Reflections of the first two days sharing the arena with the #SoulSisters …
So much has happened since I stepped over the arena rail just yesterday afternoon. There is security that rail offers, just like the horse trailer did.
There is an experience from the 17 Day #WildHorseRoadTrip I want to share to help explain. When we unloaded the #SoulSisters in NE at Know Your Horse stables, owned by Anna Flaugher Schaben, and went to reload the following day, I learned just how much they were leaning on the security of that rail. … When I stepped over the fence, with the simple intention of guiding them back to the trailer, they both became very fearful and scrambled to flee from me… bouncing into the railing as I did my best to get out of their space to relieve the pressure from them, fearful they would get hurt, or climb out! It was Anna (whom owns the facility) that had the brilliant idea to carry a panel in front of her to ease towards them in order to softly guide them back on, without intimidating them too much by our presence… and it worked SO well. They every so quietly stepped back up into their trailer and went to munching their soaked alfalfa. We even eased the door slowly shut, they had plenty of time to opt to leave, but they were perfectly content to stay on.
It was an enlightening experience. In one respect, it reminded me of the importance of PARTNERSHIP in this SoulSister venture, as in the importance of allowing others to share their talents and wisdom, that is critical for this venture I am certain … but the other thing it revealed to me was the true sensitivity of these ladies. It could be a bit deceiving seeing them trying to push their noses through to the feed bucket every time I fed them in the trailer. But it was clear that they were still very much wild horses and would need me to remember that about them as I stepped into their arena floor.
So, I reminded myself of this simple fact as I stepped into the arena with them for the first time yesterday afternoon. The first session is always intriguing to me with any new wild horse, much less two of them. I never know exactly what I will need to do. Will they be terrified of me and try to climb the walls to escape? Will they be oblivious to me and require me to make my presence seen in some way? (That one is rare, but it happens) Will they be fearful of me and move that fear into aggression to protect themselves? There really is no way to know until I step in. No plan. No step by step program. Just wild horses and little ‘ole me.
I did 3 short 10 minute sessions that afternoon. Always easing out of the pen, to offer the ultimate release, when they were on the brink of engaging. They simple fact is, with any wild horse in the beginning stages of relationship building – there is only one thing that they desire over all else. And that is for the odd looking 2 legged, with eyes set close together on their heads, like the predator that they are – to leave. Now, fortunately this stage passes rather quickly and soon my presence becomes a reward, but in the very early stages, my presence leaving the round pen is the thing they want most. So I am quick to give them that release, as soon as they begin to engage with me. It is the quickest way to move to the next stage, of them not only accepting, but desiring my presence.
All went well, but one very odd thing happened during our third session. At one point, when both ladies were standing still, side by side watching me. Ethereal looked back at Unity and tossed her ears back, requesting that Unity take a step back, which she did. And then she brought her attention onto me and flattened her ears and took a deliberate step straight at me! As quickly as it happened, she softened again and melted back beside Unity and it was over.
I did not react, in anyway. But I observed and thought it quite interesting.
The next morning I had an early session with them and things picked up pretty much where we left off. I do not ask them to move much, just some slow tracking when I need to direct their focus to ‘see’ me and lots lots lots of ambling back and forth in front of them. Preditors do not behave in soft rhythmical ways, so when I do anything in rhythmical repetition they take comfort and grow confidence in it. Hence the ambling back and forth. They only time I track them is if they no longer ‘see’ me and I track them a bit to remind them I am there. So they are not physically doing much of anything in our sessions, though much is happening.
The fascinating thing occurred after their confidence in my presence had grown for about 20 minutes. I had eased in rather close to them, only 7 or 8 feet away, which was the closest I had been at that point and I recall thinking, wow I am close. Just as I thought that Ethereal tossed her ears back at Unity, pushing her back a step and charged towards me hard! I tossed my hands up to create a bit of a block and she allowed it to stop her. It was fascinating to experience and totally different from any aggression I have felt from any wild horse before.
Aggression is always fear based, in some way shape or form, always. But there are all sorts of levels and types of fear. When I first started working with Magic as a wild horse, she was very fearful and aggressive and deeply disliked me for quite some time. Presently, my relationship with her feels amazing, but it took months. Her fear ran deep. I do not feel that from the SoulSisters. This aggression coming from Ethereal is totally different from any I have felt before and I feel clearly what it is. I felt it when in the arena with them, but it was confirmed when I recorded the show I co-host with Sara Willerson this morning called Messages From The Herd. Sara brilliantly guides the listener (and myself) through a horse inspired meditation and during that, it was crystal clear to me what was happening.
Ethereal was not protecting herself. She does not have that deep rooted fear that Magic came to our farm carrying. No, she is protecting something very different. She is protecting what it is that is carried between herself and Unity. She is protecting their connection, their peace, their unity. This Ethereal Unity has carried them through living in the wild, to being gathered and living with a large herd in holding at BLM in Oregon. It has carried them through all the unimaginable things they must have seen and heard in that trailer as they were hauled all the way across the nation. Their ties may not be seen, but they are strong and Ethereal is firm in her stand that those ties will not be broken.
I heard that message loud and clear. What I also heard was that it was Not that they did not desire me to become a part of their unity, but rather they desired and demanded that I do it in a way they can clearly understand. In a way that is noninvasive and a way that makes sense to the wild horse brains that their thoughts are filtered through. And I knew exactly what they meant.
When I went back in for the afternoon session I was careful to do a bit more tracking than before. Simple, slow tracking, as this builds confidence in them, that I am capable of guiding them in a safe way. I also did much much more ambling back and forth in front of them, and did it from a distance that was close enough that they saw me, but far enough that they were quick to settle into the rhythm.
Ethereal was much more accepting of me, but still remained very clear as to when I was getting a bit too close for comfort. Always she would push Unity back first, then toss a look at me, clearly to say, ok that is far enough for now. And I respected that space. Their relationship with one another is what fascinates me, nothing in me desires to split that up or change it in any way, I simply desire to move into it. To join them in the peaceful space that they already have, and they have been allowing me, slowly and steadily, to do just that.
As the light was getting low Ivy Schexnayder captured this image. You can see how Ethereal is reaching out, in a peaceful invite of sharing space more than we have ever before, and Unity stands grounded beside her.
Oh how I am loving this process. The lessons the #SoulSisters have to share are infinite.
image by Ivy Schexnayder