Emily P. is one of our ROTH students who attended the HHC in 2016 and she wrote about her experience here with Anna and the other ROTH students who took part in the Holistic Horse Certification Course:
“It’s written in gratitude and is just a brief reflection on the two-week course and its continuing ripple effects on my life and path.”
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It’s the kind of magic you don’t realize has fallen around you until you pull out of it. When you pull out of it, your body feels strange and alone and kind of tingly because without realizing it, you had molded to a space, and all the human people, and non-human people, shared energies, excitements, dreams, and the fears that composed it.
“Life-changing” doesn’t even quite cut it. The horses and humans that I got to learn from over the past weeks held space for me to step into myself in a way I hadn’t before; they made it safe to do so. They illuminated a path that I had been too afraid, or confused, or perhaps just not ready to see clearly before now. At first, our group felt to me like a bunch of overeager, slightly clumsy dancers attempting to learn rhythm (which we were literally trying to do as this is not just a metaphor – Elaine’s specialty is getting stiff and nervous hips to loosen up). But we managed to choreograph the beginning of something – certainly not a masterpiece yet – but we felt it, those opening beats.
For me, it always comes back to connection – the thick, full, rich, recognition between two beings; the I am here, I am with you, I hear you, I love you. It is absolute presence, and the courage to fully give yourself to someone else, even for a moment.
This is what horses give me, and this is what I feel is missing from much of human society. We are terrified to recognize each other, to be present with each other, to let ourselves be seen and not shy away from who we are. Without that, things quickly become – to use one of Anna’s phrases – rather pear shaped. The general feeling I get living in the United States right now is that as a society we are tripping over ourselves trying to achieve more and be better and control everything, terrified to stop and look at ourselves in the face, terrified to be present, terrified to wait for anyone else but ourselves. We carve out and deepen a significant void in the world when we forget how to connect.
I was doing a lot of this in the month leading up to this course – a lot of over-planning my life, trying to set up five career paths in my head because the uncertainty ahead of me is so terrifying, a lot of zooming around avoiding fear and loneliness and refusing to trust the universe in the face of so much unknown.
The horses made this very clear to me as soon as I got to the horse. I was nervous the first few days, anxious to prove myself. There are a few moments and horses that stood out in particular along the way. Lola showed me how powerful I could be when I stepped out of my anxiousness and into the immediate experience of being with her. She was difficult to catch, so I had to slow my pace, wait for her to reach out to me. I remember my breath slowing down, and I remember staying with her in the round pen, in the quiet elasticity we’d developed before I’d haltered her, and forgetting about everyone watching me for the first time. Stepper was an incredibly kind teacher as well; I was viscerally moved by his triggers (flinching every time someone raised an arm to the side of him, particularly on the left) and so touched by the softness in his eyes despite the abuse he so clearly remembered.
Image of Emily and Stepper
On the last day, before our exams, I was walking around Zuma’s, knowing I really needed to show up – for myself, for my teachers and peers, but especially for the horses. I was listening to music in my headphones, letting out the self-doubt I’d been fighting against and replacing it with fresh air. My walk changed, and I began to laugh at myself for all the fear and self-scrutiny, because I had accessed something so much deeper, a fierce determination that will carry me through life and a gratitude for this sudden feeling of connection. My mind moved to Captain, and I was full of excitement to spend an hour with him, because I really believed again that I had something to offer, that I had love, fun, leadership and energy to share with him. And I went into his pasture full of this excitement just to be with him, to discover him, and we both showed up. And he gave me himself, he played, we heard each other, and we choreographed a space together in which I forgot about everything else.
And nothing replaces that feeling. Nothing in the world.
Horses are incredibly rhythmic beings. Their cerebellums, which control movement, are much larger than humans’, and their ability to move in harmony with the other beings around them is unparalleled. If there is one reason I have kept returning to horses over and over, it is this; whenever I feel off-kilter in my life, or out of balance with myself, horses bring me back into rhythm – literally, as I find myself moving from a more centered place, and also emotionally and spiritually. They also challenge me to adapt to the rhythms and perceptions of the other beings around me, not just my own. Perhaps this is why I have never felt anything quite as expansive as working with horses, and my desire to learn from them will never be satiated.
Thank you, Anna and Elaine, for widening my access to and understanding of the world of Equus a thousand fold.
We certainly look forward to seeing Miss Emily again on our courses as she enjoys the present moment in time and engages all the other souls around the way in which only she can, the humans and the non-humans 😉 We love you, Emily!