Welcome to "walk" number seven. This letter is packed with stories of all the activities, both internal as well as external, that have filled my months since the last letter.
September Newsletter Contents:
Feeling the Dream
Story Time..."Go and Have Fun!"
Playground Activities and Calendar
Vacation Rental Specials
Feeling the Dream
In aboriginal Australia, Dreamtime stories are told and retold as a way of remembering and identifying passable trails through the often harsh Australian terrain. They also serve as a way to remind those telling and those listening of the inextricable link to that very terrain. The link is the emotional response to the moment while in that "place," which can be evoked by the relaying of the tale, so the place and the felt sense of the place become one. By imagining or recalling a place one wakes the emotional felt sense on a deeper level than one might experience it with one of the five senses. This deeper awareness is like a map that allows an aboriginal to navigate a trail that may have never actually been traversed except through the story.
Stories, dreams, and our thoughts strung together like an endless pearl necklace produce identifying emotions that course through us moment to moment, inspiring us to move on. Those emotions are like trails in our psyche and we can navigate them flawlessly if we trust that link. In the end, aboriginal stories reveal that the boundaries between the land and the people are virtually indiscernible as are our emotions from our experiences.
I feel this way about the horses. The time I spend with horses invokes in me a memory of the deeper bond I share with them, an eternal bond that dissolves all need for physical links like equipment or fences. Even the thought or a dream about horses reminds me on a very visceral level of that link and guides me through unfamiliar terrain in the relationship I share with them, as well as with others.
I had an amazing dream this morning involving a horse I knew in years past. Challenger broke his leg and had to be put to sleep over a decade ago. In the dream, Challenger approached me and we moved together, side by side. Then, with complete ease, I got on him at liberty and then off of him. It was all fluid and rhythmic, like a dance. Then, I woke up and went out to feed the horses. However, the feeling of confluence remained within me even as I greeted the horses at the gate. The emotional felt sense carried me along as I moved amongst the herd.
Perhaps this dream was inspired by the book I am reading (again) called The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. In the chapter Animism and the Alphabet, Abram writes, "To directly perceive any phenomenon is to enter into relation with it, to feel oneself in a living interaction with another being." To directly perceive is to become aware of our emotions as we interact. Our five senses take a relatively long time to provide us with information about our interactions with our world, whereas our emotions are remarkably accurate and timely record keepers.
Beneath every emotion lies the energy source of our sensations, the current that binds us all to each other. Like a spring emerging from the earth, our emotions bubble out as expressions of our moments, memorized or ground breaking. They are felt immediately and expressed spontaneously, although every individual expresses them uniquely and may not even be fully aware of their presence. Emotions are electrical indicators of how we are involving ourselves with our world. We are the sole pilot of our emotions and what we feel is neither right nor wrong. What we feel merely provides impetus to move one way or another, like a map helps us to decide a direction to turn.
Through our imaginations we ride an endless roller coaster twenty-four hours a day of experiences and emotions, the boundaries of which mingle until invisible. Yet, they remain our guide and map as we navigate our lives. In my dream, Challenger came towards me and I towards him. As we walked together, I draped my right arm over his neck. With one hand on either side of his neck I ran my fingernails through his short, summer coat, my face buried in his silvery mane. He raised his head in pleasure and I slid with ease onto his back. He picked up speed momentarily and then with equal fluidity I slid back off and we walked together again. It was a flawless dance, spontaneous and familiar even though I have never actually done this. I woke up with a felt sense of it and could find the way to the physical actuality now. Indeed, I am inspired to do so, and I will with some accuracy, provided I maintained my awareness of the simultaneous emotional map as I move.
Story Time..."Go and Have Fun!"
Cami is a young woman who has been playing with the horses and me since she was seven years old and she is nearly 16 years old now. She has developed a deep bond with Lyric, the 26 year old mare who is Indie's mother and a horse I have known since her birth in 1972. Cami is a gentle spirit who is not afraid of being on the leading edge of life. Together, she and I have explored the inner realms of relationship and how this shows up in the outer realms, all while hanging out with horses. I have encouraged Cami to follow her heart, trust herself, and to feel comfortable coming up with ideas that appeal to her. So, for some time now she has wanted to ride Lyric with no reins, and has practiced in the arena. I have always had the reins there, just in case, but the reality is she has not needed them most of the time.
I like the fact that Cami wants to be with Lyric in this way. It is certainly a match with me. I have long since eliminated bits from the tack room here and have only used halters with reins attached. It makes for easy "bridling", to be sure. No more prying open of reluctant mouths, banging metal against teeth, squeezing ears under tight fitting headstalls and pulling up of lips into an unnatural smile. Oh, I know the whole shebang, believe me. From the time I decided I wanted a "professional" career in the horse industry, I have witnessed all sorts of twisting, contorting, forcing, cajoling, begging, pushing, and pulling behavior, not to mention trying it all on for size myself. Prior to that, I had mostly ridden bareback with a hackamore, although at that time the fundamental approach was still "I am the boss of you" which is what I was lead to believe was necessary. Years later, emerging from the formal dressage world after decades I knew what it was like to have a close bond (from my childhood years) and I also knew what it was to simply emulate a close bond in the show arena. Neither way really appealed to me anymore. I wanted to become part of the herd, which is essentially what I have been coaching about ever since, Cami not withstanding
About two weeks ago, Cami came for her lesson and when I asked her what she felt like doing she told me she wanted to continue practicing without reins. In support of her ideas and also constantly maintaining my own sense of well-being and safety, I said OK to the idea and began to form ideas in my own head as to how she could practice and remain safe. I am not quite sure how it happened, but I suddenly remembered a common way of knotting a rope that had been taught to me by my friend, Maile Arnold. We had used the knot to tie a rope that was clipped onto the halter and then loosely looped around our horses' necks while trail riding so we could stop and secure the horses to trees if we wanted to picnic or rest. I took a moment to show Cami the knot and we agreed to try this loosely looped rope in replacement of the reins. Just to be extra safe, I had Cami clip the reins on the halter, too. Off Cami went into the woods (not even the arena!) The trails here circle back on themselves and I typically stand at the center and allow students to navigate the circuits without me. Each time Cami crossed the central place where I waited I would check in with her. Time and again she said it was going beautifully. So, at last I reached out and unclipped the reins. "Go have fun!", I said to her (and Lyric.) I could feel this was a turning point in the evolution of my coaching.
When Cami's lesson was over and we were back in the barn grooming Lyric, I turned to her and thanked her for being such a powerful part of my life. I said to her that I had decided that day that the horses here were going to be ridden without reins now, at least while on the property. It was Cami's passion for Lyric, her commitment to harmony in that relationship and her willingness to try something new that brought me to that new plateau. Since then, I have had every one of my students riding with the rope around the neck only. The results are fantastic. Each horse has demonstrated comfort, relief, complete understanding, and a phenomenal willingness to participate. In retrospect, this makes absolute sense in that horses use their heads for balance. When we attach something to the head and pull or push on it the horse must compensate for the disruption. In contrast, if we move from our core and communicate clearly we offer the horse a chance to share the motion with us in a balanced way.
Utterly consistent with my dreamy self, I have spent this entire year so far dreaming up new projects. A wonderful impetus for all this was a three month visit, starting in April, by a friend and student, Maria Vanderham. Maria came from Canada to spend some intensive time with me and the horses and while she was here she did some trading for the education. Once I got started with a list of tasks for Maria and saw her flying along, I decided to move forward on an idea I have had for a long time; to build a little studio. My thinking was that Maria could do the interior and exterior painting, since that is actually her line of expertise. What I left out in that idea was the incredible detail that had to go into building a studio. In some ways, it was probably a good thing I had no idea what was involved or I would not have started. That said, four months after starting the project, we are almost finished and it is beautiful!! Maria, by the way, was not here by the time we got around to painting, has long since gone home and I miss her terribly.
We are about to embark on the Weekend Along Farm Trails again, which is on September 27 & 28 from 10:00 to 5:00 on both days. It is an action-packed weekend of demonstration, tours, garden sampling, pie eating and art displaying. I am seeking volunteers again, so please let me know if you are interested in helping out. I will offer time with the horses and me in exchange for your help. I need barn managers (watching the horses and making sure visitors just look and don't touch), parking attendants, garden supervisors (answering questions and guiding visitors towards the tea room), and Tea Room attendants, grounds keepers (in charge of emptying trash, keeping bathroom clean, etc.) and a marketing person (in charge of handing our coupons, brochures, etc.)
One last thing for now. My next Harmony with Horses Workshop is September 6 and there are still spaces available. Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like me to add your name to the list of participants.
September / October Vacation Rental Special!
Mention this newsletter and receive a 1-hour Private Mentoring session for your child with any rental of two or more days during the months of September and October. The Full House Farm Vacation Rental & Retreat has been in the news this year! On June 1, we were in the New York Times, which was very exciting for us. Then, in July we were listed in the Marin Independent Journal as a destination for a "Hay Stay" and again in the San Jose Mercury News on August 17. On September 15 you can look for us to be mentioned in Outside Magazine. We are proud of the attention we have been getting and hope you will visit us soon.
Know anyone who could use this?Imagine arriving at Full House Farm Vacation Rental & Retreat for a short reprieve from your fast paced life. You drive down the driveway and park next to the little path leading towards the house. Climbing out of your car, stretching out the kinks, you follow the path into the lush, shaded landscape. Just over a little rise you hear the soft murmur of a waterfall as it tumbles into a small pond at the edge of the patio. A patio table and chairs call to you, but you decide to check out the house first. Inside, a bottle of locally grown and bottled wine sits on the kitchen table with two wine glasses beside it. On the counter is a tray with a luscious loaf of fresh-baked bread from