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.
The Unfolding of Trust
Have you ever faced a decision where you knew what to do, yet you thought of a million reasons why maybe you shouldn’t?
That place where the head and the heart come face to face and hold each other in a stand off.
Your heart calls you and says this is right, while your head says hold off, back down, don’t even think about it, let it go…
Sunday of this week, my heart won.
This is Helios.
I don’t know why this particular horse caught my eye on Saturday night. I see and hear about a million horses that get loaded from feedlots onto the trucks headed for slaughter every week. Horses unwanted, their potential in this world discarded.
I can’t save them all, so instead I focus on the most good I can put out into the world. I keep my head down and work on my book, share the movie Taming Wild as far and wide as I can, and look people in the eye and pour myself into being there for everyone I reach. We are a society of people who long for connection and yet we often feel we are only beginning to understand HOW to connect.
How is it we can need something to the very core of our being and yet hardly know anything about how to fulfill that need?
None of us are islands, we are designed to integrate with others; and yet so many of us become paralyzed in feeling alone!
Even though I have devoted my life to the understanding of being connected, I still find myself feeling SO alone sometimes. Afraid that connection will lead to being trapped, I fight it, even though this work of connection is my whole life. Maybe that is why this work is my whole life…
Freedom and Connection… when I find the balance between the two, that is when I am happiest.
Maybe that is the heartstring that pinged and wouldn’t stop humming on Saturday night.
Here was this horse, too wary of being trapped to let any person near him. Connection was his only hope of being saved, and yet he was holding onto his freedom with every scrap of his being.
They were calling him Sport and reaching out to anyone who might listen. Four years old, untouched and seemingly untouchable. Brought to the feedlot from the Indian reservation where they breed thousands of horses and seemingly cull most of them to slaughter, keeping only the ones they like best.
This one was strong, sound, beautiful… So much potential, but who is able to take on the project of an untouchable four-year-old stallion?
Elsa’s head, says look away, you have only so many hours in the day, stay focused on your work of helping so many horses and so many people around the world. Elsa’s heart raises her hand, reaches out and says, I will take him….
Once the words are spoken, you can’t take them back. The slaughter truck is coming in the morning and no one else is going to take this horse.
Elsa will. Elsa’s heart knows it’s what she needs to do.
An understanding of freedom within connection, that’s all this horse needs and I can help him with that.
This horse isn’t staying with me forever, but for right now, until the right person comes along for him, Helios and I are going to teach each other about Freedom and Connection.
My life is already brimming with too many things that need to be done, how am I going to do this too? I texted a friend:
“I have done something really foolish. I rescued a 4 year old stallion off the slaughter truck yesterday.”
In her beautiful wisdom she texted right back:
“I’m excited for you. Done is done, so where it might have been foolish beforehand, it is now the best decision ever! I’m thrilled for both of you, for the adventure ahead!!! Go Elsa!”
She was right, best decision ever.
Monday was a beautiful chaos of moving fence panels and setting up space for a stallion where there was none before.
Tuesday morning Kevin and I left before dawn and drove the trailer to eastern Washington. Here I was driving three and a half hours to pick up a horse from a picture and a plea for help. My head in disbelief said, we don’t even know how tall he is, we don’t know anything about him! My heart said, it’s all right, we will find out what we need to know as we go.
The taciturn feedlot owner directed us to pull through the loading chutes and closed the gates around the trailer. I walked with him back to where the grey horse stood watching us amid a sea of metal bars. The man said,
“He’s not crazy, this one, just wild. He moves around pretty good, you ready for this?”
Was I ready for this? Dark eyes staring out at me from a chiseled thoroughbred-type head… so much higher up than I had imagined, I don’t know why I thought he was going to be small, but face to face I suddenly discovered he definitely was not small. 16 hands maybe?
There wasn’t much time to think about it as we followed the horse through the chutes to the trailer. No particular plan because, as I said, the man running the place was short on words and I was too shell-shocked to ask questions. Then we were there at the trailer, a little dance as the horse realized there was nowhere else to go, in he went and the man said in his laconic way, “Shut the doors.”
Kevin and I swung the doors shut fast as I saw two massive hooves double-barrel at the impending trap. The speed and the power of this horse took my breath away for a moment. What had I gotten myself into?
I turned and asked the man, “Is there any paperwork I need to do, any sale papers?” He looked patient with the girl who clearly didn’t know anything about how this all worked, “No ma’am, he’s not branded or anything. He’s yours now, good luck.”
Driving home we stopped from time to time so I could sit with the big grey horse for a few moments, him in the back section of the trailer, me up in front of the divider. He didn’t seem afraid, simply decisive about keeping distance between us. I didn’t know why, but I was happier than I had been in a long time.
It was raining when we got home. Helios leapt out into his new paddock, seemingly very relieved to escape the small space at last. Then he stood on the hill and surveyed the territory with a quiet ease. I was happier than I had been in a long time.
My mares came out, took a look at the new horse, and then wandered back around the corner to the shed, leaving the cute little paint mare we have boarded with us to dance the fence line tossing her head and flirting with the newcomer.
Helios stood quiet on the hill like the sun god we had named him after, shining down on the world around him, and I was happier than I had been in a long time.
This is the work I live for. I may spend most of my time teaching and writing and helping others develop their relationships with their horses, and I love that. Traveling to teach workshops and most recently developing an in depth study of Freedom Based Training™ with students around the world where we study together connected via computers, internet and technology. This is exciting and profoundly gratifying as I watch connection and understanding blossom for others all around me.
Closer to home, this beginning process of unfolding trust with a new horse; this is where I learned how to do what I do. This work is at the core of who I am and who I want to be. I have a feeling Helios is going to teach me as much about freedom and connection as I am going to teach him.
A girl and a horse and an unfolding of trust, I am happier than I have been in a very long time.
Thank you heart!