As we stood at the gate to the horse’s paddock on a sunny afternoon, my nephew said: “Aunt Crissi, I want to pet every horse in the pen!”
“Let’s do that,” I said. “Before we go in, though, let’s breathe and feel our belly. Horses really like it when we are breathing and centered.” He took a fast breath and slapped his hand on his stomach.
Quinn is an energetic ten year old who is given to bursts of jumping, spontaneous song singing, and loud talking. I love his exuberance but wanted to give him another way to focus when we went in with the horses. Some of our horses like and understand children. A couple of them look sideways these little beings and their quick movements.
I opened the gate and Quinn darted in. I reminded him about breathing and feeling his belly. I added, “It’s also called your center and it’s the place where you and the horses can meet.”
He waited for me as I walked in while still chatting quietly about breathing and feeling our centers.
The horses had just been fed and were stuffing hay into their mouths as quickly as they could chew. They stood around the feeders, heads down, eyes half closed in gastronomic bliss. When we got part way into the paddock, all the horses picked up their heads, left their hay and walked over to us.
A rush of horses always thrills me, but this was an even bigger thrill. It was as if we had said “Hello friends,” and they were answering with a resounding hello back. It felt like that moment in the movie “Arrival,” (if I really want to age myself, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) when you realize you are actually communicating with an alien species.
I spoke to him about reaching for their shoulders or necks instead of their faces (despite the fact that all six horse faces were surrounding us) and brought him closer to me to keep him from being jostled.
Quinn and the herd exchanged their mutual admirations and one by one the horses returned to eating.
When we walked out, he gave an arm-flailing little hop and said, “That was so cool!”
As I walked over to my niece who was grooming Ally, I asked her to focus on the same things. She’s a quiet and kind girl who is very gentle with the horses. They, in turn, are quiet with her too.
Keyvnn has been riding since she started visiting us in Colorado. When she was small, I let her know that when we ride a horse, we always groom before and after. Now that she is big enough to push a wheelbarrow, the list of rules has expanded to cleaning up the pen and stalls, as well as grooming. Just as I was at her age, she is happy to participate in all things horse, and I love seeing her growing confidence.
This year we had Key focus on her belly (center) and breathing not only during riding but when she was grooming Ally as well. This gave Key time to acclimate to Ally, and it let Ally feel confident in Key’s presence.
Sharing our horses with my niece and nephew was a great way for me to explore how to phrase and teach concepts that I normally talk about with adult riders. It was also the chance for me to see just how powerful remaining in our center can be, and how it radiates out.
If we pay attention, life gives us just the right lessons at just the right time. Most of my life I haven’t paid attention, so these days I’m working on reversing that trend. I’ve been feeling a little threatened by world events the past couple of years, so this refresher on the power of our center was just what I needed. It’s been on my mind that with all the bad news that is available to us every day, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to remain centered.
And yet, I’ve found that for my own sanity and sense of peace I have to limit my news intake, increase time being in nature and being with horses, and generally choose to help as much as I can, where I can.
I’ve discovered that remaining in our center is anything but passive. It takes self-control, lots of breathing, and a fair helping of big-picture thinking especially when we feel drowned by details and out of control. I’d gotten distracted from being in my center, but Key and Quinn’s visit reminded me of the power of living there and how we can return anytime we choose.
Although it seems that sometimes our lives are everywhere but the center if we take a breath and change our focus, just for a moment, we can touch into our selves and the place where we feel most balanced. We can balance exuberance with calm, and gentleness with our breath. The beauty of horses is that they will meet us there, every time.