His forehead pressing against my chest. His eyes closed. Gently closing mine in full trust. Breathing slow and full and drinking up each other’s scent. Being called into my body and into this moment. His message clear – “only when you are present can we truly dance”.
Zeke was his name.
Sounds kind of romantic hey? Well I am sorry, but this story is not about a lover. This is the wrong blog for juicy details about romance… However juicy details about what horses have offered and continue to offer people is what is on this menu.
He was the most lanky appendix quarter horse I have owned, and the main one who carried me through my youth. He was quiet for the most part and relaxed, and would do whatever was asked with only a few exceptions. Water was a no go due to a traumatic run in with a barbed wire fence in a slough. And cows and crowds really got his motor running.
That transition period from child to adult was not the smoothest for me, although it may have appeared so to some. Knowing what I know now, I would imagine that few get through these years without any struggle. It wasn’t the difficulties with academic success, but rather finding my way in peer relationships, what boundaries were and who I was becoming, defining myself day to day, sometimes in alignment with perceived “shoulds” and other times clearly outside of them. It was in these years of unsettle and internal struggle that I would ride.
Every time (without fail) that I went to put my foot into the stirrup, Zeke’s long brontosaurus neck would bring his head between me and the saddle. Sometimes I was in a rush or didn’t have patience for what I had thought at the time was a cute gesture. I would push his head away, but only with great effort and some time.
Now as I am learning to ask horses what they can show and teach me in healing work with people, my theory of what was happening has shifted. Is it possible that he was having me take a moment? Let go of the stresses of friends, family, school, and fears of the future? Perhaps he was doing reiki on me? Was he grounding us for safety? Or joy? Or maybe recalibrating my breath and heart rate? Was he asking me to be more horse like? Was he giving me a lesson in mindfulness?
I do not remember how the rest of the rides went on days that I stood with his forehead resting on my body, and those when I pushed him away, but I do remember the feeling… The feeling of a huge head leaning into my whole awkward adolescent torso, the centre of his forehead in direct contact with my heart, my arms wrapped around his jaw, my nostrils swelling with the smell of dust and horse, and my breath slowing to unison. It was only after I would become fully present and breath with Zeke, that he would break the embrace and invite me to continue with my agenda, however in greater connection with myself and with him. In the practice of gestalt, this is called “contact”.
This lesson is something I now incorporate in many areas of my life… Be present and in contact (connection) with my children, family and friends, with my horses and with my clients. The truth is that the only moment we truly have is the present. Worrying about my children when I am with clients or my horses, or vice versa only takes away from being truly present. It is not that I force my forehead onto others, or ask the horses for a “hug”, but rather ground in the moment. I ask clients to put their own hands on their chest and get in contact with themselves, sitting in the barn, in this moment while I do the same.
It is my honour to be partnering with horses to facilitate healing, connection and growth in my work and in my life. Thank you for your lesson in grounding and contact Zeke the Streak!
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