5 Simple Steps
Step 1 : Go into Nature
At the Gift of The Horse we have a simple question that is kind of like our "go to" when we are sharing our teaching with others. Every time we come to meet the horse we ask ourselves:
"How can I serve the horse today?".
One of the answers to that question is, take your horse out into nature. Horses absolutely love to explore nature. They love to sniff, smell and sample what she has to offer. You may discover that she enjoys a particular herb or likes a certain variety of grass more than others. Sometimes we will feel called to take the horse for a brisk walk, which is a wonderful way to get some exercise together, but true undemanding time can really only be fully experienced, when you allow your horse to set the pace. If she wants to stay and explore a certain area, support her to do so.
Attach a long supporting rein to your horse's halter when you plan to go on a nature exploration with her. This will mean that she will have plenty of drift to reach the spots that she wants to and you will be free to support her, without crowding her.
Did you know?
At The Gift of The Horse we refer to lead reins, lunge reins, or ropes as "supporting reins" Why? Because our human mind tends to want to identify with things and attach meaning to things. (This is the ego's need to label.) If I call the rope attached to my horse the lead rein, I identify myself as the one leading the horse. And through this identification, I have labeled myself as superior. However at The Gift of The Horse, we like to identify as the one who supports the horse and through the rein we can enable the horse to be taken to places that she could not get to on her own, given her domestication. Names and labels mean nothing of course, but a positive name can support a shift in perception if we find ourselves wanting to revert to dominating the horse.
Always make sure that your horse does not stand on the supporting rein, as the weight of her hoof on the rein will cause a great deal of pressure to be exerted onto the poll (the delicate space just behind her ears).
Make sure that your supporting rein is light weight and does not have a heavy clasp, as this can put constant pressure at the poll. (As you can see this area is vulnerable spot!)
Only support her drifting and exploring if you feel confident to do so and she is in a very relaxed, calm and curious state. Read her body language and her energy and make a call on whether an exploration will work, or if it will be better suited and safer to keep walking.
Step 2: Allow your horse to show you what she needs
When you and your horse are exploring in nature and you offer her the freedom and drift of the supporting rein, you will begin to notice what she likes to eat and what she doesn't like to eat. My horse completely surprised me on a recent exploration - she began eating dry oak leaves! It was extremely heartwarming to watch her sniffing all the leaves, then carefully select the one that she wanted, picking it up gently with her lips, chewing and savouring the new taste. She was completely present and focused only on this little oak leaf.
Most of our horses have very little dietary variety in their paddocks, if any at all. Taking these explorations together can be seen as both undemanding time and a wonderful opportunity for your horse to show you what she would like more of in her diet. Contact a local feed specialist who will be best suited to advise you on what vitamins and trace minerals may be missing from your horse's roughage and grazing. This is a far better than just blindly buying a supplement. Figure out what is missing first and then - supplement!
Do a quick Google search on plants that are poisonous to horses in your local area before you go for an outing. Normally horses will not eat anything that is poisonous, but rather be safe and avoid any plants known to be toxic.
Step 3: Walk, walk and walk some more!
In the wild horses will spend a great deal of time walking. They are great conservers of energy, only using a blast of speed to get away from a predator or when they are playing with one another. Another go to question we like to ask ourselves when adopting The Gift of The Horse Philosophy is:
"What would my horse do if she lived in the wild?"
She would walk. She most definitely would not trot in circles or move long distances at a steady canter.
Offer your horse absolute freedom of where she places her feet when she walks. Many horses need to be able to chose the footing they walk on, depending on the sensitivity of their feet.
Check out Paddock Paradise - an amazing concept by Jamie Jackson who teach us how we can create environments that keep our horses moving over varied terrains and in loops as they would do in the wild.
Always keep yourself and your horse safe. There may be times when you absolutely have to insist that your horse keep moving or walks on a certain surface, for her safety and for your safety. When I take my horse for a walk, there is one very small and narrow bit of footing alongside a busy road corner. Vari likes to walk on the tar road, but if a car were to speed around the corner, she would be hit square in the hocks. So, as a safety precaution, she has to walk on the path. Always make the call that is the safest option for you and your horse.
Always let someone close to you know where you will be walking, how long you plan to be gone and when you expect to be back home. Pack a light backpack with water in a glass bottle, a sunhat, your cell phone and of course nibbles for you and your horse. I love to walk in my yoga clothes and sneakers. I have a light bag that is just the right size for my phone and a few lucern cubes.
Step 4: Rest
When they're not walking, or grazing, our horses are resting. A wonderful way to spend undemanding time with your horse is to go and rest with her. Often when we come to our horses we feel we also have to "get something done" and we have a list of tasks that need completing. At The Gift of The Horse, we absolutely thrive on coming to the horse to rest. Think blankets, books and a warm flask of tea. When we come without an agenda, we create a space for something greater to come through if it is the right time. You never know, your horse may bring you the halter and a new adventure could begin.
Horses by nature are often in a state of semi alert rest. As prey animals, they are naturally programmed to keep one eye on the horizon. They have what is called a "stay apparatus" in their legs which allows them to doze off while standing, without falling down! As a busy mom, this would be quite handy for me!!
A remarkable fact is that horses only actually sleep a total of 2.9 hours in a 24 hour cycle. And sometimes they may only sleep for several minutes within this 24 hour period. Most of this sleep occurs in short intervals throughout the 24 hours. They are more vulnerable to a predator if they lie down. But you will notice that the bigger the herd (and the more horses available to keep watch) the more you will notice horses lying down. Horses only need to lie down completely once every few days to meet their minimum REM sleep requirements.
Your horse may not be getting enough rest or meeting her minimum REM requirements if she lives in a very small herd or even alone. (Please note: horses should never be kept alone, it is extremely detrimental to their wellbeing.) As we all know, sleep and rest are essential for our mental, emotional and physical health. Consider keeping your horse in a lovely big group if possible, it is what is most natural to them.
Try not to wake your horse up if you happen to come to the stables and she is having a snooze. It will only be for a few minutes (unless she is getting in her REM time!) Grab your blanket and wait for her under a tree, it may be a wonderful opportunity to come to stillness yourself.
When you come to rest with your horse make sure that you are safe. I would not suggested lying down amongst a herd of horses and having a sleep. Horses, especially when they live in a herd are blessed to experience life in a way that is closest to their true nature. This can mean that you may be at risk of being harmed during normal herd behaviour. Always stay vigilant when around large groups of horses and don't pack carrots or apples for yourself to snack on!!
A wonderful way to spend restful time with your horse while she is in her herd, is to find a spot a little way off from the group and respectfully observe from a distance. You can also pack a picnic blanket to throw over a log and while your horse rests, you can sip on your warm flask of tea. I also like to use this time to practice yoga, meditate or just soak in the smell of the grass and the warm of the sun.
Step 5: Act Natural
When you are spending undemanding time with your horse (which can be all the time by the way!) try to leave your humanness at home. When you are with you horse allow your mind to quieten, your internal chatter to subside. When the mind becomes still, the spirit is free to connect with nature. Suddenly, as if for the first time, you start to smell the beautiful earth, you feel the wind on your face, as if she comes to gently move the hair from your eyes and you start to drop into the feeling of being deeply, deeply rooted and connected to this exact moment. This is an opportune time to meditate, pray or allow yourself the opportunity to practice gratitude. Record voice notes of how you are feeling and what is coming up for you. If you feel you can manage, pack a journal and jot down your thoughts.
Keep an eye out for our Free Guided Meditations, coming soon!
If you are like me and have snakes in your local community, do a quick scan of the area you plan to meditate in for any creatures who were there before you. I am sure all horse owners have had at least one encounter with a snake or large rat in the feed room. Always adopt the attitude of "Do No Harm" and choose a spot that is more suitable.
A wonderful world is available to you the moment you begin to spend undemanding time with your horse. You will come away feeling nurtured, loved and deeply peaceful.
Spending undemanding time with horses is an exceptionally relaxing and soulful experience. I do hope you give it a try! I know that you and your horse can only benefit from it. Undemanding time will deepen your connection and strengthen your communication. And perhaps most importantly it will enhance your emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.
So grab your halter and your sneakers and get out there!
Sending love and light and loads of undemanding time to you and your horse.
Sat Nam xx
Founder of The Gift of The Horse.