As I was in the barn this morning cleaning stalls for the 40th plus year of my life, I started to reflect on the years that have passed, dedicating my life to the “Art of Horsemanship.” Honestly, I have to say, there is something very Zen-like when your cleaning stalls. It’s another form of “Art” to me as you sift through to save the clean bedding and get rid of the dirty bedding. Trying to save as much as you can while you sift the bedding in a circular artistic motion. All the years I have spent sifting, saving, and cleaning stalls. Thinking. Pondering. Meditating. Coming up with new ideas, life plans, training strategies, dreams, facing harsh realities at times, wishing times were better, then rising up and loving life again. How to raise my daughter and be a better mother. Where do I want to be in the years to come? How can life be so cruel? Who am I? Riding an entire roller coaster of mixed emotions, perceptions, self pep talks, and so much more, daily, monthly, yearly, while cleaning stalls.
Always allowing me time for reflection. Great ideas would come to me. Old memories that have given my life meaning. Life changing epiphanies. Dreams of saving the horse world and teaching people the purest form of horsemanship. Inspiring thoughts about of all the horses I can save, have saved and the people who can learn and reap the benefit of this timeless work.
As the years go by, the stalls I’ve cleaned, the horses I’ve trained, the people who have come and gone, the countless counseling and therapy sessions for clients in the barn and in the arena, the drive and will power to keep going, no matter how hard it seems, no matter what people said or did, pushing through the physical pain of hard work and age. The many years of teaching, training, caring for, riding, raising, breeding, foaling, managing a farm and the hard labor and long hours involved. There were days I did not have money to buy feed, to pay my rent, some days looked so bleak, there seemed to be no light ahead, but I keep sifting. The darkness that surrounded me, sometimes engulfing me, brought me to my knees. The roller coaster ride of life, much less with horses to carry along in it.
The time in the stalls, has been my therapy to navigate through life and taught me to be my own Life Coach. I would gain my ground again, gear up to take the bull by the horns, once again, on my way up. Always, re-finding my self, re-grounding, re-grouping, re-centering in my Zen-Box. The constant denominator, every day, is that I get to look into the eyes and souls of the horses in my barn. The pureness of their soul, to see their joy, their want to connect, their need for touch, their eagerness to see me, work with me and make physical contact. Our need to connect our souls together to have a lasting friendship of trust, along with physical and mental enhancement. The peace it brings to see them look right into my soul!
It is very obvious: What keeps me going is the horses. The will power and drive to continue to give back to them. The countless hours spent in the barn as a child leaning on my horse through troubled times. Hoping to save the horses one by one and to share and teach humans about the amazing Art that I have studied for 25 years. Connecting with the lost soul of a damaged horse, showing it the way out of its prison that humans created because they misunderstood what the horse was saying or did not have the education to claim themselves as a trainer. I see so much of this. This is my calling! I can not walk away from these lost souls that have been misunderstood, misaligned physically, or mistreated. They need time, patience, boundaries, reassurance, rebuilding and restoring their bodies, so they can see out of their eyes again. Instead of their eyes being stuck, retracted, looking the wrong way, being distracted, trying to avoid the human due to miscommunication because they were not educated properly on how to connect and follow a fair leader that understands healthy boundaries through balance.
How awesome it is to connect with our horses. Improving with them every day, every time we are with them. Practicing the Art, learning to be present and the greatest gift is when the horse is right there with you every step of the way.
The fact of the matter is, I can read a horse, inside and out, up and down. I see it’s pain, I see it’s physical difficulties, I see it’s past, I see it’s personality quirks, I see what it’s about to do. I know how to help it, I know how to teach it options to make better, safer choices if it feels the need to react, (i.e. if my horses spook while I am leading them, because I have established healthy boundaries, they spook by lifting their inside shoulder up away from me and go around me, avoiding me entirely). I can even hear in the foot falls while I’m leading them if there is an imbalance and immediately correct it for them before they fall into their natural born crookedness. Having an understanding and ability to set balanced boundaries, teaching them how to connect and look to the human for guidance. I can teach them to follow the human, enjoy its time with its person, build up its body in a fashion that makes it feel better every day. This then builds a desire inside the horse to want to work with its human and not against it.
Recapping my reflection moment in the stall today: What drives me to keep pushing forward, helping humans and horses build a better relationship and find Peace in their time together.
Building an Equine Masterpiece is not just about riding! It’s the small interaction and what we allow and don’t allow. When you spend literally 40 years with horses, pretty much every day of your life, you begin to know and understand them on a level that is very deep. Deeply spiritual. You just know things. I have seen a lot, experienced tragic events, watched the unthinkable, rode the un-rideable. From the ground into the saddle, from stalls to turnout, my experiences have turned into wisdom. I give thanks every day to my mentors who taught me how to read body language, who humiliated me in front of crowds of people, only to make me a better horsewoman.
I remember one day in Maryland, I met this cowboy at a client’s house. It was around 2005 and I was on cloud 9, on top of the world, studying under a world renowned riding master.
He says to me,
“What comes first? The training or the trust?”
At this time, I thought I knew everything, you know 30 years old, riding with one of the best riders in the world, (in my eyes). I responded quickly: I said, “Trust!” He smiled at me and said to me, “You’ll figure it out.”
I was so beside myself, I knew it was trust. I then let it go and years later I’m standing in my arena and it occurred to me: You have to Train the Horse to Trust YOU!!
Funny thing, I had been doing it all along, and just did not know it. I would first teach the horse balance and boundaries and it would respect me. It was always preached to me: “Get the body in balance and you’ll get the brain.” I did not put the two together, but there it was, one day in my arena, it came to me out of nowhere.
YOU HAVE TO TRAIN THE HORSE BY SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES THROUGH TEACHING IT BALANCE AND YOU WILL GET THE BRAIN TO ENGAGE AND TRUST YOU!!!
I will never forget that day and I wish I remembered his name. I’d look him up to see how he is doing.
Now, 45, a lifetime learning from these amazing creatures. They help us become better humans and teach us so many life lessons, where does one even begin?? I am ever grateful to be enjoying the most amazingly, talented, happy, healthy horses I have around me. I am so blessed and they are so smart. We are one. Nothing can come in between us when we are together, whether its in the stall, the barn or in the arena. We are together every step of the way. I have taught them to be respectful, balanced and we keep building the foundational blocks developing their topline, their symmetry, their mind and I work on myself to stay out of their way to accompany their movement. While enhancing it to the best of our abilities.
Celebrating 40 Years of Horses in my life, in my back yard, every day! They have saved my soul and I am here to do the same! In this fast paced world, people need to come back down to earth to what matters most! A healthy, soulful connection. Whether it be a horse, a dog, a cat, bird, or human.
We need some SOUL in this world!! Now, more than ever!
So this is what stall cleaning does to me! LOL