Let The Horse Become Our Teacher
A friend gave me a saying, which read 'Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail'.
I gave no more than a listening ear to the messages given to me from my stallion. Some days I found it hard to believe that with love in my heart and awareness of my breathing that a horse would tune in with such a deep connection. Was this my imagination or would this bond lead to more profound revelations, as time passed by?
I was leaving the conventional path of my training technique and launching on an expansive voyage of discovery. I believe personal empowerment gives a sense of freedom of spirit and adventure. If we do not feel empowered from within, we often are fearful, of the reaction of others, to what we may do or say. A spirit of self belief and empowerment gives you the courage to be 'uniquely you' and God made us all as individuals.
Delfin - The Early Days
Once in a life time a horse may come into your life as a profound teacher and this horse for me, was an ex bullfighting Spanish stallion, Delfin. Over many years he became my very special friend and teacher, revealing to me many deeper aspects of the horse's mind. I have been taught by several great teachers, who have shown me insights into methods of training the horse. However, my greatest teacher is Delfin, who has won the affection of everyone that meets him. They have come to respect and love his infinite wisdom, supreme intelligence and talent.
I teach internationally with my stallions, of the power of breath energy awareness as a potent connection with the horse. This potent energy connection IS part of natural herd language and is so often overlooked.
So how did this journey begin for me?
I bought Delfin back to the UK and he was very high in tension and energy, unable to relax producing passage and piaffe, within his stable. I slowly tried to win his confidence by sitting outside his stable, often just peeling vegetables, reading books , just to while away time. I wanted him to feel secure and calm in his mind. His inquisitive nature began to take over and he would come and peer over the stable door.
We put the radio on during the day, in an attempt to calm him. We also began to introduce him to grass. Delfin did not understand freedom or space so it would have been unwise to just turn him out in the field. If you have a human who has suffered imprisonment or a suppressed lifestyle for many years, there would be major problems to overcome for him to gain the confidence to deal with new situations. There is a strange type of security which can be built up from a restricted and confined environment.
Each day I led Delfin, as quietly as possible, into a field and I just stood or sat with him. He would snatch violently at the grass, always more curious about his surroundings. It was quite a while before I could take off the rope and leave him alone in the field. Freedom and space were new concepts for Delfin who would always position himself in the field so that he could watch me. Delfin was to become my teacher who would show me the importance of listening and tuning in to my horse, not in a logical or mechanical way but with feeling and emotion. A truly amazing and revealing empathy was to develop between us. We were becoming kindred spirits both searching to learn from each other.
I learnt so much from our early days training in England. Delfin was very tense with highly charged, nervous reactions and his trot was almost on the spot and bunched up. The trot did not improve at first, even with walk and trot transitions. This highly charged tension controlled all his movements but he did seem to settle more in the canter. A bull-fighter works in canter for a great deal of the time and it appeared that work in trot was a foreign language for Delfin. The most testing lessons for me have been to maintain Delfin's trust and confidence. He would often test my patience and I would be forced to feel that a strong tap with the whip would be in order to gain his attention. The problem was, that after such a reprimand, Delfin would become extremely agitated and the chance of any relaxed work would totally disappear.
This is one of the reasons why Delfin has become my greatest teacher, as whenever I have felt that I had the answers, he would produce another aspect of behaviour for me to work through. If I chose the route of patience and more patience we did reap rewards in our communications.
We have to assess the reason for difficult behaviour and if the cause is anxiety or fear then we have to become thoughtful and clever in our thinking, to encourage the horse to be 'on our side'. Frequently I changed exercises or re-evaluated my ideas, to bring about a more positive response from Delfin.
The Beginning Of My Journey
On one particular day, Delfin appeared to be ignoring my usual aids as there were mares galloping around in the next field. He was much more tuned in to their behavior and his whole body was a quivering mass of energy. He felt as if he could launch anywhere. Almost without a thought I took a deep breath inwards, I suppose in exasperation as my communications were having no impact on Delfin! Slowly, I remember breathing quite strongly outwards and I began to feel a more attentive response. The air released, with the outward breath, caused a flow of relaxation and energy through my body. My seat relaxed and my legs became lighter around his rib cage. Delfin responded immediately. I felt a slight lifting and loosening of his back. He began to concentrate and walk forwards more calmly. I leant forward, stroked his neck and took a breath inwards, Delfin came back to halt. I had not planned this and felt it happen as an instinctive response.
I was extremely curious about the effect of my breathing on Delfin, and so I began to repeat these exercises over and over again. He would move from halt to walk or walk to trot with every deep breath out and then respond by coming back down the transitions, with my deeper inward breath. I was amazed. He was concentrating much more on my breathing and not so much on the mares and the other external influences.
Could these techniques work again? The following day I was eager to repeat these techniques to see if I could gain a similar response. Yes, I was delighted, as the lessons were repeated, remembered and understood.
Could they help me to communicate with any other horses, or was this a connection, just between Delfin and myself? He is an extremely sensitive horse and maybe other horses would not pick up such subtle changes in the breathing patterns of the rider.
I wanted to explore further, so I used these techniques with my bay stallion, Maestu. He has a totally different outlook on life, being very laid back but quite assertive and dominant in nature.
Although Maestu is so very different in his nature from Delfin, he quickly understood and responded to the same breathing patterns. This was a breakthrough in my communications. I had realised the significance of the rider's seat, but I had not thought deeply about the importance of breathing. I now realize that our understanding of breathing is fundamental to control and balance of both our body and seat!
The science of breath energy
My teacher has been the horse and my learning continues to evolve. When I am teaching we always begin with the horse at liberty and finding a breath energy connection before any tack or ridden work. Techniques of core breathing now instigate the first aid for all basic work and also for more advanced collected work including lateral exercises, pirouettes and passage. I have more recently been studying Groundbreaking Scientific research which gives clarity to the importance of breath-heart-energy within the interaction and communication between humans and horse.
To delve more fully, this energy or electromagnetic signals are waves propagated through space or matter by the oscilating electric and magnetic fields generated by an oscilating electrical charge. In the human body, the heart has been proven to be the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy.
This is the scientific description given to the power of breath-heart- energy connection. The breath can control the heart rate and this will change the energy surrounding the heart. The fear flight response to stress activates the sympathetic nervous system causing a constriction of blood vessels and a rise in heart rate. This state is known as chaos in heart rhythm which demonstrates disorder, incoherence and confusion.
In physics when two or more wave forms are phase- locked together, to form constructive energy, this is known as coherence. Heart coherence enables the emergence of new levels of creativity, co-operation and quality at all levels. When a person is calm we have heart coherence which ensures there is no energy wasted and the body is in harmony.
Awareness of heart coherence will enable the rider to influence the horse in a more profound way, creating co-operation, positive flowing energy which enhances a connection. Traditionally riders use arms and legs and a more mechanical approach from the outside so how would subtle energy changes from within, affect the horse?
The Institute of Heartmath in California (www.heartmath.org. ) was founded to research the emotional intelligence of the heart which it is believed has everything to do with the way the human brain functions. The heart would appear to be a window to a further domain of human intelligence.
Developing our own emotional intelligence involves self awareness – becoming aware of our mood and emotions and how we express our feelings, for instance in a relationship.
Without the guiding influence of the heart, we can easily fall prey to reactive emotions such as insecurity, fear, anger and blame as well as any other energy draining reactions and behaviours. (from The HeartMath Solution) These responses can change our energy field and the horse will quickly tune in to these signals, before we are aware of it.
Science now has the evidence, from experiments with individuals that emotional distress causes chaos in the rhythm of the heart. The natural steady rhythm becomes distorted through changes in emotion which have a profound effect on the heart.
The horse will immediately tune into our emotions and heart rhythm and if it is steady he will feel more calm. If we allow our emotions to create chaos in our heart rhythm, the horse will demonstrate anxiety and fear. His leader is giving him messages to fuel his natural fear and flight instinct!
When the rider builds more self awareness mentally, physically and emotionally, these symptoms of heart chaos, giving messages of fear and flight, can be altered, from chaos to calmness.
Delfin the equine professor
For many years now, Delfin has been willingly teaching the art of connection for riders and trainers around the world. I give clinics with my Iberian stallions and where my words may be helpful, the feeling between the student and stallion can be much deeper. They leave with an experience they will never forget- the beginning of a new journey. With this deeper bond, tuning into breath- energy they can progress with their own horses, in a language which is natural to the equine spirit.
I feel so privileged to be part of Delfin's life. He is truly a 'soul friend' and my equine professor who is so generous and wise. When a student works with him, I can interpret what he is saying and in this way assist the student to find a mindful place of connection, from within.
The key to my teaching are:
- Top to Toe' posture awareness
- Focus on core breathing for breathheart- energy connection and personal empowerment
- Visualization – to capture the essence of the moment
- Become the Mirror – for the horse to reflect.
When we can give to the horse, patience, love and wisdom together with humility and honesty, we will receive the greatest friendship, trust and courage from the horse. Together, we can build a quiet place for mutual calm where truth from the heart may be nurtured. It is difficult to describe the depth of friendship which the horse can offer, but it has the potential to become both life changing and life enhancing.
The way we ride the horse will be a reflection of the whole relationship which will weave a path to oneness and harmony. Secrets of the horse will be given clarity as you go not where the path may lead, but follow in the trail of his hoof prints.