• vslachman

Changing the World

Updated: Jul 25, 2019



A horse just off the tack--Harry was his barn name--I was showing to a woman at the rescue. She'd driven hours to see him and adopted him on the spot.

I worked with a lot of different horses at the rescue, mainly trying to understand what each one really wanted to do in his next career. What a joy that was for me.


Storm, the son of Afleet Alex, loved jumping; Slew, the grandson of Seattle Slew, hated it and would dive out even over poles.

Slew is the beautiful black horse in front.

I wasn't really a trainer, of course, I was just starting the horses out with the hope that a potential adopter who wanted an eventing horse, a hunter-jumper, a trail horse, or maybe a dressage prospect, would find a horse who already enjoyed that discipline.


Julie Goodnight, a renowned trainer, speaks about riding "chi first." Chi is a Chinese term meaning our "life force" or energy and Goodnight locates that pretty much in the solar plexis.


A hunter-jumper trainer I know feels the best riders have several sets of connections to the horse, and they all should work independently--the leg, the upper body, the hands . . . .

And Kim Walnes tells how during the World Championships, when her injury prevented her from steering The Gray Goose, she led him through the course literally with her eyes (see more about her here).


Kim and Gray at Rolex, which she won!

I think what they're all talking about in their own way, is the nature of our connection to and communication with our horses.


Certainly, I'm no expert! But in my relationship to Dorian, and to all those horses back at the rescue, for me the connection has very, very little to do with me and a whole lot to do with the horse.

There is an art of listening, which is to listen completely without any motive, because a motive in listening is a distraction. . . . it is only the very silent, quiet mind that finds what is true.” Krishnamurti

When Dorian was still at the rescue, and still very spooky, I was leading him out the pasture one day on a halter. There was a buried piece of bailing twine in my path and my boot caught in it; I went sprawling, doing a spread-eagled face plant right in front of Dorian.


He spooked badly, rearing and (this is why you should not stand in front of a spooky horse!), racing blindly ahead. He ran right over me. Even in his frenzied state, the darling tried his best not to step on me.


Obviously, things could have gone terribly wrong that day.


As it was, he glanced off the back of both my knees, but that was the extent of his contact. I jumped up, retrieved him, calmed him down, saddled him up and we rode--not a long time, and mostly just to assure him that all was well. He looked terribly worried.

Chubbikins. :)

I thought everything was fine, until a while later when my right knee and then my entire leg blew up to about three times its normal size and I was in passing-out-level pain. The good news was I was already on winter break from school, so I didn't need to walk to my office or class, or teach.

The bad news was I was due to drive down to my daughter's place in Memphis for Christmas with her and her then boyfriend's (later husband!) huge family.


I couldn't walk and could hardly think at times because the pain was so insanely intense. I called a person to pray with me about this (my normal "go to" for healing) and by the time I had to leave I was able somehow to wrestle my suitcase downstairs, load it in the car, and drive to Memphis, singing hymns all the way.


Someone there loaned me a walking cane and I got through the holiday, but by the end of it, I was still not quite completely healed.


It took, in fact, some weeks to get back to any semblance of normalcy, but I learned many things during that time. One of the things I learned a lot more about was gratitude.


How profoundly grateful I was to be able to take even a step as the healing progressed--something I normally take completely for granted. And to not have pain . . . wow! That was an unbelievable gift!

A beautiful paint horse I got to ride at the rescue, named "Unique." She is quite elegant!

So--when I was able to go the barn where I'd moved Dorian in the interim, he'd had a lot of time off! And like so much in life, when I started working with him again, it seemed we'd taken huge steps . . . backwards.


By that time, he was a bit herd bound, and would rather be with his buddies than with me. It was tempting to have hurt feelings. Or to be impatient. Or a little miffed.

"Changing the world isn't an option--it's a given. Everything we do changes the world, it's up to us to choose how we will change it." Dixie Gillaspie

I chose patience. I chose to listen in the way Krishnamurti asks us to--without motive, without agenda, without expectation, and with as much selflessness as I could muster.


The result was Dorian and I spent a lot of time in very short spurts at first. I'd get him from the pasture and we'd do a bit of round pen work. Then back he'd go to his friends.

Dorian's version of round pen work. Ha! :)

Or we'd saddle up and go for a short training session in the indoor arena. Then back he'd go to the herd.


We'd hang out. I'd talk and he'd listen. Or I'd try to be quiet and listen to him. I tried a little bareback . . . just anything to rebuild that connection--but always on his terms.

Bareback pad and rope halter. Back to basics!

And so that was another great lesson for me--allowing what needed to happen to happen. Consenting to enter the flow of our life with patience. And being grateful for every small step (literally) we took.

"The instant that we allow in either worry or frustration, it is virtually inevitable that we will get a little less relaxed, less elastic, and become more tight. And horses respond to tension how? We know the answer to that. They become more of whatever it was that triggered the human response in the first place." Tamarack Hill Farm

And, in fact, with that focus, our work was not full of separation between us or tension, but a pronounced sense of joy!


This experience brought home to me again, how important are gratitude and selflessness. Not focusing on "self" helped me not clutch so tightly to tension or frustration with Dorian or with myself.


And . . . having a lot less "self" concern and a lot more grateful awareness of even the smallest things I take for granted seems like a pretty good plan I can (hopefully) take into the future.





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