2011 has sure been an eventful year with many challenges and opportunities. If you are like me, you are ready to see what 2012 is all about! I see this as a time of expanded conscious awareness for all of us. Certainly, my work with the horses all over the world supports this. Recently I was asked, "What do you see and feel is the common denominator with horses and people in your travels?" As always, my answer was "Horses are helping us to wake up." (See my article "How Horses Help Us to Know Ourselves")
My colleagues and I have been working on a concept which we call Relationship in Motion or RIM. Over the years in my work in Equine Facilitated Learning, as well as work with families and corporations, I have noticed that much of a relationship is lost or put aside when a goal, deadline, or time constraint is present. In EFL I notice that people may love connecting with the horses on the ground through grooming, reflective round pen work (one in which there is no goal but to be in relationship), or just standing and being with the herd in the field.
However, because we are human, and many times goal oriented and constrained by time limits, I see people dropping the feeling of connection to get "the job done." RIM is a process we are developing that assists the person to be in relationship- or limbic connection- with the horse and get motion or movement with collaboration. This may seem simple but those of us working with horses, children, spouses or employees know this is not always the case. What parent hasn't temporarily "lost it" when asking their child for the 100th time to clean up their room? When you are going to get your horse for an activity with a client, do you remember to tell them what you would like?
We know that maintaining a limbic connection and asking for movement involves the heart, intention from the brain, and pressure (or direction) from the belly or power center of the body. When one is predominant (or lost) the horse will often stand stock still or be overcome with confusion. Active round pen work, as opposed to the traditional lunging of the horse, can offer the opportunity to stay in connection and get movement and collaboration. What I have seen more often, however, is that people get into the goal of the activity and the horse - who has learned to "obey" the signals- performs the activities mindlessly but is often disconnected. This disconnect, of course, will often translate into peoples' lives outside the round pen. I have also seen many times the person who wants to stay in their heart be unable to get any kind of forward movement.
As a facilitator of EFL I want the client and the horse to have the best possible experience - an experience which will help the client's body to remember what it feels like in connection and with movement. I recall a man who experienced post traumatic stress disorder and had limited his life to the degree that even benign opportunities for change frightened him and kept him isolated and alone. We had introduced the concept of emotions as information, and especially the differentiation of fear versus vulnerability. It was his turn to get the horse (with some assistance from the equine professional) and see if he could have an experience of movement in the round pen. At the beginning of the workshop he had told part of his story and informed us that he was terrified of horses. By the time we got to this activity he had been with the horse in a safe place and was open to the challenge of taking the horse for a walk. The facilitator let this man take the time to connect with the horse, by putting on her halter and beginning the walk to the round pen. By the time the man and horse entered the round pen so much had happened that all he wanted to do was to just "be with the horse".Was this a success? You bet it was.
When he came out of the experience and shared with the group he said, "Kathleen when you first introduced the difference between fear (outright physical or emotional threat) and vulnerability (inside change or opportunity), I was not sure I would be able to tell the difference. I had spent so many years reacting to the feeling of fear that I had not allowed myself any opportunities for change." When asked for one word at the end of the workshop to sum up his experience with the horse, his word was "Courage." The smile on his face when he faced the challenge of connection and movement with the horse is one that will remain with me for a long time.
Another example of Relationship in Motion (RIM) involved a horse trainer and a reluctant horse. The woman went to get the horse and, after checking in with her body, got the message to go slowly. Later that message would have a lot of significance for her in her personal life. As we watched the exchange between woman and horse we noticed how slowly and deliberately she took each step. Now this woman is a horse trainer so she certainly knows how to get a horse to move. However, she took the time to listen to herself - and what the horse needed - to get to the round pen. I have to admit I had to let go of my idea of what might be happening to support what was happening between them. It took her 40 minutes step by step.
When she got to the round pen I asked her what she wanted to do. Her response was priceless, "I told him the goal was to walk to the round pen and that I would take the time he needed to do this. Once that happened I learned what I needed from the experience." This horse had a problem with people pushing him beyond his limits. The trainer could feel in her body that the opportunity for him to create a new memory of pressure and release was more important than any goal. As a goal oriented person, this lesson translated to her life and allowed her to feel what it would be like to have forward movement and to maintain connection with herself and loved ones.
We have had many opportunities to see and observe this connection and movement, or Relationship in Motion, with people and horses. It is the "dance of relationship" with collaboration with full intention and respect, that the body remembers when working with horses or people the next time a challenge and opportunity is presented.
I have mentioned just two examples of the work with horses and people from this year. I have traveled over the world this year and seen many more. For this opportunity, I would like to thank the horses and my colleagues; Wendy and Andre at Horse Spirit Connections in Canada (www.HorseSpiritConnections.com); Sun Tui and her herd in England ( www.ifeal.me); Eva Balzer and her herd in Germany (www.Zentaura.de); Drea Bowen in Washington state at the Equine Empowerment Center, (firstname.lastname@example.org); Lisa Murrell in New York ( www.EquineAlchemy.com); Susan Castaneda in New Mexico ( www.EquineAlchemy-Southwest.com); and Eve Lee and her horses at Loghaven in Illinois (www.EquineMagic.com).
Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA