This week we are busy getting ready for the first Exploring Horse camp in Portugal. Tents scrubbed and re-kitted, menus planned, paths cleared, we are a-bustle. Even the horses do their bit when there’s a good patch of grass that needs mowing. It’s exciting.
Throughout the activity I am in an introspective mode (partly the outcome of an injured knee, wherein lies another story!). I am not thinking, or planning schedules – my plan is always the same, to flow with what is. I am burrowing into myself, allowing pictures, thoughts, memories to float by as reminders of subjects we might touch on in the workshop. Then I let them go and we will see what happens. You could say I am trying to clarify what it is I am hoping to share over the next week.
In this introspective mode, my partner and I have been talking. One of the subjects that has come up is the way horses respond to me, and why. It’s not something that is easy for me to see or accept, “Nayana’s special touch with horses”. To me it is ordinary, the way things are, and my belief is that anyone can have that touch if they want it. It’s what I’m trying to teach all these years.
Prasado and I met on horseback, and a horse (MY horse!) caused me to fly from California to New Mexico for a weekend visit that has never ended. So, horses have always been a theme in our life. But his brain has never been eaten by the horse bug (his term) in the same way mine has. He was a cowboy, the fun of horses was the unity felt when working with them, he didn’t really ‘get’ my constant fascination with their inner workings, although he has always been part of our various horse-caring set-ups. Anyway,…. he has been watching me and my horse craziness for over 25 years and often noted the attraction horses had to hang out with me, but thought it was something unique to me.
Now, after 8 months of living with the horses as a constant presence, ruled by their rhythms and needs, listening to them and learning their language more fully, he has the touch too! He is calling it trust, they trust him, which is one way of putting it. But trust is too active and separate of a concept for me. I prefer to say we are part of the pod, an integral part of the physical and energetic function of the herd. Our neural networks are familiar to each other. We are attuned. This is the ‘touch’.
Personally, I can tune-in very quickly to any herd anywhere I go, because ultimately we’re all one herd and I’ve had a lot of practice. It’s easier in the beginning to attune yourself to one horse, or one herd. That’s what we invite you to do here, experience that feeling of harmonious flow that I am calling attunement, which is the key to good horsemanship.
So what is the key to attunement?
In me, for whatever reason – nature, nurture, being dropped in a pile of horse poo as a baby! – this ability to tune-in developed with no effort at an early age. I have spent my life nurturing and expanding and understanding this ability, incidentally or directly. I have invented games and exercises to help others develop this touch for themselves, based on my own life experience. I have trained horses to train people to have the ‘touch’ on three continents. All the time I have been growing and learning, leaving behind what no longer worked for me, absorbing that which did. At this moment in time, as I review this journey, I see that the only constant, unchanging element is Love.
It was this Love, this heart expanding attraction, that led me to horses as a toddler. It is this love that has always caused me to look out for the horse’s best interest, and has driven me to learn what horses truly need in order to be healthy and happy. Because I love horses, they have been an integral part of learning about myself, which has led me to be able to know myself better, recognise my own self-interest and put it aside, or align it with that of the horse.
I could get into a whole discussion about ‘What is love’ here, but let me just clarify. When I say ‘love’, I don’t mean a pink hearts and roses sort of love that carries you away, or the sort of love that wants the other to fulfil your emotional needs. I mean lovingness, that truly sees the other without demands or projection. Love that is simply happy in the other’s existence.
So that’s the ‘touch’, it’s very simple.
I don’t know anyone who isn’t attracted to a person who loves them unconditionally and cares for them as best they can. I say as best they can, because my idea of what constitutes best care and how I work with horses has changed over the years, yet horses have always responded to me the same way. Whether training Western or English, no matter what the tack or the method, the horses I work with end up happy, confident, and connected. So the conclusion I draw is that the intention, the feeling of lovingness, is what horses respond to. It’s not important to them whether the love comes from a kid feeding a pony stale bread in a muddy field in Wales, a cowgirl with a string of horses in a dusty Oregon corral, or a holistic health specialist with 50 acres of Portuguese hillside at her disposal.
So, what does it take to develop that magic touch, to attune yourself to horses so they are attracted to you and you are accepted into the herd without hesitation? So that whatever you choose to ‘do’ with a horse is based on mutual enjoyment? Three simple things:
3. Self awareness.