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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range

One trainer

No tools

Just body language

 

The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

 

 

Playing with Stress

Myrnah and I are still waiting for this foal. I think we have a couple more weeks to wait, yet this stage of pregnancy and the waiting involved seem to be stressful for both Myrnah and me. My mare who has been so rock solid through all the life changes we have experienced together is all of the sudden a different horse. When stress levels are up, life’s simple occurrences can cause an unwarranted intensity of reaction. The birds fluttering in and out of the bushes used to be a back drop for life, now who knows which bird is going to cause Myrnah to jump out of her skin, heart racing, causing both of us to search high and low for the saber-toothed tiger that must be lurking nearby. Looking for that tiger every few minutes is exhausting and stressful all on its own. Holding a level of tension that makes hyper vigilance, shock, and reaction likely is not a fun way to live. All other goals aside, this week has been simply about playing with stress. What can we do to lower the stress and make life easier to live in these last weeks of Myrnah’s pregnancy?

There are three solutions I know of to lower stress: movement, stillness and connection. As Myrnah becomes larger and her physical comfort decreases I think she moves around the pasture less. When she becomes still that baby is still dancing a salsa inside her belly and being utterly distracting from any sense of quiet or peace. Adding to those two factors it becomes more and more challenging for Myrnah to connect with me, or the herd, if she feels stressed, reactive, hyper focused on perceived danger, or spacey and unfocused in a rebound from being hyper focused a moment before.

 

What is stress? I think emotional stress is simply the energy you feel when life isn’t the way you want it to be, and you feel powerless to change it for the better. Stress can be good and it can be bad; the trick is to play with it in a way that brings the most benefit possible. We stress a muscle to make it stronger. We can’t make a muscle stronger without the stress to motivate change. Stress too much and you create injury; stress too little and the resulting change is little to none. In order to play with emotional stress we need to look at it the same way we look at the physical.

 

Myrnah is going through huge physical changes right now; her physical stress and her emotional stress are all intertwined. So the question for me is: what can I do to help Myrnah feel a personal power to make her life better?

Movement, stillness, and connection- first things first, we move together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder; we walk as far and as quietly as we need to. Doing it together gives us both a sense of connection. When that bird, dressed as a saber-toothed tiger, comes out of the bushes at us, after the reactionary leap we practice stillness for as long as Myrnah needs. Her ears pricked, eyes scanning every shadow for possible danger, she just needs to be still until she feels safe enough to move again. Once her heart rate has calmed and her hyper vigilance softened, we move again- step for step, each moment of rhythmic footfall bringing confidence back into the picture.

 

When I show up in the morning and Myrnah and I take our customary walk to the trailer for breakfast, some days she is connected and calm, and the trip takes only a moment. Other days, if Myrnah is stressed, it can take up to an hour to travel the hundred steps from the barn to the trailer as we weave loops and circles, double back, and start again, movement and stillness alternating until she has the confidence to walk that short distance up the hill.

 

Some mornings she stomps in the trailer and eats her handful of vitamins with gusto; some mornings all she can manage is a bite before she bolts out of the trailer telling me she is too worried and stressed to eat. So we walk some more, and rest some more, and I let her know I am there for her. Whether she feels connected or not, I am right there for her to connect with any time. Once we have walked for long enough, and the emotional stress has lowered, she can then walk into the trailer, finish her breakfast in peace, and we are ready to move on to other things.

 

I long for the calm and steady mare I brought home with me from southern Oregon in August. Yet I have to trust that making it through the stress she feels now in these last weeks of pregnancy is going to make us stronger together. It isn’t her fault that she feels the way she does. The changes she is experiencing internally are huge. If I can help her learn how to move and be still and connect in ways that lower her emotional stress, then hopefully the physical changes that she has no control over will be building and strengthening instead of overwhelming.

This week has been about playing with stress. The best way I know to lessen the negative consequences and increase the positive are to make it a game. Life is supposed to be fun as well as challenging.

 

Elsa Sinclair

Equine Clarity.com

4 Comments

  1. I love that even given that you are in this stressful time, you have the most beautiful expression on your face. A lovely smile. I love that simple consistency.

  2. Elsa, my Sensing is that Mrynah is reacting to her ferrel instincts to find an ‘alone’ birthing place removed from the herd. Except she can’t really find one in those velvet meadows, completely out of sight, so she may be counting on you to ‘stand guard’ when the time comes.
    Because sabertooth tigers are real in her memory—as cougars, cheetahs and ‘mountain cats’ that abound in those Oregon mountains from whence you brought her. She KNOWS they are out there waiting kill mommy and gobble fresh young.
    This is common to most pregnant moms, according to available data.
    So you are doing the best thing possible, staying close, touching yet non-restraining. Like a spouse with an expectant mate.
    Hang in there, that perky lady will be back and prancing in no time. We’re waiting with you. 😉 Michael

  3. Great job:-)

  4. Elsa, I meant to add this earlier——Jodi said that you, with your experiences are the best person she knows (in her own long history of horsedom) to guide Myrnah through this pregnancy, birth and all that follows. 😉 😉 Michael


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