Dorian and I went on a slow ride under a big, blue sky and temps. in the 80s . . . after the winter and spring we'd had, we relished the wonderful weather. We worked a little in the big arena--Dorian was great in moving into a nice, rhythmic trot (even collecting!) then we headed out to the trails.
I really wanted to go slowly. I wanted to be present completely--it's been such a long, long stretch of challenges for me and Dorian. So we meandered out back, down the pasture trail to stand under a huge, towering tree.
Then, down to the creek and over into the woods, Dorian being so cooperative, enjoying the day just as much as I was.
We walked through the woods by the creek. The entirety was infused with a deep green lit from some interior light both Dorian and I breathed in as if Life itself had come to bless us.
A breeze gifted itself through the trees and washed over us, and the bugs were, blessedly, absent. The only sound was Dorian's periodic deep exhale and a soft shake of his head.
The world, for once, was completely silent.
Once we bring a mindfulness practice into our relationships with horses, they relax enough to show us who they are and what they can teach us. Patricia Elliot Rothchild.
There's a lot of talk in horse training circles about getting your horse to "yield"--yield the hindquarters, yield the forequarters, yield to leg . . . which is to say, horses yield to pressure. Horses move away from pressure (not unlike us). So in training, we're taught that when the horse yields to pressure at all--even a smidgen, even a lean, even a thought!, the pressure comes off.
I've been more inclined to reverse that lately, and yield to Dorian (until there's a reason not to, of course!) and all he brings me in contact with. And there are always lessons there I'm in serious need of learning.
So, in the woods that day, I let Dorian figure out where he wanted to go, and I just went along for the ride, gazing between his ears at the path ahead. He dodged the boggy places as we passed the giant tires filled with pebbles now overgrown with weeds . . . The woods were lush and primitive, taking the world over on its own terms.
Pretty soon, Dorian made his way to the lime-green grass in a pool of sun and lowered his head gently, grazing the low grass. Every now and then he'd raise his head and gaze out in front or to the right. Horses sense so much of the world we're unaware of. Nothing seemed of interest in whatever caught his attention, and back to grazing he'd go.
"A man on a horse is spiritually, as well as physically, bigger than a man on foot." John Steinbeck
I've been thinking about the word "dominion" lately. It has two meanings: the first is one thing being superior to and so "dominating" another, but the other definition is more interesting to me. If you look up American colonial or English history, you'll find that "dominion" is also used to name a territory or a body of land. Dominion's second definition is a "territory under sovereign rule" by, say, a government.
Both its definitions have become pretty important to me, in terms of what I'm "yielding" to.
In this case, Dorian had brought me into a place filled with calmness, quietness, and beauty.
Would I yield to it? Would I allow myself to enter that "dominion," one Dorian is so much at home in? Yes, I did that day, and we spent a lot of time just breathing in the deep greenness around us. (Learn more about how that's measurably, physically restorative here).
After a while, and after immersing ourselves in the serenity all around us, I figured we'd head up the steep path to the top and venture out of the woods to the big field, planted with soybeans this year.
Dorian mustered a lunging, fast trot up the slope, knowing from past rides there'd be grass at the top along the field's edge.
When we got to the top and out into the wide world, the sky opened up its deep royal blue expanse over us, and the towering trees along the woods ruffled audibly in the wind. That Bible verse came to mind about "trees clapping their hands"--that's exactly what it sounded like to me.
Dorian snorted and we made our way through the shoulder high grass out alongside the planted field. Ahead lay the farm house, and sheds with their dark interiors and old machinery laying around.
But we were alone--no dogs, no other riders, no one managing the fields or mowing the grass . . . it was as if only Dorian and I existed together in a world only we inhabited.
The term "Mindfulness" is such a glib phrase these days. But I've been asking myself the question lately--what is my mind "full" of? What am I "yielding" my thought to?
The answer isn't always as I'd hoped! More often than not I'm moving away from some pressure, either external or internal.
I know a lot of folks who jokingly say things like "I love my horse. People, not so much." I've certainly had that thought.
It's easy for me to love the simplicity, honesty, straightforwardness of animals. It's much tougher, sometimes, to see through the complications of humans. And the complexities and colliding stuff inside myself is often an even bigger challenge.
But at the core, I know we all have the same simplified nature I see in Dorian. We all want to live out from the inherent goodness at the center of who we are.
It's not easy to yield to that--to the quiet dignity I find in Dorian, that serene and nourishing dominion. I'm trusting though, that what we first desire, we're on our way to achieving!