Day 3: Costa Rican Equine Adventure
With Michelle Mantor
PetTalk Editor’s Costa Rica Equine Adventure – Day 3
Today our program officially starts – we are a group of 12 people going through this Eponaquest Adventure Vacation. We all meet in the restaurant – quite a diverse group, we are a collection of people form different places (Germany, Switzerland, Arizona, California, Maine), varying horse experience but all looking to learn.
After introductions we head to the Vinculo barn (vinculo means inexplainable bond) where we sit at a big table and talk about what we are each hoping to achieve this week and just getting a feel for the program. Giana is back again hanging out with us, looking for some ear scratches which I happily give.
Because the relationship with the horse we will ride and work with for the week is so important, the next thing we do is a bit mind boggling – our horse is going to pick us. The twelve of us sit in a circle in chairs facing outward and we are blindfolded. It’s an amazingly quiet process as our instructors leave the ring, go get a horse, bring it and allow it to choose each of us. It’s harder than I think to sit there for what seems like about 15 to 20 minutes with no sight and just trying to manage my mind. I didn’t want to get into any doubt scenarios and give off negative energy which might attract a horse tat I couldn’t manage.
Eventually, someone takes my hand and leads me about 20 paces, places one hand on the railing and one on “my horse”. “This is your horse, she is drinking water, stay here with her”. This is feeling really vulnerable now. I can’t see where I am, I don’t really know how the horse is facing and where I should put my feet because being stepped on would not be a good start for the week. I leave my hand on the horse, gently moving it around until I figure out about where on the horse my hand is and which way she is facing and I try to keep my feet as far to the side as I can. I probably look like the leaning Tower of Pisa. Another 20 minutes pass and I’m struggling with not yanking off my blindfold because my mind is starting to get antsy. Which horse picked me? What if she starts fidgeting and pins me to the railing? Is there anyone in the arena or is this a big joke? Ok, now my mind is really running away LOL!
Finally we get to take off our blindfolds and I have been picked by a white mare named Suzy who is 20 yrs old, has a few of her offspring at the retreat and is described as a very steady horse that will give you what you need and take good care of you. She has obviously played the role of mother ,which is nurturer/companion, and that sounds pretty good to me. I’m thankful I didn’t send out vibes that I wanted to have an adventure!
We reconvene and discuss the process, all of us admitting our vulnerability, doubts, or even fears when our sight was taken away. It was interesting to note how much I relied on my hearing to figure out what was happening in the room, about where I was standing based on the noise outside the ring, etc. When we lose one sense we rely more on others which is a good lesson to think about – it made me more aware of the beautiful sounds of nature around me when I could no longer see.
Next we split into two groups and one by one they brought our horse in for us to “join up” together. This is a process you might have seen in horse whisperer types of films which is essentially getting your horse to follow you without using a lead rope. The idea is to figure out where the area of connection is with the horse, then the personal space of the horse. To do this, you are far back from the horse waiting to be noticed. Once you have gotten the horse to give a sign they have noticed you (look at you, twitch an ear your way or make any movement), you walk slowly toward the horse until you get another sign and when you do, stop and turn sideways, showing the horse he/she can escape if they want; you are not here as a predator which is how they would feel if you just charged up to them and invaded their personal space. You continue this until you’ve gotten close to the horse, then you exhale and sweep your arm in the direction you want to go for the horse to follow. The idea is that they will want to follow your energy.
For some of us, it worked right away, first try. For others, no so much. Depending on our own energy and thoughts (believing the horse will follow and exhibiting strength versus doubting for example), the horse may join up quickly or might decide to give you more of a challenge. When it was my turn, I tried to stay strong minded and not let the horse feel she could dominate. She almost joined up right away and followed me for a second but I lost her. If you don’t get the horse right away, you revert to the parelli sttick to start managing the horse, getting its respect and eventually laying down the stick and getting the horse to follow you. It takes me a bit to use the stick (only hitting the ground for noise, not the horse) to gain Suzy’s respect and she follows me. What a feeling! This is like magic – I never touched her and she is following me like a puppy around the ring.
I’m liking this “natural horsemanship” – it feels respectful, meaningful and lasting. Tomorrow we ride!