Last Sunday, I decided to interact with my horse in a completely different way after watching the Ted Talk by Horse Whisper and Life Coach, Koelle Simpson. Koelle’s explanation of how a horse exists as a prey animal had the audience feeling like they were walking in their hooves.
The horse being a “prey” animal literally means they are dinner for the predators of the world. Making a fast getaway is the horses’ only defense. Highly developed senses send an alert when there is any change in the environment. The horse listens, watches, hears and most of all, feels what is happening around them.
When Chico and I entered the circle (round pen) sans equipment, he immediately knew something was up. Chico is normally decked out in a saddle, side reins, lunging line attached and ready to work for the person in the center of the round pen who has a very long lunge whip.
This time Chico was very nervous and on the lookout. He could tell this was different and he better check this out. The first step would be to gallop, snort and run around the circle. He needed to be quick, dodging and super alert until he felt comfortable.
I sat down in the sand, directly in the center and did not make a move or invite him to change what he was doing.
Doing nothing is actually hard for me. I had to restrain myself from forcing him to slow down long enough to know he was ok. Instead, I sat, watched, listened (mouth closed) and shut down my monkey mind. I started to perform deep breathing exercises remaining totally present with him.
Horses rarely lay down unless the head mare is keeping guard. Being on the ground is the most vulnerable position for a horse.
After 15 minutes of just sitting, Chico decided to lie down, roll over, and quickly get back up.
A few minutes later, he repeated this, staying on the ground longer. Next, for the magic 3rd time, he laid down long enough for me to see a real trust and relaxation in him.
Chico then decided to walk over and start licking my shirt and playing with my hair. Almost saying, thanks for providing a place for me to feel safe and to trust my lead mare (me).
This trusting, quietly waiting, supportive interaction between Chico and myself, was a confirmation of how important it is to wait, listen, see, feel and honor the speed at which a relationship builds. How vital it is to give the other person enough space to figure things out, to trust enough to be vulnerable, to drop defenses and old stories and share what is truly alive and real right now.
I was not born with these skills and continue to work daily for the slightest improvement. Chico said, “Don’t push the river,” be patient and watch things develop naturally, building trust and safety for true intimacy. As I strive to grow as a wellness coach, I will take a few lessons from my wise companion.