Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hiding stories

A friend said that Sufis passed on their knowledge in parables, which helped Sufism to endure through times when authorities tried to suppress their religion. Ignorant people thought the parables were children's stories and kept telling them while seekers recognized the wisdom in them and followed the path.

Which stories been left for us to find?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At the end of all our exploring...

The mysterious moon as recorded from 39 degrees latitude,
-121 degrees longitude April 24, 1:29am Pacific time zone

Tonight I watched a documentary called "Ballerina". It describes the training of ballerinas in St. Petersburg, Russia, the most highly regarded training-ground for this art. The limits these women push their bodies to is so extreme that 20 years is the longest they can expect their performing careers to last (that is, if their bodies hold out that long). The girls they interviewed all sounded driven to succeed in this external quest to become the prima ballerina and dance the lead roles. What carrot hangs in front of them that makes them put aside other goals such as having a family, or a more relaxed lifestyle that most of us enjoy? Is their drive very different than our own perhaps more modest drives to have a family, to work with a horse, and have a successful career?

Something drives all humans to the external quest. It is probably similar to the drive that animals feel to procreate, to nest, to feed and play. Through machines we've created as a result of our human intelligence, we have also gone to the moon and explored other stars, and become masters of places our bodies have not adapted for, the oceans and skies.

For probably as long as we've been pursuing the external quest, we humans have also been on an internal quest. With our eyes we can see the monasteries, ashrams, gurus, nunneries, churches, stupas, chelas, priests and ascetics to name but a few, but the actual quest that these people and places represent are not so easily named.




Not doing.

These are words that represent aspects of turning inward, but the experience can never be touched if these remain as words. My suspicion is that this internal quest is what is unique to humans. Perhaps animals have never left this internally-focused state, or have no reason to seek it.
We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot - Little Gidding, from Four Quartets
This quote seems to be a wink from T.S. Eliot regarding this internal quest. The following quote might be a finger pointing at where to look to find our way home.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
T. S. Eliot - The Rock
To me, the Path of the Horse has aspects of both external and internal quests. There is a dynamic balance between the two, a dance that can be explored in each moment with the animal.

After rain, sleet and hail, the clouds parted slightly giving me enough time to bring the horses in and get firewood without getting too wet.

Sunny however, got wet from the ground up.

Here are the horses coming in.

Patrik is testing to see if I'm on guard enough to keep him away from Sundance's grain. He tries to coax me into allowing him some by demonstrating how sweet and obedient he is. Sometimes it does get him a handful.

Name that thought

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Widening our circle

Which one of us could create this?

It seems like ol' Albert is becoming our most-quoted expert here. I don't mind that one bit! Helene found this one:
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
These are beautiful words, truly beautiful. If we could even barely touch on the reality that they point to, the world would be transformed. As I see it, the biggest stumbling block is that we think that we are already liberated from the prison of our personal desires and affection for the few people or animals we know best. We might think "others" are still stuck but not you and I. You might even be able to walk up to a person on the street and give her a dollar, and think that makes you a good, caring and compassionate person.

The plan, the web is so much bigger than that. That we think that we can do some action that will prove that we are "good" or "compassionate" is merely a reflection of our human arrogance, and fear. We are very small, fragile beings who are given the gift of this next breath, this next heartbeat. If you have ever been in a state where you weren't able to take these gifts for granted you'll know what I am referring to. Even the most brilliant of us humans has limited intelligence compared to the intelligence that knows how to string together DNA, to create a baby from two cells, to turn a substance from dough to bread, to rotate the planets and birth a star.

How then can we fragile, minuscule human beings take on the task that Einstein suggests? How can we free ourselves from the prison of our personal desires and circumstantial affection for the few persons nearest to us?

The answer to that question is what I am on a quest to find now.

Here were the answers I found today:

A big storm moved in last night and spent the day playing amongst the trees.

As the sun touched the horizon it broke through the clouds, at least from my vantage point.

As Sunny and I walked down to the horses, the last rays were touching the treetops.

Rounding the corner here's what we found.

In the horse pasture I found two Canadian geese singing a sonata. I think the title was "Beware! Don't come near us!"

Then I found these three creatures in there. They were singing a different tune. I might be wrong, but I think they called it, "Where's dinner?"

I've had one correct answer for the mystery plant and another person is hot on the trail. Keep your guesses coming to

Monday, April 26, 2010

What is the difference?

Hold on, this is going to be a wild ride!

I can see that this topic might be around a while. Rather than debating details, let's ask some bigger questions first. Lets explore, not explain.
  1. Is there a difference between humans and (other) animals besides physiology?
  2. If there is a difference between humans and (other) animals, what is it?
  3. Do animals have something to teach humans?
  4. Do humans have something to teach animals?
  5. Do humans have a responsibility to care for/protect (other) animals?
Here's the quote in question (thanks Jenny):
"Besides the rebuilding of the horse’s entire musculature, herd living makes a horse very primitive and stupid, and returns the horse to the world of primitive ideas and manners."
I originally helped translate this (and several other of Alexander's articles) into English. I don't speak much Russian but the articles come to me very loosely translated into English and then I work for many hours (usually via Skype) with a native Russian speaker who knows Alexander to come up with a translation that is as close as possible to his original meaning yet understandable in English. As I was working on this particular article I knew that the translated version would be controversial.

From all of the different Russian speakers I've worked with, I am reminded that Alexander has a very sophisticated way of writing and explaining things that I don't think we've ever been able to do justice to in English. I could tell by being with him in person that the translations I was getting were only a shadow of the subtleties and wit that native Russian speakers are able to have access to. Other evidence of this is that he has thousands of students on the Russian side of the NHE forum (those who can read his words directly) and relatively few on the International side who read his words through translation.

All of that is to say that it is more important to get the feeling of that quote rather than get caught up in the exact words which were chosen. In general, I'd stick with what I remembered it as in the last post, that herd living is a degenerate situation compared to other options. Never have I heard that he means that horses shouldn't live that way, or that people shouldn't support horses living that way. My understanding is that his sentiment only applies if the goal is to teach the horse haute ecole and the apparently human values of certain types of intelligence.

Here is a quick sampling of interesting things to ponder from your comments to the last post. Keep these in mind as you answer the 5 questions above.

We can know for sure what horses prefer, when we give them freedom to choose. That I don't know if Nevzorov's horses have had. "Would you like to go out and play with your mates or come and learn some Latin?" If they would choose Latin, then I'd be impressed.

I still have to add, that I don't even feel like I would be able to educate my horse, I think my horse is educating me.
What is the goal of this “new” natural horsemanship awareness? Will the goal be limited to delineate between riding the captive horses V/s not riding the captive horse? Is it about establishing the scope of its intelligence or re-evaluating the consequences of perpetuating its captivity?

The ultimate goal would probably be (as for all captive beings) emancipation and freedom. But I guess re-empowering the horse, reinstating its natural rights is probably unrealistic. Human traffic has not even been eradicated!
How can really herd-life make horse "very primitive and stupid" if this herd-life is really his nature, his horse-sense and these "primitive ideas and manners" (like who's the leader, where's the danger, hey guy you are in my personal space without invitation etc) make the true horse living in the nature.

I think even if we want to teach the horse some "better" ideas, at least we should respect the ideas he naturally possesses!? Or how you see it?
Where I would potentially take issue with Nevzorov is (not really in fact knowing where he is coming from - Stormy can help out) that he seems to be taking a very Apollonian view of things - that he will stamp his superior knowledge upon nature, without necessarily being very receptive himself to the wisdom emanating from the creatures to him.

Today the apple tree was in full bloom. This view is from the hill above it.

I worked with Patrik using the cordeo. Nobody was around to take any video...maybe tomorrow.
Today I got some video of Patrik eating the scotch broom blooms after the sun had set.

The moonrise was stunning, but unless you caught your own moonrise you'll have to make due with this poor picture of it.

Ok, here's your task...explore these questions:
  1. Is there a difference between humans and (other) animals besides physiology?
  2. If there is a difference between humans and (other) animals, what is it?
  3. Do animals have something to teach humans?
  4. Do humans have something to teach animals?
  5. Do humans have a responsibility to care for/protect (other) animals?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Horse keeping

I've had some questions about how Alexander Nevzorov keeps his horses and about his controversial views about horses living in herds versus a more human-oriented stable situation. I know this is a topic that people hotly disagree over.

Alexander, in an article he wrote (which I cannot find and exactly quote at the moment), called horses living in a herd a "degenerate" situation. (Oh, I know I'm going to catch it for misquoting here!) Let me explain what I understand him to mean by this. Imagine a pack of undomesticated dogs/wolves living in the wild. Now picture a teacup poodle. These are both "dogs" and they share enough genetics that they could interbreed, but a poodle living a "wild" existence would seem absurd. We have bred dogs for generations to fit our human notions of what we humans have wanted. As a result, these dogs need to be taken care of, and indeed if I may be so bold as to generalize, they enjoy the perks of living with humans.

Horses have not been subject to as extreme selective breeding as dogs but they certainly have been living alongside humans for nearly as long. Most horses can live what seems to be a fairly comfortable existence with minimal human intervention as long as the natural resources are plentiful and predators are kept at bay. Many of us think that we're doing our horses a favor by trying to mimic their wild existence with big pastures, herdmates, and minimal human intervention.

We must all ask the question and answer for ourselves, what is most fulfilling to the horse. A teacup poodle would probably feel very vulnerable and upset trying to fend for himself, just as a child "turned loose" in the wild with other children wouldn't have the same perks as one who is raised by adults who are looking out for his needs. A wild existence for the human child or poodle could be called "degenerate".

Can we know for sure that horses prefer a more wild existence? Alexander has given his horses the equivalent of a Taj Mahal living situation, with large, deeply bedded stalls, plentiful hay, runs, turnout area where they get turned out in groups that get along, and a large, heated manege. These horses don't need to fend for themselves, they are completely cared for and as a result, don't spend energy searching to fill their basic needs. They can devote their time and energy towards learning what Alexander is teaching. In this case, haute ecole and Latin. I, for one, am glad that Alexander has taken on this exploration. It takes a person with extreme patience and genius to explore the limits of equine consciousness and intelligence.

My own horses live more of a wild-type existence. This is what fits in my life. I can do some haute ecole elements with them, but will most likely never achieve the level that Alexander has. Due to my horses' living situation, their focus will always be split between looking out for themselves and paying attention to what I am doing with them.

For me, I try to call it what it is and explore what I am able to explore in the moment.

Today's exploration included a lot of yawning from Patrik.

I wish I had known what I know now when I first had Sundance 16 years ago. And I'm sure in another 16 years I'll be in a completely new place that I can't even imagine now. One moment at a time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Conquer without any sword

First of all, I want to draw everyone's attention to this clip. It is from Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. It is called "Be Yourself". It is wonderful seeing Klaus playing with a horse the way he did with Janosch many years ago. Their connection is evident.

I am lucky to have a housemate with a passion for gardening. This morning as I walked to the front door, I saw these beauties. I have seen California poppies all my life, but I had never seen one emerging like the one below, still wearing its cone of green protection.

When I walked by a couple of hours later, the cone had popped off and the poppy had popped open! You can see the discarded green cone slightly below it to the right. I wished I had been slowed down enough to sit and watch the process happening.

Here are the mystery plants bursting forth. They are about knee-height to me now. If you think you know what they are, email me at and the first three correct guesses will get a Path of the Horse DVD mailed to you. Don't post your guesses here!

Here are the manzanita, now past their blooms and into their growth period.

Walking down the hill I saw a beautiful skyline of sheep and goats.

And here's a friendly fellow I met this afternoon. We spend a lot of money and brainpower figuring out how to explore alien galaxies, but this little guy looked like an alien right on my arm. And it didn't take anything except slowing down enough to examine him instead of reactively shooing him away. The little mouthpiece probing my skin pores looked like something from Star Wars. I hope everyone here has read "Kinship With All Life" by J. Allen Boone. I consider it required reading for this path.

Here is an apparently rare plant called scarlet fritillary. From what I found online, I see that Native Americans would cook and eat the bulbs of these plants as well as possibly use them as a decongestant and to reduce swelling.

I know this is the Path of the Horse but as I see it, this is all related even if we don't see horses in these pictures. Do others see it this way? I'm curious to know if others can see the relationship.

Here is something of a religious nature to contemplate today. Think of it in terms of this path of relationship with horses.
When God created the horse, he said to the magnificent creature: I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth shall lie between thy eyes. Thou shalt cast thy enemies between thy hooves, but thou shalt carry my friends upon thy back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou fly without any wings, and conquer without any sword.
- the Koran

Friday, April 23, 2010

The sweetness of paradise

What is this? A drop of blood on the grass?

No, it's an out-of-focus ladybug.

Wild iris are starting to bloom in the pasture...

and the wild rosebushes are putting out new stalks and heavy scent although no buds yet.

And what do horses do when they're completely satisfied?


Today was a gorgeous day. I checked in and gave the horses their daily allotment of scratches and then went to town to update my wardrobe (if you saw the last couple video clips you'll see why this was needed).

The town of Nevada City was founded in the gold rush days here in California. There are still many beautiful rivers that run through the area.

It was a treat to have lunch on a deck above this roaring river. It reminded me of the rivers in Colorado when I was there to film Mark Rashid near Estes Park.

I hope everyone has a peaceful weekend. Remember to take time to be quiet and tune into the rhythms of nature. They are healing for us.

Here are two great quotes to ponder:
One reason why birds and horses are happy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.
-Dale Carnegie

The horse through all its trials has preserved the sweetness of paradise in its blood.
-Johannes Jensen

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Forwarding a message of life

In response to the "Life as Teacher" post Noora wrote:
Teaching is actually just forwarding a message of life the way we understand it now...
What an elegant way to put it. That takes out the self-importance and acknowledges that we are receivers and transmitters of a larger message.

So, here's my transmission of the way I understand life in this moment.

I have been noticing the enticing smells all around, like when I walk over the bed of chamomile "weeds" and smell their fruity scent...

or the heavenly scent of these guys that I still don't know the name of, or the intoxicating draft of the wild rose bushes.

Can you guess what Sundance is doing here?

She is stripping the first blooms off of the scotch broom plants. (Close-up below).

Scotch broom is a non-native plant that was introduced as an ornamental shrub. It blooms with these gorgeous yellow flowers from now until late May. The only problem is that they've taken over and become serious underbrush problems which become a high fire hazard as well as overgrowing grasses in many untended pastures. The horses don't eat the whole plant but they love stripping the blooms off and eating them this time of year.

When I got to the pasture today, both Sundance and Patrik were busy stripping and eating blooms. I tried to get a video of it but as soon as Patrik saw I was busy with something in my hand he had to come over and check it out.

We played for a bit and then I bid him good day and went off to play with my human friends. On the walk home, I saw that the clouds seemed to be rolling out, preparing us for a delightful weekend.

I received a message from a Path of the Horse follower who wrote:
I wonder if you can tell me the name of any foundation that is reputable that serves equines by rescue, finding homes, providing care, working on pro equine legislation etc.? I am wanting to leave my estate to this cause and need an organization in this country that will be doing this work for many a moon to come, if you know what I mean!
Do any of you readers have special favorites? I know she is interested in foundations which have enough infrastructure set up that they won't be limited to a single person's lifetime. Go ahead and post information about possible leads here in the comment section.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day in pictures

I walked down to see the horses as our favorite star was getting close to the horizon.

The parting clouds filtered the light as it tumbled down to the wet ground.
When I got down to the apple tree...

I was amazed to see blossoms! I figured since the leaves were already budding that I must have missed the blossoms, but here they are.

I looked down and saw signs of others who had traveled this path.

Our star was shedding the most exquisite light. The colors captured here are shadows compared to being bathed in the glow.

Every living thing seemed to be screaming to be noticed.

Each blade of grass swayed in the delightful light.

The panorama was a canvas painted by the greatest master.

Newly shorn, Sophie the sheep comes up for some scratching. It's a great way to get lanolin to soften my hands.

The picture below shows the two oak trees with the buckeye tree below them.

And here are the buckeye leaves.

As I took the buckeye picture, Patrik noticed me and galloped up. I took this picture as he abruptly halted. His mouth is open because he's spitting out the grass he had been eating. Or maybe he was talking in sounds I can't hear.

He sweet talked me into some grain and then left to graze more. Sundance thought it was her day for more attention so she quickly came up next.

I stood on a low rock and did some scratching and asking her to lift her front legs onto the rock.

The following video is of me scratching her. At first she's enjoying where I'm scratching on her neck, then she seems to reassess and then repositions herself so I can get her tail.

One of my favorite views.

After finishing Sundance's scratches and doing some ground work with Patrik and Sofi, JD showed up to do the evening feeding. I had him take this video of me and Patrik. Patrik takes me to the place where I open the gate and let him out after Sundance has finished her grain.

I'll get to answering more questions another day. For now, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment.