It has recently come to my attention that I have not formally recognized the teachers in my life. Not here, not anywhere. I was recently reminded of my desire to chart my own path and recognize the rich lineages each of us comes from. My Buddhist dad introduced me to the idea of spiritual lineage, of tracing your teachers and their teachers back to common foremothers and forefathers, acknowledging the drops or torrents each contributed to your cup (or bucket, or bathtub) of current understanding – which feels like too epic an undertaking here, but I thought I’d give it a try. Horses have been my main focus academically, philosophically and spiritually. Through attempting to understand and effect my relationships with them, I have learned so much about them, myself, and the world at large – and still do and always will. They are the lens through which I focus my most existential ponderings. They are the conveyors and the agents in my life that have most compelled me to explore not just their world, their health, their voices, but the Glorious Interconnectedness of All Things – and my versions of the truth.
I think I’ve avoided this until now because of the potential enormity of it all: I don’t think I could ever tell you everything about everyone who’s been a part of my life with horses thus far. Also because of the contradictions, of the sticky places where I’ve differed from those I love and respect, of the fear that I’ll offend or confuse or mislead anyone. Because I haven’t stuck with any one teacher or method religiously, and I have no map to give anyone else who is seeking, as I have been. I do have mentors and approaches to share, but more than that, it is simply time to acknowledge the major players in my horsey explorations over the past 8 or so years.
First, my mother and father, who have taught me to wander, and to wonder. And who have supported me in so many ways all along the twisted paths of learning (about horses and everything else in creation!), and who have helped me philosophically, financially, and physically in the adventure of keeping horses.
Next, the horses themselves. Amalia, Spero, and Firefly, to name the obvious, but also every horse who has ever looked at me and thought to tell me anything. Apache, my first true horsey love, who taught me how to ride by feel and also how to fall of with humility and the littlest bit of grace.
Then, my auntie Marilyn, who bred and raised Amalia, and introduced me to the world of horse-ownership by leasing and then selling Amalia (nee Gem) to me – and Jodi Moore, of Moore Performance Horses, who taught me told me I had timing and feel if no actual riding skills, and foreshadowed my break from convention when she sternly told me I was “trying to do two things at once,” – listening to the horse and listening to her.
Barbra-Ann King of Relationship Riding came next – she guided me through the terrible shift from the conventions of the people around me and taught me so much about, well, so much. I learned about horses, my self, my relationships, energy work and the chakra system, the Natural Horsemanship movement and industry (and how to read between the lines, and discern what didn’t feel true or right to me), the communicative nature of animals and the possibility of cross-species conversation. I also learned about Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling with Barb, who inspired me with his passion even though I couldn’t understand what he meant. I was introduced to the principles of barefoot trimming and quickly took it on myself to learn to trim (thanks to Christina Cline, another teacher!) – one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I learned about equine nutrition and supplementation, and their deep effect on well-being. Herbs and homeopathy for horses, body work and healing, riding through intention and energy, and so much more came from Barb – even though, at the time, I struggled to get a handle on all of it. I was opened to a whole other world of what being with horses could mean. Serious gratitude to Barb for extending her love, wisdom and support to a troubled teen with a troubled horse – I don’t want to think where we’d have ended up without her.
I turned to Christa Miremadi of Horsemanship From the Heart after that, where I learned even more about barefoot trimming, physiology, the workings of the equine body, the many things that can go wrong with said equine body, saddle fit, equine physiotherapists and chiropractors, balance and feel, communication through body language, and so much more. Over my years at and passing through Silver Star Stables, I have learned and been exposed to so many ideas about horses and their wellness. Christa and her sister, Carol, as well as the rest of the team there and the boarders and people called in, have been invaluable teachers and friends throughout the years.
Linda-Ann Bowling of Unbridling Your Brilliance took me towards the psycho-spiritual, the healing nature of horses, and the self-exploration I needed to do alongside it all. Here, as Equine Specialist, I learned about Equine Facilitated Learning and Equine Facilitated Therapy. I was exposed to so many amazing books and ideas, some that spoke directly about horses and many more that did not. We delved into somatic therapies and process-based work, right alongside the horses, and I watched many brave souls being led through healing and transformation. Linda-Ann housed me, employed me, and gave me a venue to start exploring in earnest much of what I was learning and suspecting about horses. Her workshops and coaching and our conversations over the years have been entirely life-changing and empowering.
* A quick but profound acknowledgement of a horse I met just once at a workshop that Linda-Ann took me to, named Wild Thing, who told me to “follow our [the horses’] lead” – no matter what anyone on two legs ever says – and that “the human mind is a powerful thing” – that we are capable of convincing ourselves of anything, if it suits us for now.
Then I found Chuck Mintzlaff of Friendship Training and things really started to change. His program completely kicked my ass – he offered the chance to connect to horses in the ways I’d always dreamed of: as friends and equals. This opened the door that I’d been banging my head against for so long – and it opened into a veritable galaxy of possibility. I was required to take all restraints away save for the pasture fences, put away my tools and gadgets and half-baked ideas of control, quit running my horses in circles, and sit down and actually get to know them. Through this method and the required reading, I was introduced to the concept of ethology, much of which flew in the face of the equine pop-psychology that most training and theory draws on, and exposed to the endless wealth of who horses actually are, both as an ancient species and as individuals. It was the 180 degree shift I’d been begging the universe for. My horses took to this new approach instantly, and this is where I really believe I began to listen, to understand, and to forge actual unique friendships with the horses in my life. Chuck also has his students communicate almost daily about the tiniest observations, shifts, and victories, which is an incomparable aid to the learning process. This is where I began to find the confidence, real-time results, and community I’d been waiting for – not to mention when my horses breathed a collective sigh of relief.
And then there was Jini! Of…you guessed it, Listen To Your Horse! As a friend and ally with amazing amounts of knowledge, an endless appetite for learning, and an unmatched ability to synthesize and reteach what she learns, Jini has been the most blessed learning partner and teacher. From her and with her I have learned even more about communicating with horses, as well as a safe place to practice my own intuition, collected knowledge, and listening skills and see what is validated and therefore dependable. And with her I have found the freedom to listen first to myself and my horses, regardless of what teacher has said what, of which protocol demands which action – and to trust the danged process. And now we keep this blog to track our own learnings as we go.
I have left out so many friends, supporters, authors, and beings who have helped and taught me over the years, but my heart is a little more at rest having laid out the cole’s notes at least. Thank you to everyone and everything that has been there along some part or all of the way.
That’s all for now, folks!