One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train
To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.
What is this thing I do with Myrnah? Is it a method of training? Is it a form of meditation? Is it for my benefit? Is it for her benefit? Why take away all the tools and all the bribes? What is the point behind doing everything differently?
I will tell you, for me the magic is in the mundane. When I show up to spend time with Myrnah I know she gets to be who she is, and the things I do have very little power to change her. The things we do together develop US together, and very slowly over time entrain us to be better partners for each other.
Tom Dorrance said it perfectly:
“First you go with the horse. Then the horse goes with you. Then you go together.” –
It is the same things I do with Myrnah that everyone does with their horse. We move forward, backward, left and right, sometimes more together, and sometimes less together. It is the attention and persistence toward partnership, that is what this is about.
If we think of this as a training method, we have to accept that without tools or bribes there is a great deal more of
“First you go with the horse.”
than most people are truly comfortable with. That is perhaps what makes this more of a form of meditation than a training method.
Is this thing Myrnah and I do together for my benefit or for hers? How does one even quantify a benefit? Are we happier for this way of existing together?
I find those questions really difficult to answer. I believe we are happier, but at the same time we are often more frustrated, and at the same time we are more peaceful together, and we are also more at odds with each other at times. The answers are as complicated as the questions.
We get to show up and feel more of everything together. We get to show up for each other regardless of how it feels, good or bad.
Showing up and feeling what we feel from moment to moment together, that is the work.
On one particular day at the beach Myrnah was tired from traveling; I wanted to ride and she did not. If I had some tools or bribes, I could have quickly won her over to my way of thinking, getting us efficiently to Tom Dorrance’s final idea: “Then you go together.” –
I find, though, there is a whole world of getting to know each other in deep and profound ways that we pass right over when we rush to the end.
“First you go with the horse.”
allows you to ask what the horse wants.
And then there is a dance where you ask the horse to go with your idea for a moment, which is the second part: “Then the horse goes with you”.
In our linear, human way of thinking we tend to want the third part to happen directly: “Then you go together”. –
I will tell you, training methods have been developed with tools and bribes to get us there fairly efficiently. What I do is different, and it requires that I show up willing to dance the first part of the dance for as long as it takes to get us to: “Then you go together.” –
It is not easier, it is not faster, I am really not even sure it is better. But what I can tell you is, it is a richer experience with a horse than any I have had before.
The depth of connection Myrnah and I have together is more fulfilling than anything I have ever known and that makes it worth it.
You get out what you put in though, so, on that day that Myrnah was tired from traveling and I really wanted to ride when she didn’t, four hours later she was ready to give me a short ride.
Those four hours consisted of walking and stopping and turning and, for a while, lying down together to take a nap. My job was to show up and follow her, and then ask her to follow me, and then follow her some more.
This experience is about showing up and being who we are together, even if our wants do not always line up right away. It is humbling and beautiful to show up with a will to align and work together, and a total acceptance that it will take the time it takes.
One day at the beach we were walking through the dunes and crossed a section of the path where there was some bear scat. Shortly after that we saw two people walking through the grass off in the distance. Those shapes moving against the backdrop of the yellow dunes combined with the smells to put Myrnah on alert- meant we were no longer walking to the beach on my time frame. She felt she needed to watch those shapes moving though the distant grass with total devotion, which meant, if I was “following the horse”, I needed to watch them too.
From time to time I could ask her to take a few more steps toward the beach with me, and then we would watch some more. It was a very long time before we made it all the way to the ocean together. Feeling her fear, feeling my frustration, all of that was part of showing up that day, and the payoff is how much deeper our relationship is for the chance to experience it together.
I had other horses with me at the beach this past week. I had tools and rewards to help get us to the end goal of working together. We had wonderful rides, and I loved every moment I spent with them.
The work I do with Myrnah though…. It really is deeper and richer and ultimately more satisfying that any work I have ever done with a horse.
Myrnah and I may have started off together with a simple challenge, to find out if this way of working together is even a possible or viable training method, but along the way we found gold in the day-to-day process.
The personal value of a relationship this deep and rich from moment to moment is a worth above and beyond any end result we could ever achieve.