This fall my partners and I successfully completed our first Coming Home: Exploring Relationships with Humans, Horses and Nature workshop. I left the rolling grasslands and beautiful sunsets of that weekend feeling I had found 'something more', but this is not the something more of quantity. It is the something more of quality; of deep satisfaction from being in I-Thou relationships, of creative spontaneity, of watching grandmother moon move through the sky, and of not just being in awe of the raptor flying overhead but actually sensing the air move beneath his wing as he soars. Each person, horse, dog, and every part of nature contributed to this by bringing the authenticity required to create a sense of home where this 'something more' is available. For this I am deeply grateful.
We began as normal with introductions and many spoke of not fully understanding why they came, however they knew they were drawn for some reason. They were drawn to horses, drawn to nature, drawn to heal, drawn to the land, and perhaps most poignant, drawn to explore the intricacies of relationship in ways yet untouched. Each shared a deep desire for contact and connection in every aspect of their lives while simultaneously noticing how they protect themselves from the very connection they seek. Human beings make contact and promote relationship through language, breathe, body posture, energy, touch, spirit, awareness, sensing, and proactively reaching out. We are designed for all of these things. Interestingly, we use each of these ways to protect ourselves as well. This introductory unfolding through tears, laughter, sharing, honestly and kindness laid the foundation for the weekend.
Meeting the horses created a heightened experience of sensing, awareness, emotion and energy. As we began engaging with them, we asked them to be with us in relationship. We asked them to guide us and to follow. We intentionally were trusting in them so they could in turn trust us. We explored this trust through creating contact - which is that fertile place where our emotional, physical, spiritual and energetic boundaries touch. If you were to be a fly on the barn wall, you would see people breathing and sinking into their interactions with horses; you'd see eye contact between horse and human; you'd see softness in handling ropes and animals; you'd see people creating openings for new ways of connecting; and you'd see humility and authentic tears at the realization that one is uncertain about how to truly connect to others. Everyone at the workshop loves horses; But love is not enough. We must also have true contact, presence, listening, compassion, and trust. Love without contact and trust remains free floating, not finding a place to land as a seed blowing in the wind with no fertile ground to nurture and grow. Participants and myself found a place to land and to explore the fulfillment and reciprocity that exists when in a contact relationship.
We worked hard, played with gusto, dreamt deeply, experienced the flow that happens when we are in sync, and struggled when stopped in our tracks by the bitter wind. We allowed ourselves to cry, laugh, fox walk, track, play, rewild, and get dirty, wind-blown and smoky. Everyone tried on new ways of being, perceiving, riding, breathing, and attaching. We learned about giving ourselves and our horses a "good deal", about accepting what we are given by horses and others, and about releasing judgment in order to enter into relationship open-hearted. This was a true Coming Home for all.
Thank you "Z", Milo, Mayballine, Sapphire, Frosty, Dillon, Sparrow, Pepsi, Neo, Jade
Thank you Amy, Steve, Cindy, Bill, Kimberly, Lizzy, Marvin, Katharine (aka: George) Jess, Donna, Dawn, Tres, Megan, Dr. Sandi, and Marina. And as Kimberly would indicate in her Thanksgiving each morning, please forgive me if I left out anyone or anything for I have done my best to remember and include.
His eyes met mine, filled with mist, hope, fear and anticipation. He had just spoken in front of a group of men. Not just men but veterans who had seen the worst and been effected deeply. He spoke of his fear as others listened; he spoke of having no way out. The others leaned in, curious, waiting to see how he would be met. My eyes also filled with the hurt I saw in his soul. I began slowly speaking about protection. That perhaps his fear was not something to discard but to see and hold as a way that he protects himself. He not only needs to protect, he deserves protection, after all that is why each of these men served in our armed forces. The issue then becomes not one of eliminating fear but of recognizing when he needs to protect himself and when to trust. He was shocked from my response, speechless in fact only able to say he never heard that before. The group breathed a sigh of relief; we had begun. The rest of the group shared, deepening with each man speaking.
We were at the Split Pine Ranch in Black Forest CO. Major “O” had arranged this day along with Cindy and Bill, the ranch owners. They requested my help in leading group Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy (GEP) sessions with these men as part of the PTSD research that Major “O” is conducting. I gladly agreed.
After we all checked in, I was notified that our time was short so we immediately went to working with the horses. Cindy brought Lex (her prized stallion) into the arena and I invited the man I spoke of previously to begin the process of working with protection and not fear. He stepped forward, saying he had never touched a horse in his life. We slowly approached, supporting him to stay grounded and with his breath. Lex lifted his head and made eye contact. He knew this man needed kindness and Lex could not have been kinder. He offered to be touched, gently and kindly. As he touched Lex, he trembled, shaking, breathing, deciding if he needed protection. He chose to step in, he chose to be with a horse in a way he had never been with anyone. Slowly, touching, stroking and walking he became a different person. He said he’d never been held so kindly; he spontaneously renamed his horse “Spirit”. Tears continued and now were tears of relief, of letting go; No longer needing the tears of fear or loss in this moment. The rest of the men came forward, touching “Spirit” and supporting their comrade. Each wanting to continue, each wanting to return.
We are grateful to each man, to Major ‘O” and to Cindy and Bill. I am grateful to my new friend.
Transition Posted by Duey Freeman on May 26, 2015 in blog | 0 comments
This site marks a time of transition. I wrote this the morning of my anniversary of an accident that I had May 8, 2010. Seems fitting to start my blog with this writing.
Today is the 5th anniversary of a severe rider/horse accident I had while participating in a three day eventing clinic. In that incident I broke my pelvis, was unconscious for a bit and spent the next week or so in Swedish Hospital having surgeries and recovering. I am deeply grateful for the people who supported me in so many ways through this recovery and healing process. I am aware that this incident contributed to ending some relationships as well as helping to create important, deep friendships. I made the commitment at the time to become to a significantly better horseman, and more importantly, a better person and man.
Over the past few years I have worked with a number of trainers and horse people. Each helped evolve much deeper relationships and respect for my horses as well as the horses I have worked with in other places such as New Zealand and Happy Dog Ranch. I am deeply grateful to Mark Rashid for teaching me about energy and openings. I am grateful to Amy and Steve LeSatz for teaching me about trusting my horse, so my horse can trust me. I am grateful to Christy Jemail for spending time with me watching my release, timing and subtle cues. I am grateful to Happy Dog Ranch for hosting GEIR in ways I never could have imagined. I know I will work with all of you in various ways through the next few years. Joanie Rieger had been a superstar and dear friend collaborating to continue to create GEIR with me, learning together how to do this work in ways that people throughout the world love. Duane Mullner, although not a horseman, has tirelessly supported my growth as a man. Thank you Joanie and Duane.
I am ready for the next evolution of my work and exploration in life. I will be traveling back to New Zealand in the fall and teaching at various institutes and institutions. The more important development is that in conjunction with Kimberly Beck M Ed, we are creating “Coming Home: Relational explorations merging Human, Horse and Nature.” This project will include work with horses, dogs, plants, animals, birds and immersion into natural / wilderness settings. After speaking extensively with Steve and Amy LeSatz, the four us will lead our first 4 day Human, Horse and Nature experience September 19, 20, 21, 22. This will include groundwork and mounted work from a relational horsemanship perspective as well as nature mentoring and tracking. Stay tuned for many more details as well as other adventures.
Today marks a shift, I honor this experience, my horse and all that has emerged.