as I have grown and found my voice for the horses in my life and given them back their own, I have also found a voice for myself too.

There was the time I caught the Farriers apprentice with Stan’s hind leg held at such an awkward and painful angle, Stanley was struggling to stand upright or the times I held Willow pinned against a wall in his stable so that the vet could inject into the area around his eye with a experimental drug to try to ‘cure’ his sarcoids in that area (to this day he panics on seeing the vets van and that was 12 years ago!!) or the time I let a young girl ride Casper and he came back from a hack with blood at the sides of his mouth where she had held so tightly to the bit (which was a rubber bit by the way).

Did I speak up and stop what was happening? Did I immediately reprimand those who had hurt my friends? Did I prove to them that I could be trusted to protect them?

No.

In most of the cases, I genuinely believed at the time that the ‘experts’ knew best and it was part of ‘horse-ownership’ and in other situations I simply wasn’t confident enough to ‘rock the boat’.

I could say that these things happened many years ago and assign them to the past and the ‘old’ me. These are not memories I am proud of. However, they are memories that I can reflect on now with compassion and understanding for myself and those involved and in a non-judgmental way and that is as important in our growth as a horse guardian as the actual research and knowledge that we learn along the way.

These are not uncommon experiences for anyone in the world of horses. In fact, they are everyday occurrences and for those involved, like me, many struggle with the negative emotions it causes for us as well as the ‘fallout’ that inevitably follows eventually for our horses.

Ask yourself honestly, when was the last time you allowed someone to do something to your horse that either you felt uncomfortable with or you know that your horse found difficult and frightening? How did it make you feel? Sit with that feeling for a moment so you learn to recognise it in the future. How was your horse afterwards? Did it have implications further down the line?

It happens every day in every yard, sometimes in more subtle ways than others but it happens and it is our horses and our relationship with our horses that suffer.

Although, there have always been trainers, ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ in the horse world, the advances in modern technology and our ability to access any and all information we might wish to in regards to horses and training, has led to a surge in techniques, methods and programmes being widely available (at a price) each with their own ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ who can cure all of our problems and provide us with the ‘perfect horse’. Often what is missing is an understanding of what it really means to be a horse in our world and what it means to be a human being from a horse’s point of view and how all of us are also individuals within all of that. Sadly it is almost always the horse that will suffer although we often do too emotionally and even sometimes physically, in the aftermath of such expert guidance.

The point here is, that if we want to build a relationship where we can trust our horses, and they can trust us in any and all situations, we have to protect them from those who, due to lack of knowledge, ego-centric motives, misunderstanding or any of the other reasons people do things that can have a negative impact on our horses, might do something (even with the best intentions) that will cause that relationship to falter and potentially cause trauma for both ourselves and our horses.

Remember I asked you to focus on that feeling that you get when someone is doing something that doesn’t feel right for you or your horse? Next time you feel that, recognise that that is a signal for you to be brave, if not for you, for your horse and speak up. Stop what’s happening. Ask why the person feels that’s Ok to do and whether they could approach it differently? Explain that you are uncomfortable with what’s happening and you can see that your horse is struggling. Step in and while explaining your concerns, comfort or reassure your horse. Be as assertive as you would if it was any other friend or family member and show your horse that you will protect them from harm always and in every situation.

The trust that will grow from this will overflow into all kinds of situations where your horse may be struggling or anxious or uncomfortable and instead of panicking or becoming unsettled and fidgety, they will look to you as a source of safety and support and someone who will protect them when they feel most vulnerable.

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I promise you, when you see your horse look to you and say “I’m really struggling, I need your help” even though they are on high alert, perhaps scared or hurting and certainly would rather be heading rapidly in the opposite direction but they trust you to get them through the situation and protect them, then you’ll know what it means to be a ‘Horse Guardian’ and a true friend to your equine partner.

 

 

Our ‘Great Rug Debate’…

I often comment to people about how I talk to the members of the herd when I need to do something with them or if I’m working around them and how I always try to offer choices and allow them to ‘have a say’ in what we are doing. I’m sure our neighbours think I’m completely ‘bonkers’ sometimes if they hear the conversations we have!!

The thing is I don’t just do it for fun or because there’s no one else to talk to…I do it because they are genuinely listening. Honestly it true and time and time again they prove that to me in many different ways.

Today they proved it again; not that they need to anymore as I know it happens.  We are predicted some really awful weather over the next day or so, particularly this afternoon and tonight and then it’s turning really cold for a spell.  Those of you who know me well, know I don’t reach for the rugs for our horses unless there is very good reason to do.  By doing this, those of the herd that might occasionally need a rug as a temporary bit of support get to spend the majority of the time ‘free of them’ (ALL of them prefer not to have a rug on if they can help it) and we have an agreement that even if I think they need one, if they really don’t want it, they only have to let me know if whatever way they individually choose (Sky and Stanley simply walk away repeatedly and Louie tends to head butt me, albeit gently, basically pushing me away). I generally ask about 3 times as often they can wish to say they don’t really want one but don’t want to not have one either. It’s pretty easy to tell when you know them.  We also have an extra level to that which is do with me recognising their disapproval but if I really feel something needs doing, I will ask them to defer just for a certain period, while whatever it is, is needed and generally they will, as long as I ask politely, explain why and stick to the promise I have made regarding the timespan or other details.

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Now when I say ask, I genuinely do mean I’m having a discussion with whoever it is and they are responding using their body language and the ‘energy’ they feed back to me (thoughts, feelings, emotions…anything I feel while talking to them).  So, a conversation might go….” Hi Sky, it’s going to be really horrible and wet and windy tonight and I really think you might be better with your rug on just for the night and then we’ll take it straight off again tomorrow when the storm has passed – would that be OK? I completely understand that you’d rather not but I think just for tonight, you might find it a bit more comfortable”. Any conversation like this will happen while they are in the field, with their friends and at complete liberty to walk away if they chose to.

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Anyway, back to today….. As I said we have this awful weather front coming in which is bringing heavy rain, strong winds, possibly sleet or snow and then the temperatures will be dropping overnight from the balmy double figures we’ve been enjoying to the minuses (degrees C).  As I was refreshing the hay nets and hay piles for herd, I started chatting away to both Louie and Sky about the weather and how I thought they’d both feel a bit more comfortable with their rugs on….just for tonight through the worst of the weather and then they could have them back off tomorrow once the ‘wet and windy’ had passed and we were back to cold and dry.

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I must have been chatting for about half an hour until I’d done enough refilling to ensure everyone was at least momentarily happy and then I went to get the rugs, pretty much expecting Louie particularly to say “No thank you” especially as it was still nice and calm weather-wise then.  When I went out into the field, both Sky and Louie were standing facing each other across one of the hay feeders, munching happily on their ‘stuffed to bursting’ haynets.  I looked over and explained I’d been to get the rugs if they wouldn’t mind me coming in and popping them on and both looked up and then carried on eating.

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So I went over through the sticky mud that has now formed in the most used part of the field and chatting away as I did so, popped Sky’s rug on and then Louie’s! Neither moved an inch, neither pushed me away or showed any disapproval through the whole thing!

Considering too, that Tilly was standing about 6 feet away wanting a cuddle (I asked her to move away but she was quite insistent so I said she would need to wait while I did what I was doing) and normally Sky doesn’t tolerate her that close when the haynets have just been refilled (I asked Sky if she could just hold on while I did what I was doing and could safely remove myself and then she could ‘tell her to move’ if she needed to) and even though I ‘know’ they had been listening to my reasoning the whole time I had been talking to them about it, I was still blown away by how willing they both were!

Stanley has his rug on too this evening (at 25 years old his system is as efficient as it used to be, although it’s probably still better that Sky’s will ever be….Hmmm we’ll see…) but we have known each other such a long time, he knows I would never do anything that wasn’t in his best interests so he rarely disagrees with me about the ‘rug thing’ although he knows very well that he can any time he wants to and will if he really thinks I’m being unreasonable!!

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So, when I say I talk to the herd members as I would to anyone, I really do mean it….and they really do listen.  I don’t need to understand the ins and outs of what they ‘understand’ of the words, in many ways it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is I have explained my intentions and the reasons for those intentions; I have asked permission to carry them through and have recognised and acknowledged their responses, even if I then need to ask them to reconsider…..and above all, I keep any promises and commitments I make with them as part of any compromises we might need to come to.  It really boils down to trust and genuine friendship I guess – after all, if we can trust each other and have each other’s best interests at heart, then we can do anything…… even have a chat about the weather!!!

NB: Just to clarify and for those of you that are wondering…..

Stanley (Connemara X, aged 25 years) has a rug if needed due to his age and the fact his system is not quite as efficient as it used to, Sky (16.3hh TB mare, in her teens) has one if needed as her system is comparatively weak and although each year she is with us she improves (this is her best winter yet) she is still building the strong healthy body that she should always have had (one day I’ll share her whole journey with you – it’s eye opening believe me!!) and Louie (16.2hh ISH in his late teens) has one if needed as it’s only his first real winter with us living out naturally (i.e. unrugged) but he’s doing amazingly and is actually already far healthier and better than he was last year.  I have rugs for everyone in case they are sick or injured or if we have weeks and weeks of rain and wet, windy weather as we have had over the years but they are there as emergencies or short term support not as everyday occurrences.  In an ideal world I wouldn’t use them at all but then I would have a large (huge in fact) open plan barn that the herd could all shelter happily in in the most extreme weathers, with plenty of room to spare…one day eh!

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I can still count on one had the number of times the rugs have come out this winter and my first positon will always be ‘no rug’ as it’s far better and healthier in so many ways but I am grateful that for the couple of occasions members of the herd might need one, I have them and we can have a positive and balanced discussion about their use, together.

 

A Horse Guardian’s New Year’s Resolutions….

It’s that time of year when many of us start writing down or thinking about all the plans and goals we have for the coming New Year: lose weight, pursue a hobby…those kind of things.

Most of us also know that many of these ‘goals and plans’ will fall by the wayside very early in January as we get back to relative normality after the Christmas and holiday break.

While sitting with Red, one of our ponies, yesterday as he laid next to me, sleeping in an almost meditative state it occurred to me that there are a huge number of ‘goals’ we could set, not for ourselves as such, but to make our horses and ponies lives just a little better. After all, no matter what set-up we have or how well we think we are doing, we can and should always consider how we can improve it.

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“Can I arrange more freedom and space for our horses, for more of the time?”

“Can I make the time we spend together nicer for both of us?”

“What can I learn about or research that will improve my horse’s lifestyle?”

“How can I find out what my horses favourite vegetable is?”

 There are literally hundreds of questions we could ask and ways we could find to make life a little better for the equines in our lives.

So maybe this year, for those of you working towards becoming the very best guardian you can be for the horses or ponies in your lives, how about planning some New Year’s Resolutions that move you closer to building a better, more confident and balanced relationship together.

Just to get you started (and because I know our horses would appreciate them) here’s some ideas:

“I resolve to spend more time with my horse/pony simply being together, with no agenda (sitting in the field together, standing together and watching the ‘world go by’, chatting with them about things)”

“I resolve to really learn and understand how bits and bitless bridles work so that I can make an informed choice for my horse or pony without being ‘swayed’ by others”

“I resolve to find out where my horses favourite ‘scritching place’ is so that I can offer to scratch it for them by way of friendship”

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 “I resolve to find ways to make my horse/ponies life more interesting and enriching for them (puzzles, play games, opportunities for investigation, more access to outside and their friends, access to different plants and hedgerows to browse on”…..the list for this one is pretty endless so you can be specific for your circumstances.

“I resolve to find out about and understand how horses and all of us, learn and how each of the ‘training techniques’ work so that I can also make good choices about how to teach my horse or pony the things I need to and that we might need to do together”

There are many more ideas and hopefully these will get you thinking about it a bit.  If you want a bit more inspiration, why not have a look at one of my books….”Quality Time Activities For You and Your Horse” available at http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/quality-time-activities-for-you-your-horse/15462395

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Perhaps though the single most important thing you could resolve to do for both you and your horse or pony and the relationship you have together is to ‘Be There’….’Be Present’.  By this I mean, when you are together, be together…..not with the jobs that need to be done, the work issues that are mounting up or the bills that need to be paid.  Be there…..with your horse, just the two of you. See each other, feel each other, listen to each other and for the time you are together, just ‘be’ for each other.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours. Your horse is fully aware if you are actually ‘with them’ when you are with them, just as you would be if you were with friends or family and they weren’t really listening or playing on their phones…you know the feeling.

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So if you only make one resolution this year around your life with your horse or pony, and theirs with you, then make it to ‘Be There….Be Present’ and just this one seemingly small thing will change everything for the better – I promise you.

Whatever you are doing, have a happy, safe and peaceful New Year and enjoy every second of your life with your horse or pony – it is a gift and a blessing to share our lives with such amazing, compassionate and wise companions.

Happy New Year from all of us at The Free Spirit Ponies xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

What horses REALLY want for Christmas…

There are lots of posts on Facebook at the moment telling us all the things our horses ‘want’ for Christmas, most of these being some kind of advertising for a new product, rug, gadget or piece of equipment.

While I completely understand the thinking behind these posts, they really should be titled something more like “What you really want for your horse and for you for Christmas” or along those lines anyway!

So, it got me thinking…..

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously our horses really have no interest or awareness of ‘Christmas’ and all that that means to most people. They may notice you bring extra carrots, have a strange thing on top of your head that may or may not need to played with or run away from or seem a little more excited than usual but ‘Christmas’….no, means nothing.

Secondly, and this is something that’s worth thinking about……do horses have ‘wants’? They certainly have needs, that’s very clear but ‘wants’….I don’t know? For me, wanting is a very ego-centred, human thing and I’m not sure if we can apply it to our horses in the same way as we would to another person.  I honestly don’t know and I am more than willing to hear alternatives on that one.  Yes, they have desires and things they would like to have or happen, they are after all sentient beings, thinking and feeling,  just as we are but it’s the word ‘want’ and the feeling that word has for me that personally causes me problems.  Maybe it’s just me but I hope you can see where I’m coming from…

Anyway that’s my ‘being pedantic’ bit out of the way so now in the spirit of the season, I’m going to go with it for a bit and imagine that The Free Spirit Ponies, our herd, actually sat down (that would be a picture…oh look, here’s Casper doing just that!!)…

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…and wrote a ‘Christmas List’ for horses so that they can share it with you.  If they did, I’m pretty sure these are some of the things they would include and they might surprise you – you’ll already recognise many of these things though I’m sure:

  • FREEDOM AND SPACE to move, run, play, stand, walk, see over a distance, lay down, explore, investigate or pretty much do whatever their body and instincts need them to do. To live somewhere that is interesting and stimulating, mentally, physically and emotionally. Not to be confined in a small enclosed dark, isolated space.

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  • FRIENDS AND FAMILY, to have the opportunity to be with their horse friends and ideally, family 24/7, 365 days a year and for their lifetime (that’s a biggie!!)

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  • FOOD AND WATER whenever they need to eat or drink, not just at ‘mealtimes’. So, constant access to long forage, appropriate grazing, a water source to drink from and access to other plants, herbs and beneficial things to eat. This means hedgerows, trees, things we might see as weeds and all of it being suitable for their digestive system and appropriate to their biological and physical needs.
  • TO HAVE ACCESS TO SHELTER AND SHADE when they need and chose to use it, ideally natural and inviting.

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  • THE ABILITY TO SELF-MEDICATE which is connected to food and drink but having access to beneficial and medical herbs, grasses, trees and plants and things that they can seek out and choose when they need to. Our horses can and will self-medicate if they have access to the right things to do so.

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  • TO SELF MAINTAIN AND MANAGE THEIR OWN BODIES, to get wet, muddy or dusty as they choose to, to be able to manage their own body temperature and needs, to have access to an environment that allows their bodies to function as they should.

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  • TO BE PROVIDED WITH MEDICAL AND PROFESSIONAL CARE WHEN THEY REALLY NEED IT, to be seen by a vet, dentist, trimmer/farrier, back specialist, holistic practitioner etc when they need to be. The key here is ‘when they need to be’ without trying to micromanage their bodies.
  • UNDERSTANDING AND COMPASSION, to be ‘heard’ and listened to, to have their needs met physically and emotionally and to be interacted with and if ridden, ridden in a gentle and understanding way with minimal comfortable tack and equipment.

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  • TO BE SEEN FOR WHO THEY ARE as individuals as well as being able to ‘be a horse’ and all of the elements that includes. This one is really important….well, they all are but this one especially so.

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  • TO HAVE CHOICES and be able to express their opinions about things using a shared communication.

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  • TO HAVE TIME FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR LIVES, to be able to control their lives in a way that allows them to express their feelings and needs to their friends and family without human control or interaction.

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  • TO SHARE OUR LIVES AS PARTNERS AND FRIENDS, not be seen as a ‘vehicle’ or a ‘thing’ to be used. To share our dreams and hopes and be part of our families as much as they are a part of their own. To share time with you simply for the joy of doing so with no other agenda.

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In reality, this wish-list could go on but for now I think ‘the herd’ have covered the main ‘gifts’ that they would like for horses and ponies everywhere.

OK, so this post may not be as funny or interesting as others that talk about new rugs, new bridles or other products or gadgets’ but if you genuinely want to give your horse a gift they will really appreciate this year and one that will make a huge difference to them and their lives, then how about thinking about how you provide or move closer to providing any of the above. I promise you it will be a gift that will be repaid a thousand fold each and every day that you and your horse share together.

Happy Christmas and our love to you all and to all of your horses and ponies xx

Winter Is Coming….

I love this time of year. The air is fresher and crisper and seems to make me feel more alive and able to breathe. After the heat and stillness of summer, the autumn and early winter bring a sense of renewing but also of letting go. The horses are growing their winter coats and are like velvet to the touch. Running my hands through their coats and their manes, it’s easy to feel the warmth that those new coats are already providing. The trees are golden and red and brown and shedding the old leaves in preparation of the rest and inward focus that the coming winter brings. The hedgerows are heavy with their fruits to see the wildlife and birds through the colder months. It is a time for taking stock, celebrating the achievements and incredible moments shared over the summer months and preparing to slow down and conserve energy.

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I used to dread this time of year. As a horse guardian, it inevitably means dark nights, being a little damp most of the time, heavy lifting with the hay bales needed for 13 hungry mouths and mud…..lots and lots of mud! I always saw it as a very negative and difficult time which just had to be endured.

Of course, there are still times when the rain and wind and mud are conspiring to remove my boots and hat all at the same time and the herd are ‘on their toes’ and demanding food, wanting their water topped up or are just a bit ‘spooky’ because the wind and rain is masking and confusing their hearing and senses….and I can be heard swearing into the north-easterly gales as I heave another round bale into the field. The difference is I can now see it for what it is….and it just is….and that’s OK and ‘losing it’ for a moment because I’m struggling is OK too. It’s a moment in time and will pass.

One of the lessons the herd have taught me, and our beautiful magical woods have shown me, is that sometimes you have to fall apart a bit, shed the dead wood or leaves, or our ‘summer coat’ in order to grow and thrive. If we hold onto what was, we will never be looking in the right direction to see what is and even what could be…..

I saw what felt like my first winter moon, clear and crisp, the other evening. I smiled as I welcomed that particular magical light back again and felt the reassuring peace and quiet a winter moon brings for me.

I am often asked whether I am afraid while ‘doing the horses in the dark’? The question always makes me smile as I never have been and I usually simply say that when I am with the herd, in the deep dark of the winters night, the crunch of a frost beginning under my feet and the blue silver cloak of the moon surrounding us all, I am the safest I could be! I have guardians all around me as I act as guardian to each of them.

So…. I love this time of year now…..it allows me space and time, hidden in the dark, to let go of the things that no longer support me and breathe in the cleansing, fresh air, ready for the fresh starts and new journeys of the coming Spring.

1 to 1 Coaching & Support, Workshops and Talks

 

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WORKSHOPS, ONE TO ONE VISITS, TALKS

I can come to your yard or another venue booked by you   either to give you a ‘one to one’ session to help and support you with individual issues around confidence, behaviour and health issues, riding and natural horse keeping or simply what might be happening for your horse – sometimes it just helps to have another person’s perspective and I can put you in touch with good people who can then help if needed. I can also do a workshop or talk on any of the following subjects:

  • Understanding and building Confidence for horse and rider,
  • Horse Guardianship and welfare /Natural Horse Keeping
  • Riding as a partnership
  • Paddock Paradise /Track systems, Centralised and Combined Horse Keeping systems

Running with the herd

  • Understanding Bitless bridles and transitioning to riding bitless,
  • Understanding Barefoot,
  • Rugs and Thermoregulation,
  • Diet and Nutrition including basic herbs and natural remedies
  • Understanding Equine behaviour, Psychology, Communication and Body Language
  • Understanding Learning Theory and different training methods including Positive  Reinforcement, Clicker Training and liberty training

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  • Mindfulness and relaxation for horse and human
  • Re-connecting with nature through horses
  • Equine Lifestyle Assessments (how close are you to giving your horse what they need?)
  • Dealing with the loss of your horse, Memorials

And many more, please just ask………

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COSTS FOR VISITS, WORKSHOPS AND TALKS

One to One Support and Coaching:

The hourly rate for one to one visits is £30 per hour including travel up to a 10 mile radius of  TN34 (Hastings, East Sussex, UK) – travel costs @ 50p per mile after that up to a maximum  distance of 50 miles.

For Workshops and Talks (venue to be arranged by you): 

Half day (3 hours AM or PM) £100 or Full day (6 hours—times can be agreed) £ 190      Travel costs as above but I will also provide all resources and refreshments (suitable facilities will be need to be provided by you) . Maximum 20 participants.

 

“Going with the Ebb and Flow”

It’s funny, I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time about the parallels between how this winter has affected both myself and the herd and yet I couldn’t seem to quite get around to it or find the right words.  It was supposed to be about how we had all, quite literally, ‘raged against the storms’ and had finally come out of the other side……

So, why’s that funny, you’re probably asking….sounds like that would be a good read eh?  Well, it probably might have been if it had been even mildly close to the lesson I was supposed to have been receiving from the herd!!!

You see, the herd weren’t ‘raging against the storm’ at all (Well I think Louie might have been and in doing so, we have found a common thread and ground on which to meet)….no, they were in fact ‘raging against me, raging against the storm’ so to speak!

OK, let me explain……

This winter here in the southern part of the UK it has been unbelievably wet and windy, the worst kind of weather for horses and so it seems for me too.  We are currently on our tenth storm since October and they have come at a rate of approximately one per week bringing gale force winds, torrential rain and although the temperatures for the most part have been really mild, the mud and the effort required to do anything, even standing still, has been phenomenal. The weather forecasters now give storms names according to the ‘next’ letter in the alphabet….well, let’s just say the names I’ve been giving them are a little more colourful!!

The result as far as I saw it until recently was that the herd are exhausted and struggling and that made me upset and angry.  I felt like I was letting them down and couldn’t physically do ‘enough’ to keep them happy.  Each day I would get to the field and ‘rage against the unfairness and relentlessness of it all’, huffing and puffing under my breath and sometimes out loud to the wind as it threatened to knock me over for the 20th time!  “ENOUGH, WE’RE DONE”…..”OH REALLY!!! COME ON THEN”….you know, that kind of thing.

The thing is I was completely mis-reading the situation….when members of the herd chased each other away and got ‘snarky’ with each other, I blamed the weather and the wind and the mud and I ‘raged’……

When Stanley or Bentley walked away from me, I blamed the rain and the noise of the gales and I ‘raged’…..

When Sky stood bottom to the weather and hung her head, looking to my blinkered eyes, so tired and forlorn, I ‘raged’…..

It is only in the last few days I got the wake-up call I needed.  The weather is turning,  Spring is smiling at the corners of our world again and the herd are completely fine, resting, playing, eating and enjoying the warming rays of the sun…..just as they should be.  I on the other hand, got sick!  I don’t mean a little sick, I mean knocked off my feet, stop doing whatever you’re doing and SIT DOWN sick!  For nearly a week.  Of course, I have still needed to do the necessary care duties for the herd but it’s taken every ounce of energy I had, so much so, I couldn’t ‘rage’ anymore….I just didn’t have it in me…and that’s when I finally got it!

The herd hadn’t been ‘raging against the storm’ at all, they were mirroring the energy I was bringing to the field.  They looked so tired to me partly because I felt so tired with all my ‘raging’ and partly because it must have been exhausting for them to deal with the stress and anxiety I was dumping on them.  Initially yes, Louie was sharing my feelings and taking it out on the others in the same way I was and in that we were kindred spirits but even he ‘got it’ way before I did.  In fact, I think now I was probably subconsciously winding him up most of the time and being one of our newer members he wouldn’t necessarily have known how to deal with that i.e. by walking away like Stan would.

What the herd were actually doing the whole time was simply ‘going with the ebb and flow’ of each day, doing whatever they needed and made them most comfortable.  Sky standing with the bum to the weather and hanging her head is actually the exact response she should be making to driving rain and wind, in order to keep the important parts dryer and warmer – I just saw it through ‘mud-coloured glasses’ and hung all of my anger and stress and worry on it.

It was only when I couldn’t physically ‘rage’ anymore that I saw what was really happening and the last few months assumptions completely unravelled before my eyes.  How many times had the herd tried to tell me…..the knowing looks and deep beckoning eyes willing me to snap out of it. All the time I thought I was ‘raging’ for them and in fact I was only ‘raging’ against myself and at them.  It is perhaps interesting too that I feel at a bit of crossroads with a few things and where we will be heading in the future and this winter has somehow bought all of this to a head.

…and so I am in ‘recovery’ for which the herd are I’m sure grateful. I am learning to reconnect with the ebb and flow and to stop fighting.  I’m sure sometimes the herd must wonder if I listen to a word they say…..and I do and I’m getting better most of the time….it’s just occasionally I need a gentle (or maybe not so gentle) reminder!!!