The simplicity of shared experience

7 10 2018

 

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So many traditional equestrian pursuits involve competition, speed, performance and looking polished from the outside. It is no wonder that many people find therapeutic horsemanship puzzling. ‘What exactly is it, you do?’ is a question I’m asked fairly frequently.

From the outside looking in, a therapeutic session looks like nothing much. A field. Some people on camping chairs. A couple of horses moving around or eating grass. Sunshine. Simple ingredients from the outside. It makes me smile when our visitors suddenly catch themselves in the moment. Usually a look of wonder or delight gleams in their eyes as they question out loud: “What on earth are we doing here?”

One response could be to point to all the life events that brought them to this moment. So many people we work with have lived such through extraordinary depths of pain and suffering, it is heart-rending. Violence, depression, fear, doubt, insecurity and anxiety. One of the reason why I find this work so moving is that each person I meet will carry the weight of all they have been through until now, and yet still be searching for a new way of being.

Our horses meet people at the point in their life journey where they are asking questions of profound significance. Who am I? What am I doing here? What is my purpose in life? Incapable of making  a judgement, or sympathising or asking for more colourful details, the horses simply share a moment. They take people into the present. Here the air is cool or warm, the trees suspended in stillness or moving fluently with the wind, the sky clear or clouded, the grass dry or damp with dew, the birdsong piercing or muted and all the sensations in between and there revealed is a subtle, nuanced world of feeling and perception. There revealed is a horse who experiences the world in a totally different way to you, and there you are, and that is all you need to be fully immersed in life as it is being lived.

A shared experience is a special thing. If we allow it, a shared experience with an animal can grant us a sense of looking at the world through the eyes of another. Shared time with horses can become a time when our noisy human concerns quieten and we can see past our preoccupations to meet the world through fresh eyes. It isn’t often that we can find a different perspective on our human world, and slow time with horses is revealing because there we may encounter who we are at the very core of our being.

We observe the horses. We pay attention to them and they reward us by becoming curious about us often in surprising and delightful ways. During a session they will  come and explore us, play with us or simply be quietly with us. We let go of trying to work out what went wrong. In this quiet space, the deadening and frightening weight of our accumulated experience drops away, and there revealed is lightness, playfulness and freedom. Ideas come to the surface and are shared spontaneously without fear.

The horses are grounded in their being. They witness extraordinary acts of human courage and vulnerability. At any moment, they could move away, but they often choose to stay and be part of whatever is emerging and unfolding. The feeling I often get at this point in a session is one of timelessness.

Here, there is time to reflect on what life might be like without the routines of a secure mental health hospital where everything is done for you. Here, you realise you have taken off your mask to wonder whether your true purpose is a life’s work with animals. Here, there is time to share some creative sounds and ideas you’ve been working on and to realise that you are accepted and loved as you are. Here, there is time to notice how much clutter we normally carry around in our thoughts on a busy working day. There is time to smile at one another and laugh and in spite of all the comedy, craziness and chaos in lives, to recognise that we are connected, and we are at peace and it feels good.

There are the horses, and there are we.  Nothing much.

 

 

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2 responses

8 10 2018
Peter Shotton

This is beautiful, Belinda. It brought tears to my eyes….that sense of just being with another in the moment, whether that be a horse, a dog, or a human companion. How lonely we humans can feel, how much loneliness we have endured…..as children, young adults, even mature adults. And yet how much is available in and through presence.

I love your writing. I loved your being with us in conversation at the book club in Castle Street in Totnes…..it is interesting how close you feel sometimes, thank you. You are such a gift to the world.

Best wishes…..and in gratitude

Peter

Peter Shotton shotters@mac.com 07710 140898

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Liked by 1 person

8 10 2018
belindaseaward

Thank you, Peter. It’s so wonderful to receive words directly from the heart. I loved meeting your book group and sharing something of the way I work.

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