Time seemed to stop moving while I stood with my hands on the big horse, sharing his space as if we were one unit. Eventually it felt like whatever it was that happened had completed so I took a step back and looked around.
Marjorie and Julie were quietly waiting in a very calm and un-hurried manner.
“So, tell me what just happened for you,” said Julie.
“Well at first I felt terrified of Andy because he reminds me of Poppy but then when I put my hands on him and allowed my mind to calm down, the feelings changed.” I replied. “The fear disappeared and I felt a lot of love instead and I knew that everything was ok.”
Julie and Marjorie smiled.
“You know, horses are just horses and they only run fast if they’re scared. You can help Poppy to not be scared by not being scared yourself.” said Julie as she led me in to the indoor arena where the three ponies were wandering around. Such simple, yet profound words.
Marjorie led Andy back to his field and then came to join us.
We all sat down and observed the three ponies interacting together quietly for a few minutes to allow my subconscious mind to process and calm down.
“Now one thing you mentioned was your trouble catching Poppy,” said Julie after a while. “Tell me a bit more about that.”
“Well I go into the field to get her and she always walks or trots away and it’s so annoying because it takes ages to get her to stop!” I said.
“Right!” agreed Julie getting up and walking towards the ponies. “Because who’s got time for that?” The ponies looked up and started moving away from her. “I mean look I’m in a rush and you guys are really messing about!”
The ponies started trotting.
“I’m really getting annoyed with you lot!” shouted Julie, waving a headcollar around. “I’ve got so many things to do today, I’ve got the shopping to do the washing to do and I’ve got to do the school run I haven’t got time for this!” by now the ponies were trotting really fast round and round and Julie was running after them.
“Stop you little gits!” she called “Stop immediately!” It was hilarious to watch.
“Do you know what? Bugger it! I’m just going to sit down.” said Julie, out of breath. She sat down on a mounting block and crossed her legs and fanned herself, ignoring the ponies.
Almost immediately, the ponies calmed down and after a few moments they wandered over to Julie as she sat looking away from them.
Quietly she stood up and stroked their heads and then easily put the headcollar on one of them and led him over to me, followed by the other two.
“You know it’s a funny thing about horses!” said Julie, grinning. “They naturally enjoy being with humans so long as our energy is calm.”
I laughed. She had taught me a valuable lesson in such a comical way that it really needed no explanation. It was suddenly very clear that I had been inadvertently sending Poppy away from me with a combination of fear, exasperation and a belief that “I am in a rush”!
“That was so funny! I do always feel like I’m in a hurry!” I laughed “There’s always a list of a hundred jobs that I need to do and I feel such pressure to fit Poppy in and when I do, I feel guilty that I’m wasting time messing about with horses.”
“A very wise hospice nurse once said to me, ‘Julie, when you’re lying on your death bed, what will you regret more? Not doing all your household chores or not spending enough time doing what you love?’ Food for thought that isn’t it?” said Julie.
“So long as all the important things get done, you must always make time for fun!” she continued and began walking around the arena followed by the three ponies.
The indoor arena was fantastic. It had been built in the style of an enormous Norwegian log chalet with a seating area down one of the long sides and it had an adjoining toilet block and kitchen area for when they hosted events.
“Now as you can see, I’m now feeling very calm and I’m just enjoying walking around,” said Julie. “I’m not putting any pressure on the ponies and I’m not asking anything from them but they are choosing to follow me.”
The ponies were indeed following Julie even as she changed direction.
“Look closely,” she said and she halted. The ponies who were all in a line behind her, all halted too.
“Can you see there is a space between me and the leading pony and a space between that pony and the next and so on?”
“Yes!” I answered.
“That’s because I’ve created an energy bubble around myself and they can feel it. They won’t walk into my energy bubble unless I ask them to and they trust me as their leader so they stop when I stop and walk when I walk because they know that that is what will keep them safe.”
Julie started walking again and I noticed even more how the ponies remained at the same distance apart and walked at the same speed as her.
Julie invited me to go up to the ponies and take over leadership by being ‘myself’.
“You don’t have to do anything. Just feel good about yourself and feel as if you are here to give them safety. You’re not here to force them to do anything or bully them. Just be you.”
I walked up to the group of ponies and stopped at a distance to take a deep breath, relax and think about what sort of person I would choose to follow. I thought about the qualities of a good leader- calm, trustworthy, sensitive, kind, confident.
“Great, the ponies are listening to you. They’re licking and chewing, their eyes are on you.” said Julie quietly as she backed away to the edge of the arena. “Now start walking wherever you want to go.”
I walked around the arena and the ponies followed me. Not because I’d forced them to or bullied them, just because they chose to. It felt amazing!
I stopped. They stopped. I walked, they walked.
“Wow!” I said, almost in tears again.
“It’s simple isn’t it?” smiled Julie.
“We can extend the use of energy in our training sessions with a horse. You told me that you have started to do some lunging with Poppy well let’s see how our energy intention can be used instead of traditional methods.”
Marjorie collected two ponies and stood by the edge of the arena so that Julie could do a demonstration with one pony.
It was fascinating. She started with the pony on a long lunge line and she asked him to walk on and then she focussed her intention, raised her energy by imagining that she was running and he began to trot. She then breathed quietly and visualised walking and he walked. She then knelt down on one knee and he halted.
“All I’m doing is raising and lowering my energy and the pony is mirroring me. Come and have a go!”
First, Julie guided me through a visualisation of creating an energy ball around myself to create a strong, safe boundary and it didn’t take long before I was able to encourage the pony to start walking, move into trot, slow to a walk and then halt simply by altering my own posture, energy and focus.
“Really focus on his bum and that will drive him forwards! Now take a deep breath, drop one hip and think about calmly grazing in a beautiful meadow! There you go, look he’s slowing down. Now kneel onto one knee. And he’s stopped! Excellent well done!” Julie was a great teacher because she kept it simple.
“I think it’s biscuit time!” called Marjorie and we all agreed that it was time for a break.
The ponies were given hay nets and a few apples while we humans sat and ate homemade ginger biscuits followed by goats’ cheese sandwiches which was a funny way around to eat!
Suddenly there was a snuffling and scratching and the door swung open and in came Arnold with a teddy in his mouth.
“Aaah Arnold! Were you missing mummy? Oh dear you come and settle down and have some sandwiches.” Marjorie, the ever-devoted mummy, greeted him with a cuddle and a plate of sandwiches.
“Would you like a tummy scratch?” asked Marjorie as Arnold rolled onto his side prodding Marjorie with his snout. “He loves a tummy scratch after lunch don’t you little man?”
Arnold was clearly in heaven as he rolled around on his back snorting with pleasure while Marjorie scratched his furry belly.
The ponies were too busy eating to be bothered by the presence of Arnold but it was very comical to watch him especially with his teddy, which he seemed to really love.
The day was filled with amazing training from Julie and it was all so unexpected that I think I was probably in a bit of shock but in a good way.
I had never seen anyone interact with horses in this way before and it was mind-blowing.
At one point, Julie had a group of about 10 ponies cantering around the whole arena and just with her intention, she managed to take one pony out of the throng, change its direction and have it canter the opposite way to the others and then get it to re-join the herd.
“All I’m doing is focussing my full attention on this one pony and ignoring everything else. I’m bringing her out and that’s helping her to feel confident. It’s lifting her self-esteem. Now I’m putting her back so that the lesson is complete.” called Julie from the middle of the arena.
“Everything we do with horses must have a benefit for them. We are doing it for them not to them. We are supporting them as good leaders.”
Julie then helped me to learn how to help Poppy feel calm when being tied up for grooming. She taught me how to step out of the way and allow Poppy to have ‘a conversation’ with the rope and learn how to work out for herself what she needed to do to release the pressure by walking towards the rope instead of pulling away.
It was an amazing lesson because, unknown to me, the pony I was working with had literally arrived wild from the hills the day before I arrived. He was not used to humans yet there I was merrily working with him and it didn’t take long before he happily stood still and enjoyed being brushed. I was amazed when they told me he’d not been handled!
“We have taken away the horse’s ability to think by being overly dominant and bossy. This makes an unsafe horse. By reminding them how to work out problems in their own mind we allow them to feel confident so that if they are faced with a spooky situation they will think instead of reacting with fear.” said Julie
The day became evening almost without noticing, isn’t it funny how that always happens on the best days?
We took the ponies back to the field and we all lay down on our backs amongst the dandelions and looked up at the endless sky which was just beginning to turn pink.
“Wow what a day!” I thought to myself.
Dinner was excellent once again, as Marjorie had made the best vegetable flan the world has ever known and we were joined by Arnold who jumped up and sat on a chair at the kitchen table.
“Oh dear, Arnold we have a guest must you really sit here?” asked Marjorie looking a little bit flustered.
“I don’t mind, it’s quite funny!” I laughed.
“Oh jolly good. He is such a dear little fellow isn’t he? Now do eat nicely Arnold, try not to make too much of a mess.” Marjorie tied a pretty, floral bib around his neck and gave him a massive slice of flan and a ladle of home-made baked beans with a sprinkling of parmesan which he hoovered up in about three seconds.
Then I suddenly realised that I still hadn’t learned anything about the bitless bridle which was actually the reason why I’d gone there in the first place!
“Ah yes don’t worry about that, all will be revealed tomorrow. We have a very interesting day planned for you!” said Marjorie….
To be continued…