Horses are masters of knowing what happens, before what happens happens.Tim Hayes
Under the beautiful, sunny and warm November skies, I completed morning chores at Liberty Lane with the Freedom Herd, the horses that I have been learning from and caring for over the past year and a half under mentorship of Mena Canonico, Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) Practitioner. I have recently noticed a contrast in working with the Freedom Herd, and then working with Winston: while they are all horses, the Freedom Herd are now my “familiar” herd, and Winston and I still have much to learn about one another. I noticed that while my connection to Winston feels energetically strong in a way that is unique to him, we are still at the start of our journey and getting to know one another. For me, this can show up in my confidence and focus, which can waiver when thoughts in my head start to take over – and that is something that can end up getting in the way of us building a strong foundation.
Anyone who truly knows horses speaks about this power of the energetic connection between horse and rider, though it may sound ‘woo-woo’ or like magical thinking, it’s actually quantum physics. If you’re curious and want to take a deeper dive, consider checking out author and horseman Tim Hayes’ article “The Power of Intention” to begin. Thinking back to the beginning of my time with the Freedom Herd, I was just beginning to learn this concept.
I can recall a session in which I was training at liberty (without ropes or halter) with Apollo the Appaloosa that really impacted my way of being with horses (and humans). I asked him to walk through the gate and out of the round pen with me, without a lead rope. We were energetically connected, walking with synchronized steps as I walked confidently forward toward the exit, holding the intention to exit the round pen into the larger paddock.
Well…I got distracted by the gate. My energy became confused as my mind was confused and my head was filled with a flurry of thoughts like “will be both fit through the gate?” “How will I close the gate behind me?” “Is he really going to follow me all the way” “Can I really do this?” “What about the gate!” Quickly, in a split second of those thought taking over, Apollo and I lost our connection and he walked away and went back to grazing in the round pen. My mentor, Mena was guiding me, and pointed it out immediately. I went to work on cleaning up my thoughts – and creating a plan for how to handle the gate logistically before I went back to re-connect and try again with Apollo.
Not only did I lead him out confidently, but once out of the paddock I asked him to stop by saying “whoa” and he stopped right beside me and allowed me to love on him giving him neck scratches which he loves, and thank him for being such an excellent teacher.
This, such an early, simple, yet important moment in my mentorship has never left me. Whenever something goes awry with a horse (or in life) I reflect on this moment – where is my energy and intention going, am I confident and focused on what I want, or am I getting distracted by my thoughts and worries. Horses ask that our thoughts match our intentions and energy – and they are great at showing us when they don’t, which is one of the reasons they make such incredible partners for self-development.
After time with the Freedom Herd in the morning, I went out to Winston’s barn with the specific intention of spending some more time lunging him in the sand ring as we did last week, and holding the energy of confidence in training him on my own. Winston is the first horse I’ve every lunged, and after training with Barb last week, first as a guide and then as a supervisor, I felt ready to take this on. In particular, I wanted to practice using my energy and intention, the mental visualization and energetic embodiment of the action. Today provided plenty of evidence that the energy and intention I put into the task, including connection with Winston, leads to a positive experience for both of us.
Looking back on when I started lunging him in early October without really having a clue what I was doing, or why I was doing it – I could see the impact and the distinction between then and now. Back then, he was confused, because I was confused. He responded to my mind thinking many things at once including “am I doing this right? What do I want to do next?” and “why am I doing this?” to which he responded with confusion, and even frustration with a little buck from time to time. It was as though he was saying “wake up!” “What do you want from me?!”
This afternoon I held the intention of building a trusting connection, warming him up, getting him used to the rhythm of our training exercises in preparation for future riding sessions. It was clear that that message was received. He walked, trotted, and even cantered on the lunge line beautifully, we even introduced a pole into the exercise and he did a little jump over it. He was having fun, I was having fun, and when we would take a break he would follow me around – I had his focus and he wanted to be with me even when I wasn’t asking him to.
The power of energy and intention is a multi-pronged and deep sense of synchronicity and connection. It is not just valuable with our horses, but with our human relationships.Stefanie Ly