I know, I know, not more about horses. I admit I’m feeling pretty obsessed. I haven’t felt this attracted to anything for a long time and the pull is powerful.
It started on a weekend pony trek in damp and grey North Wales where I was part of a group who walked our horses over the hills. For the first time ever my body worked out how to do rising trot. My lovely horse whisperer friend Liz has tried to teach me before but it just didn’t click. But this time it did. I got it. My body got it. It felt amazing.
I think doing all the yoga has helped in many ways. I think I’m stronger, particularly my core, but also I think my body awareness has increased so I can turn muscles on and off more. My proprioception is better; I actually know where my body is in space, which for someone who was clumsy as a child is great.
And childhood is where this starts. I have cousins with horses and as kids we used to come up and visit them and they would plonk me on the back of a horse and lead me around the yard. I loved it. I went through a stage of waking up on Christmas morning and running to look out of my mum’s bedroom window which overlooked our very small, semi-detached back garden to see if there was a pony there waiting for me. I dreamed of having horses, of being a farmer’s wife and having lots of kids and looking after animals. Then my parents got divorced and the dream of happy-ever-after broke. I hadn’t realised until now, that the horse dream also shattered then.
Over the years I rode occasionally, no more than pony treks. One year I took a bunch of girls, post GCSEs, on a riding holiday in Wales. We tacked up the horses, bedded them down and rode them all day. My knees killed me but at the end of the week but we galloped and I remember the exhilaration and feeling of freedom it gave me. But it wasn’t the right time of my life for me to even consider taking it up more seriously.
Then there was the allergy. At some point it was really bad. I get hayfever, but just being near a horse would set me sneezing. One day riding around the Ceriog valley I could hardly see my eyes were streaming so much and I came up in white welts of hives where the riding hat had touched me. I couldn’t go anywhere near horses, even to stroke them in a field without sneezing and itching afterwards, so I stayed clear of horses.
The horse whisperer
Until I met horse whisperer Liz and she did magic. Or that’s how it felt. I hung out with her and her herd of horses and the allergy went. I can’t prove this, but I think she took my fear of horses away and the allergy went with it. I’ve never had it again.
I watched as she taught my son not only to ride, but to use his mind to steer the horse. Post-divorce his confidence was wobbly and she re-empowered him by letting him play tag with her huge, beautiful Andalusian stallion. He learned that he could focus on where he wanted to go and the horse would do that.
With Liz, I would take a young horse for a walk getting it accustomed to roads. When I found myself pushed time and again into the hedgerow Liz showed me how the horse was a mirror for how easily I gave up my space in relationships and needed to set boundaries. When I was sad, I would go with Liz to the horse field and hug them, lean into them, feel supported by them. It so helped. Then Liz moved further away with her horses and I don’t see her so much and so that horse connection waned again until the ride on the damp Welsh hills in the spring.
So slowly I’m learning to ride. Not for any purpose, I don’t want to be entering competitions or learning dressage, but I would love to be able to ride well enough to go out for days with some of the lovely horse owners I know (Liz included). In the summer I saw the woman I would like to be. Riding bareback along the back of the beach. I wanted that feeling of freedom and space.
In Iceland we saw wild horses. They were beautiful and I have never seen horses in such large herds, so freely roaming, racing, playing, rolling, grazing, nuzzling, just being. I wanted that for me. I started to see how the horses were a yearning in me, a desire for freedom and play and space. But also their power, their grace, their beauty, their sure-footedness in difficult terrain. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be like the woman, I wanted to be like the horse too.
All of this horse process has felt very intuitive, doing things that feel like the right thing to do without being able to see a clear pattern, feeling my way. And insights seem to reveal themselves to me. Yes I want more freedom. Yes I want more power inside of me (not over others), yes I want space and a herd and the wind in my hair more often than I feel it in the winter with an inside job.
Last week I managed to fast trot without stirrups and I was able to stay up in jumping position for a whole circuit of the arena in canter. I was ecstatic and thrilled. I whooped as I did it (poor horse, she’s very calm). It was the most excitement I’ve felt in ages. Fun, excitement, exhilaration, words which have not been part of my vocabulary for too long. The horse is re-awakening those things in me, reminding me how they feel, drawing me towards more, showing me what I have missed.
Then, this week I found another mirror. As I was talking to my oldest friend, who had her own horse as a child, I heard myself say that I loved how the horse carried me, gave me her energy so that we could move forward. At home I am the initiator, the energiser, the catalyst, the planner, the doer, the one who takes responsibility for making things happen. I share my energy and motivate others, I bring other people with me and it can be exhausting.
What I saw, in that conversation is how the horse carries me, shares her energy with me, how we both share the intention to trot, to canter, to walk, to halt. I don’t have to give her my energy, I just have to harness my own together we move forward. She literally takes my weight and carries me forward and I love it. It feels like such a gift, such grace that she should take the weight for me and use her power and all I have to do is communicate clearly with her and feel her below me.
I love that I can lean into her and she will let me without moving away. I love that she doesn’t lean into me but can take her own weight. I love her solidity as well as her beauty and strength.
So, yes I am obsessed but it feels like more than that. It feels like the horses are leading me. I don’t know where, or what or how, but things keep being revealed, this week excitement, this week support, that week freedom, the other week power, I am finding things in me I need.
Just as it is taking time for my body to acclimatize the being in the saddle, how to signal what I want by small movements in my legs, my hands, my head, it is taking time for me to integrate these needs and desires into my life.
But there is no hurry. There is no where that I need to get to, or be. There is such glee and pleasure in being with the horses. Standing with them, stroking them, leading them, riding them, trying to learn their language and tune into my body to communicate more clearly with them.
I wanted to be a ballerina but was too tall and no good but now I do yoga which fulfills that childhood dream. I wanted a horse and now it feels like I can make that dream come true. This week I bought own riding hat so I can ride outside of the stables, can ride any horse, anywhere I feel safe enough to do so. I feel like I am getting back in touch with the girl I was before my parents’ divorce, the child who wished for a horse in her back garden when she woke. The girl who wanted a big, happy family and believed in finding love, and nature and home. I am learning that I can make my own dreams come true by following my curiosity and excitement.
I feel that horses are my teachers, my mirrors and I am so excited to be with them and to be me.
- Where is your intuition taking you?
- What childhood dreams did you give up on and how can you start to make them come true?