Monday, April 5, 2010

Lines to circles

Mia wrote:
I believe visual tools like maps are important to understand where we are and where, by choice, we want to go. Instead of using a linear, up and down model with different levels I would like to suggest the use of a circle with different stages in the horse/human relationship.

I looked at the examples she gave links to and I think they're quite interesting. I think some others suggested looking at it more in these terms too. I wonder if we could revise the chart in terms of circles. Anyone want to try?

Today Patrik didn't want to miss out on any potential treats so he made his way right up to me when I came in the pasture. After a brief nosing revealed that I didn't have any, he walked over to the pump house and very carefully backed up to its low eave and pushed his hindquarters against it which made him round through his loins. It looked like he was giving himself a back adjustment. I wish I'd had enough presence of mind to take a picture. When I visit him at night sometimes he backs up to me and has me perform this "adjustment" as well.

After the rain yesterday and scattered showers today, much of the pasture was looking more like a pond than ground. There were 3 Canadian geese who had taken up residence for the day. They honked very loudly as I made my way through.

This ghost-like blooming tree was a beautiful sight.

The following video clip is taken from under the old apple tree that we've already met. There was a robin who seemed to be either scolding me for being there, or warning the rest of the woods that there was an intruder under the apple tree. Maybe both.

Some things are simply eye-catching to me, like this stump with fungi and moss...

this leaf...

the mystery plants...

and another leaf with diamond drops on it...

The clouds were a stunning canvas of white and gray over blue. I went to town today (Grass Valley) after about two weeks stuck at home between being sick and my back being out. It was nice to visit the human forest too. I saw a movie and talked to some people I hadn't met before. I think my life right now has a good balance between the very natural area where I and the horses live with the community we're part of, and the "rest of the world" which is where we all came from.

The more time I spend in this community on the Ridge and in nature, taking walks, being quiet, reading books, playing and singing music with friends and such, the more I appreciate what a unique circumstance I've become a part of. I don't know where it's heading but it feels like there's nowhere else on earth I'd rather be.

As I was heading back to the Ridge I got a call from JD that he needed me to put Sofi in for the night. Apparently she was asserting her independence and JD hasn't gotten the hang of how to sweet talk her in. Sofi has shown her scary side to JD and Tricia (Tricia is a woman who also works with me and the horses sometimes) and so far I haven't been successful in teaching them how to get past that and into her sweetness.

It took me quite a while before I figured out how to do it myself. Intellectually I had known that Sofi's anger/scariness was a reflection of something in me but it wasn't until I "slowed down" enough that I was actually able to see it happening as if in slow motion and I was able to truly see and feel it rather than intellectually think about what must be going on.

I hope to get it on video sometime, to show the difference between being able to shift and walk into Sofi and bring out her sweetness or scariness. I'll try and describe it here. I walk towards her (or she walks towards me) and we both start out relaxed, and then there is a very brief moment when she might flip her ears back and I react energetically by getting scared that this is going to be a repeat of past times when she has come after me. I believe her ear flip is her question of "Are you going to hurt or scare me?" and if I respond in fear or anger, then the attack will almost certainly come (although her "attacks" are pretty mild these days). If I am able to answer her ear flip question with a relaxation, and stepping in to offer her a scratch, she will almost always immediately soften and gratefully receive the scratching. So, between her and I, we pretty much have it worked out now that I can energetically control my approach/response and we have a nice connection.

The trick is how to teach this to someone else who may not be able to catch that moment and hold themselves in a positive place. The moment they doubt, it's all over, and then both that person and Sofi has become ingrained even more deeply the old pattern. In a way I think this is a microcosm for all the "bad behavior" that happens between horses and humans.

When Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling works with horses, he always takes the horse away from his owner and works with the horse himself or has a different person work with the horse for at least the first day or two. This way he is able to immediately break any ingrained habits by being a human who does completely different things than any other human has ever done with the horse. The horse, in response, "wakes up" and starts to be curious about what's happening rather than going further within himself as would happen if the owner were to continue working with him, even if the owner was being directed to do things differently.

It is an extremely subtle dance to watch and I'm grateful to have horses as willing to express themselves as Sofi and Sundance have been. If it weren't for them I would never have found this path in the first place. I remember in the movie Avatar when they're talking about which dragon becomes yours to ride. The answer is, the one who fights with you. I may be misremembering the actual words and perhaps fight isn't the best word anyway. I would say, the one who challenges you the most.

I believe it is that way with people too. The ones who challenge us the most are the ones we can learn the most from. And within ourselves, the things that give us the greatest internal challenges are those things that in the end will be the source of our greatest gifts and harmony if we can find that very small, narrow yet bright path that feels like home.

As I was writing this post I just saw the comment from Valezka in response to yesterday's post come through. Thank you Valezka for writing about your own path. I know it will resonate with many here.


  1. Stormy, the mystery plant, could it be mule's ear? It is hard to say in this state (non-flowering) and photo. You may have to wait until it reveals its bloom.

    Here is a good site with photos to check when the time comes...

    It looks like you are getting all our soggy easter weather now with some delay. Sunshine is on it's way, and boy, will it roll out the green carpets.


  2. Thanks, Stormy and Sofi. I wrote yesterday in my own blog about reacting when Bridget nipped me. It was an immediate, unconscious reaction, but I think I'll try and not do it in future.

  3. Hi Stormy,

    The way you describe Sofi responding to something in you makes me wonder what messages I am sending. My horse Comet goes between being somewhat dissociated and sad, to angry, and I haven't had many breakthroughs towards an understanding relationship with him. He can be quite moody and over-aggressive, mostly with the other horses, but he does make me feel uneasy at times, though he's never actually bitten or kicked me, I wouldn't necessarily put it past him. He usually gives me the cold shoulder and a hard flick of the tail as he walks away from me when I try and approach him. Or flattens his ears, and pushes with his nose trying--usually succeeding--to move me like he moves the other horses. I'm going to work on sitting and sending him messages of peace and relaxation, and for a while maybe stop approaching him altogether.

  4. Charts or bubbles?

    There is nothing wrong with models, conceptual or visual, we do it all the time to explain the workings or natural or social processes. There are good models that help us make new connections and see the world of phenomena in a new light, and there are bad ones that stifle insight and reduce the rich and multi-facetted world into a static box. Charlie Chaplin cutting off the clothes that ooze out of his suitcase after he slammed it shut.

    So maybe we might think about what kind of model we want rather than is this particular chart helpful or not. What properties should the model have to be useful?

    I can think of two ancient models I like: the Chinese five elements model and the cosmic Enneagram (not neccessarily as a peronality typing scheme, but as a model of the cosmos). Both models include states, but not as static islands, but as as a fusion or product of dynamic forces where the forces that generated the state are the same that will transcend it, you can see how one flows into the other and after crossing over into its opposite returns.

    When we look at horse human relations in terms of your model, Stormy, is it possible to see the *same* force at work in all for stages? And if so what is the dynamic that causes this force to manifest in those different ways?

  5. Should Lisa be carrying a long stick and trying to herd Comet? Isn't that what Resnick does? I don't know - I'm just wondering.

  6. Hi Stormy,
    I'm delighted that you thought the book and website I mentioned were interesting.
    Thank you for sharing your daily discoveries and insights. How generous of you to allow us into your
    (virtual) pasture.
    All the best to you and your animals!