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November 23, 2012: The Equine Mind

This morning, I got a valuable lesson in reading horses, but in a different setting than I’m used to. I went to the Sindorf Center (a big horse barn) and watched Mark, an equine therapist, work on Fortune, a Hanovarian (this is a type of horse that’s area of specialization is dressage and jumping). Mark worked in the arena, and all the while, lesson horses were put through their paces. Most of these horses live in an adjacent barn, and so this is their work area. The horses, the riders, the instructor, the onlookers were all focused on the business at hand.


Mark was very adept at reading horses. Some would say that he’s a horse whisperer. If not, he aspires to be one. He drew upon many modalities in his work, including cranial-sacral message. Mark’s definitely able to connect with the equine mind. For instance, at one point he said “the horse needs to learn to release”; that is, it needs to let go of tension in certain muscle groups. I took note when he said this because so few people (it seems) give horses credit for being able to learn such things.

I was also impressed by what went unsaid. For example, Mark was distracted by the ongoing conversation when attempting to put Fortune’s seventh cervical vertebrae back in place. As he explained to all who were watching, he needed to “reconnect” with the horse.

Mark also had a very good eye. He could, for example, tell that Fortune had more muscle mass on one side of his shoulder than the other. His partial solution was that Sharon (Fortune’s owner) mount on both the left and right sides. (Interestingly, this goes against convention, which is to always mount on the left side.)

Mark took the time to work the various muscle groups, for instance spending a half hour or so on the ring of muscles that surrounded the gelding’s sheath. Apparently, there was considerable scar tissue there – and gently massaging it caused it to soften.

I left the Sindorf Center feeling humbled. Really, I know nothing at all about horses and I’m doing mine a disservice. In fact, the above is just the tip of the iceberg. I learned so much more than I’ve articulated. . . .

It was time to move on. It was a yet another sunny day, and so I hustled home, so that I might spend some time with my own horses. So this afternoon, Pete and I took Signy and Hrimmi on what’s become our daily walk. I snapped Hrimmi’s lead in place, and we set off in the direction of the trail. Pete, Signy, Jenna, and Rainbow were ahead of me. Every so often Hrimmi stopped. Rather than yank on her (which is something I do not do), I instead did a withers rock, putting my hands on both shoulders and gently rocking her from side-to-side. Each time, she moved on.

Once on the trail, Hrimmi raced about, stopping every so often to munch on dried grass. We came and crossed what we call Mud Hole, and then made our way to what we now call Siggi’s Crossing. Pete and Signy stepped across a small ditch, and the dogs and I followed. Then Hrimmi leapt across it, looking surprised when she got to the far side. We went a bit further and then turned back in the direction of home.

Hrimmi had a tougher time on the return trip because she was (first of all) fearful about making the big leap. I positioned myself in such a way as to show her the best possible option, by standing perpendicular to the ditch. And, finally, she again jumped the obstacle. Hrimmi was equally concerned about crossing the Mud Hole. This one was a bit tougher. Pete and the gang went on ahead, and I sat down on the embankment. Finally, after racing back and forth, and exhausting all other options, she came barreling downhill and across the snow and covered hole. She then raced uphill to where Pete and the others were waiting.

On the final portion of our trek home, it occurred to me that though I’m not the best horse owner, I will suffice. For example, today I was reminded of the importance of some things that I as a horse owner very much value, one being that horses are intelligent animals who are quite capable of connecting with us, and vice-versa, and another being that it’s in our and their best interest to be mindful in all settings, be this the arena or the trail. And lastly, that time spent in their presence, is time well spent, and therefore, ought not be rushed.

Next: 348. 11/24/12: Conversation with a Chicken