Life is meant to be shared. The idea of separation is counterintuitive to life. Within the human mind came the idea of control. Along with it, a deluge of misfortune. Nature professes unity and the natural kingdom honors the message.
In my life the message of releasing control has been prescribed to me through my relationships. And none more so than in my relationship with horses. The contrast between freedom and control can be practiced profoundly in each and every interaction. Especially when it comes to riding. And even most especially while riding my young horse.
At the ripe age of 61, I am starting what might be my last horse. This is a deeply meaningful time in my life. My 27 year old horse, whom I’ve loved all his life, looks on. The other day he literally came in off the field and stood by the arena fence to watch as I rode my young colt. I felt as if I had a foot in two worlds —the past and the present.
I can safely say that I am doing everything differently now than when I started Far Go, 25 years ago. And in that statement I am pleased. Though it does carry with it the echo of my teacher’s words, way back then…
“I wish I knew then what I think I know now!” -Ray Hunt.
In my work with people, both personally and with horses, I see a mirror of my past—of wanting to know what to do. I’ve said many times the most common question I hear is “What do I do?”
In Perfect Practice I wrote, “Typically there is only one person who can accurately answer that question, and that is the person asking it. Each day and each life are variables.”
It is a tall order to describe to folks that the greatest changes often come from undoing! It’s literally the opposite of what people think they would be hiring a coach for.
But this is my only gift to give. Do less, and find the vastness of all creation. I don’t mean this as a trite cliché, I mean it quite literally! The human’s obsession with control must be exposed. We can come to realize the ineffectiveness of this habitual tendency and replace it with inexhaustible Grace.
I’m not talking about this solely from a horsemanship perspective. I’m sharing that horsemanship was where I came to understand this, and continue to expand on it.
Recently while working with my young horse, I had the wonderful opportunity to find yet another way of undoing. And actually I gained with this experience rare empirical knowledge. I not only embraced conflict, but celebrated it.
There is real truth in the meaning that when we see our hardships as Grace we are free. This is truly an advanced education. And it came through my horse “Grace”.
As with many horses, while being ridden in an arena environment they have all sorts of dilemmas to resolve within themselves. As humans we see a simple box. We move down a straight line, make a 90* turn then straight again and so on. What can be complex about that? But not so for the horse.
My horses live deep in nature. They have 20 acres of terrain on which to wander. There are hillsides and crevasses, there is brush and trees and logs. There are many obstacles in the way of a straight path. The horses have made trails through the dense forest. And these trails wind and move like a serpentine. There are no boxes in their environment, other than the ones they find with me.
People see things from the perspective they live. Humans are extremely dependent on boxes. We live in a box, our house. We drive a box down the road, we check off boxes to get things done. We see things in a matter of time— a box of a day, a week, month, or a year and so on. Our lives, and our perceptions are molded into a box.
I broke free and finally realized this tendency when a box could no longer hold me.
It was many years ago, when my mother suddenly passed away. I was deep in grief. The summer of her passing I moved my entire bedroom set out into the yard. I lived alone in a remote environment and for some reason this time in my life was about breaking free of boxes. Namely, the one I lived in. So, for a full summer, I slept under the stars. It was a fantastic experience and one that taught me how limited the human perspective truly is.
When you fall asleep each night looking at endless galaxies it’s a humbling experience. This experience taught me how incredibly small my perspective really was. And I’ve never forgotten it.
My horses sleep under the stars every night. It is I that needs to understand why a simple box could seem to be a challenge for a horse.
As issues such as, counter bending, dropping a shoulder, and darting off into the center started developing with Grace in the arena, I decided to go back to riding her with a halter and one lead rope.
The most amazing thing happened. I took the conflict out of the conflict. I often say, “How much pressure is there in a rope if no one’s holding onto the other end?” You cannot control a box with a single rein. And so we found another way.
Once again, Grace led me to a deeper, richer awareness. She explored every element of the arena and I went along with her. I witnessed her brilliance. And I began to feel her needs.
It wasn’t misbehavior. It was actually natural and deeply intentional. As I was riding along I could feel, sense and see her processing the whole environment. Without my control, she could drink in all she needed for a truer understanding of her part in our process. And then, as if by nature, Grace moved straight and true. She remained free while on the line. She flowed without a brace and I could see the deeper value of our experience.
Lines are not confining in freedom… only when perceived through the dependency on control.
This is a subtle and massive awareness.
I realized how I forced all the other horses in my life into a box. As Far Go watched, I felt both regret and gratitude. I wished I could have given him the same opportunity that Grace was showing me. But at the same time, as I rode past him I saw a certain look in his eye. I felt like he knew what I had found. I think he came in to witness my advancement, not Grace’s. I am happy that Far Go lived long enough to see me finally begin to evolve.
I am forever grateful for the opportunities in my shortcomings. Whether it’s with a horse or a human or even just within my own process, I now know to let go of the rope. I don’t need to control every process. I have Grace.
When I look up to the stars at night I know with complete certainty, nothing needs my control. All is given freely, abundantly and poetically. My role is to be able to stay out of the way and allow the lessons of life to guide me into the ultimate, into the return of unity.