Healing and Horses… You won’t look at a horse in the same way again
I had just finished my private 2-hour horse riding lesson on Zeb. I had already bonded with him during the lesson and I think he liked me too because he did what I asked. After the lesson, I brought Zeb to the stable. The trainer had left the stable so I was with him all by myself. I stood there with him for a while, being fully present with him and he was giving me his full attention too. This was quite surreal and I think I became quite overwhelmed with his presence. I looked at Zeb and his majestic presence, I hugged him and simply cried. He didn’t move at all. He stayed present with me for however long I cried. Not even a shake, a sound or a shiver. he was there – simply there with me.
This was a profound moment for me. In that moment I knew that my trust and my relationship with this world was being healed in a different dimension.
Another time, I was meant to ride with (notice the use of ‘with’ and not ‘on’, you’d soon know why) him but I wasn’t able to be present with him and he sensed it so he just wouldn’t do what I asked. To really make an impact, the trainer asked me to stand 2 metres away from the horse and simply encourage him to do things that I wanted him to do. I am like what!! no reins, no contact and I am supposed to make this giant horse do things…
At the end, it was all a matter of grounding myself and I couldn’t believe when, after a few breaths, he followed me. He did what I asked and he was standing 2-3 metres away from me.
This was the power of Alexander Technique (you could also call it horse whispering). In this technique I learned that I could use my presence and relieve tension in my muscles and from that place, I can become one with the horse. This was such a transformational journey.
Before 2006, I had never been on a horse before. My first riding experience was at Yarrabin. Yarrabin Guest Ranch is located 6.5 kilometres from O’Connell near Bathurst in NSW’s central west. It lays claims to being the original Australian Guest property. It was setup by Annie’s father, Gavin Christie, in 1963 after he had been working in America on ranches for about a year. Today, Yarrabin is spread over 1000 hectares with a variety of bush trails and open paddocks.
Yarrabin is an aboriginal word meaning “ghost gums”.
How naive I was at the time! In my mind, horse riding was like riding a bike as a passenger – how hard could it be to just sit on a horse when it’s actually the horse that’s doing the work? Just sit back and enjoy and let the horse take you places. Well! That view changed as soon as I had my first riding experience on Nugget. Nugget was the lead mare at the time; she may not be the fastest but she definitely knew how to be in control. I was the last one in the last group of riders.
Annie started teaching us how to trot on the horse: “Guys, use your thighs to have a comfortable grip on the horse sides; heels down in the stirrups; lift yourself up and back down with the horse’s gait.”
I had no idea what horse’s gait meant. I couldn’t grip and kept bumping up and down with the horse. By the time the ride ended, my body was tired and sore. Thankfully, I could relax myself in the warm spa and was ready by the afternoon for my next ride.
Soon, I learned to ride, and got promoted to faster horses. I also learned to understand their personalities. They all had their own quirkiness; Yarrah loved to bite and bully other horses, but I could control him; Lady was really lady-like unless you take her out in the paddocks; Freckles was a good listener and Monty was such a gentleman. He used to be a racehorse but he was my favourite horse. I remember this weekend where I was riding him and I was so scared that he was going to bolt. But somehow, he knew how I was feeling and kept at the speed that I was comfortable with.
When I first started riding, it was the subtle relationship between the horse and the rider that intrigued me. I wanted to learn and understand the subtle cues I was giving my horse; it not only made me communicate better with the horse but it also allowed me to be aware of what I was doing and what I was thinking and the tension I was holding in my body.
I got better at it but then, there were weekends when my horse would either stumble at every other step or I would lose the reins and Annie would come to my rescue. I felt confused and didn’t understand. The answer came soon when we all stayed at Yarrabin for a week and Annie showed me this book called “It’s not about the horse” by Wyatt Webb.
Webb has been a practising therapist for quite a few years but his tools don’t involve a leather couch and his clients do not arrive in a suit or high heels. Instead, they clean hooves and groom the horses.
“How you relate to this animal will tell us what you’ve learned over the course of your lifetime concerning how you relate to all living things.”
He claims that horses react to the energy vibes that are transmitted by the rider. At his “Equine Experience” in Arizona, USA, he asks his clients to do a few simple tasks with horses that reveal to him what is going on in their lives as the interaction with the horse serve as a mirror to one’s relationships with other human beings.
“Remember one thing,” he says “It’s not about the horse”
“If you walk through your fear that something must be wrong with you, then what you always find on the other side is that there’s nothing wrong with you. And there’s nothing to be afraid of,”
Reading his books made me see my own inner demons that I was so easily able to avoid otherwise. Thankfully, the horses at Yarrabin and the Studio Evolving provided me with that therapy. They taught me how to trust again, how to listen to my own body and how to communicate. With horses, healing never felt like healing.
Horses are a majestic creature (who don’t really know how majestic they are) and know how to be grounded and how to be present with us, If we allow them.
They are one of the most profound nonverbal teachers and healers I have ever met.
I enjoy the physical experience of riding and being in the bush but I also love the non-verbal communication that transpires on every ride between my horse and me. They help me understand myself better and allow me to work with my inner fears.
Don’t believe me, try for yourself 🙂
- An article in The Huffington Post titled Wyatt Webb’s horses will change your life if you let them
- Yarrabin Horseriding Ranch
- Studio Evolving (this is where I learned riding via Alexander Technique)
- An article discussing the benefits of alexander technique in riding
- A website with loads of information about alexander technique
- Australian Society of the Teachers of the Alexander Technique – website