It’s easier to ride the horse in the direction she’s going. – W. Erhard
This post is written by Satya Keyes, Volunteer Coordinator at the Return to Freedom Mustang Sanctuary. Satya and I often worked closely together with the horses during my time at the sanctuary. This is the story of a paint mare, Analine, who touched us both. Satya tells the story…
Analine is a pretty pinto. A wild mustang who once lived out on the rough terrain of the Cold Creek range in Nevada. She kept with her band and always alert. Very sensitive. Even just the pressure of a thought of a human hand touching her fine white and brown shoulder can ripple her skin with that twitch – the one that signals natural endorphins into relieving stress.
When she came out of roundup to the rolling high chaparral of Return to Freedom’s 2000-acre sanctuary in San Luis Obispo she found her band to connect with and over time was able to slow her fears of men some – fears that shook her to her roots from that roundup that ripped her from her birth-earth.
And she thrived! Until one day, in a mix of tangles and rock ruts her left front hoof got caught somehow. So she just pulled and pulled to get free, watching her band move away to water for the night. But she pulled too hard. Pulling for that freedom that calls deep and loud in her nature, she tore muscles and ligaments. Lame-struck, she had to be brought into trailer a few days later – by humans again – so we could treat her at our barn and healing facilities.
After a year now, her wild is not gone and her foot has healed – for the most part. But she’s no longer meant for the roughness of the open range. It became time for her new life, where she can live in easier pastures, with some friends, and eventually see if she wants to come to halter, maybe even one day find a beautiful adoptive forever home.
It’s in this time between when I met Analine in our main barn. So shy – always keeping her body and her hurt foot away from me, against a rail, protecting it as she eyes me. She looks at me with an open heart, I sense, and yet it’s shadowed over by a decent wariness. I see both. Hear both. And respect both.
What I first discovered on this path of trust with Analine was that I looked like men she’d seen before – men that pushed her out of the wild. So I felt from her that I would need to love the wild to not be taken out of her. What I first learned on our long trail to trust began by me learning to listen, and she, seeing me learn.
Every instinct that welled up in me just watching her from the outside of the rail told me to just be with her. Just be. In Carolyn Resnick’s Liberty work (Resnick’s the founder of Liberty Training) – and in Return to Freedom’s principle of love that horses come first – the initial truism in connecting with a horse happens best in sharing territory. That is, just being near Analine, starting outside the rail, and over time into her paddock, just being there – doing nothing about anything, simply sharing the space and environment with her in it – that’s sharing territory. Even thinking the thoughts “will she notice me,” or the subtle wish that she may even look at me, or come over to me is too much pressure and to be dropped. Noticed, and dropped. Sharing territory means just being there. Like a horse. Like Analine. Feeling the breeze, hearing a bird, seeing a driving hay-tractor… just standing in the Silence.
For a minute.
For an hour.
For a week.
For a month…. Whatever it takes to be. The being is the connection. So I do this. Watching her seeing me learn.
Sitting there, inside the sphere of her love, of her wary, of her not even caring, I watch. Watching is both of the expanse of the outside world, and of the inner chatter and flux of emotions that go on in my interior landscape. Trust is a space, not an activity.
And space is real. Full of real sand and dirt, muck and hay, rail and water. Space holds these things. Along with sky and trees and wind and grass and grain. And other animals. Other humans. Noise and rattles, laughter, and words crossing through it – sometimes as jolts, other times, just jibbing. Watching, it is so fertile to see how the mind keeps filling up with thoughts and moods and emotions – filling up what it thinks is empty space.
Holding space without doing anything to fill it – dissolving the mind’s chatter via awareness of it – I share territory with Analine. Witnessing. Stuff like thoughts; “Analine! Look over here! How are you? Do you want to come over to me?” Noiseless pleas and bargaining, like poker chips wagering for an angle on connection. And Analine isn’t playing.
This sensitive mare, with every bet I hopefully place in even the thinnest air of thought, simply shudders a flank, turns away, nudging her hay – teaching me. Trust is revealing. It’s an “empty” space that carries thought like waves across it. And Horse, like Analine, is an archetype of good sense. Native sensibility. It’s in her nature. Sense that can feel the slightest silent conceit down in the basement hiding in the back of my mind, working for my own self-interest. Not in the interest of the whole. The whole space. Where we both live. Trust has much to do with being Nature-centric and uncovering ourselves, not acting out of ego-centric subtleties. In those, Nature, both inner and outer, are simply layered over.
She can’t trust this man who is putting on such “airs”! Such pressure as even a wayward wanting thought gets felt, gets heard, gets read… gets real. He’s just figuring out a way in the ways of men, to take, to train, to tame her. And Analine is Horse, in all it’s archetype. Shadow and Light. Brown and white. She teaches with real Silence, beyond our mindstuff.
Then, when I become settled in the real way of sharing territory, and I let go of my thoughts, Presence, I find, abides. When witnessing the most subtle mind-works, just sitting there is not “just sitting there” at all. A primal energy of life abides.
Once I discover this, in a moment, after a week, thru the months, I am seeing from Witnessing ground. And the noise of the rattling mind withdraws. Presence is happening. For a moment. Then two. Then more…. Eventually it abides easily, like the tongue tip taste of salt and sweet from an ocean or an apple.
Each sharing territory session I come away from I notice I am quieter. I am easier. And I am easier feeling trust. Trust that is in myself. It appears that Analine is teaching me more, and well. Still, standing across the paddock, left side protected against the rail, she looks straight ahead. Or down at her hay.
And then… one day it happened. She bends her head, her eye glancing, and after a quiet 20 minutes, she turns her head towards me. And when she does I see her see me. It is a loving liquid look into hearts. We are just there. Present in Presence.
It took me many hours and days of this sharing territory until Analine signaled me in small ways, taking us further and further as she felt the comfortable space of connection, and she could feel ok. That’s when she walked over to me.
So we began there. Which is here, really. Because I find after long hours and days of finding the witnessing lay of the land, presence is only, strangely, right now. Right here. And this is a strange truth of trust. It was always here, but covered up – in desires and wants and mind. Then, trust became space. Space became Watching. Watching turned to Presence. Presence transformed into trust – for both of us. My process prepared me to meet Analine where she lives – was waiting for me – learning about men. Leaving the wild, we collaborated in letting in the love.
It took us – Callie, with me shadowing her – several weeks and great patience and creativity and “yes” and we brought Analine gently and of her own accord, into halter. Analine brought us into knowing an experience of the wild in trust. Sharing territory morphed and evolved. It moved from just space to grain treats or alfalfa rhythms, or walking away and back again, and not walking away. Communicating with sounds. Without words. Targeting. Then time off. However we worked with Analine, we were collaborating with her “yes.” I followed what Analine showed me, in trust. I still do.
I trust her totally. That’s how I found out. By trusting myself first. And that came about by letting the wild teach me. Teaching me about Presence. Presence is the territory, I find, that Horse abides. Sharing, Analine is always letting me know.