This weekend, I attended a Chi Kung with Horses Workshop. It was an awesome experience!
Yesterday we started off by learning to ground ourselves. Begin by standing with your feet about shoulders width apart, feet straight (i.e., not toes out or inward). Deep breath, lock your knees then unlock them, then "open" them (rotate outward just a bit). Then drop your tailbone, drop your shoulders a bit (but breathing deeply of course), chin up/forward (not exaggerated). Feel yourself dropping all your weight into the ground, feeling the ground, feel the ground evenly on all areas of your foot (i.e., not more weight on the outside/inside/heel, etc). Another exercise is to sort of "jiggle", just stand there, ground, and jiggle all over, just wiggle around to release tension. You can also stomp your feet, jump, whatever you feel you need to do to dissipate that tension. (The instructor, Robert, whinneys and blows, lol).
Then we did the "teacup" exercise. Its hard to explain, you hold your hand at about your waist, with your fingers pointed at your hip, palm up (kinda wierd feeling), you are holding teacup in your palm and don't want to drop it. You take your hand away and sort of rotating it upward and over your head, down in front of you and back to your hip, while keeping the palm upward so you don't drop the teacup. In order to do it properly with the first motion of out and up you need to sort of stick your bum out, then as you come up and over your head your pelvis comes back in and your shoulders go back. It loosens you up and stretches.
Then we did "two eagles soaring". With you hands relaxed at your center (just below your belly button, however long your arms are, don't hold them up, just leg them hang comfortably, but at your center) hands are relaxed, thumbs up (but not poking up), imagine a breeze lifing the "eagle" up onto the winds, up to about chin height, then down around the side and returning at the center. Repeat with the other hand.
"Hugging the Tree", stand in the "grounded position", then hold your arms up around in front of you as if you are encircling a tree. Thumbs up again, but not poking up, fingers/hands/wrists soft/relaxed. Then someone comes over to you, holds your shoulder and feels your strength by offering resistance on your arm that is "hugging".
We did all this out in the paddock, and the horses wandered in and out, some nuzzling us, interacting, hanging out, etc. One little 18 month old Morgan mare, Dawn, spent a lot of time with me. She nuzzled me all over, up and down, she nibbled at my feet, she blew in my nostrils a lot, and just checked me out all over, and kept coming back to me for quite some time. A little while later, I noticed that my lower back was not hurting me anymore (which it always aches when I stand for any length of time).
The next exercise we did was feeling each others energy. We stood across from each other, and approached the other person until we felt their energy. Then we could ask them to enter their space. "Can I come one more step? Can I come a little closer?" And just feel their energy.
Another energy exercise we did was to hold our hands in front of our partners, palms forward, and get closer until we could feel their energy. Then you could back up, come forward again, feel the energy increase. Then Robert (the instructor) came over, and placed his hands between yours, and you could feel the energy sort of get compressed (not in a bad way, compressed as in, more energy, like squeezing a balloon). It was very cool!
After this, we joined the horses again (they were down snoozing in the barn area), and our exercise was to choose three horses to evaluate. We didn't need to interact with them, just stand and watch and evaluate them, and write down whatever entered our mind when thinking about that horse. The first horse I evaluated was Dawn (we had spent so much time together). She of course came directly to me first, and was nuzzling me all over. My feeling from her is that she was a very spiritual horse, an old soul, and a healer. When we discussed later what we felt, she is 18 months old, but she is quickly working her way up the ranks and vying for #2 spot, but she is not aggressive at all, she just does it.
The second horse I evaluated was Remy. Remington is a 30 year old 17H TB gelding. Remy was also all over me, a very intereactive, curious horse. I evaluated him as the herd leader ("Boss Man" is what I wrote), gentle, kind, and intelligent. What we discussed later, is that he is indeed the herd leader, and the gentle type, that just "is", he doesn't need to assert himself. He also was the weaning buddy/babysitter for Mirror the foal and is very attached to her/loves her. He was an OTTB, but he was not competitive enough to race. Bonni (Bonita), the owner used him for Eventing.
The third horse was Gypsy, a bay arab mare. All I could come up with for her was "friendly". It turns out she was the alpha mare, #2 under Remy. She is friendly, but also a very sensitive horse, as we were to soon find out.
The next exercise was a little game. We had "necklaces" and we had to put one necklace on each horse (there were 5 horses). Remy, Mary and Dawn were a piece of cake. The baby, Mirror was very worked up by the increased energy, and Gypsy galloped all over the paddock as a reaction to the energy. It did take quite some time to allow those two to let us put the necklaces on, but we did (I think I was the third person, out of 8 of us, that did. Judith was there--which I had no idea she was attending, so that was a pleasant surprise, she was the first for both of them).
Then we went and got Bob. The exercise was to get Bob to move backwards. Bob is a 33 year old ex-endurance Morgan. Bob is quite a fellow, he is not an easy guy! He reminded me a lot of Whinney. Anyway, Bob doesn't like to back up. So we were to get Bob to back (I never did get to do this exercise) using only our energy. We were allowed to touch him, but not push/shove (which wouldn't have worked with him anyway, lol. He was built like the proverbial brick shithouse, lol). The key was to ask him politely, and use your energy. It was a tough exercise, but the girls that did do the exercise got it done, eventually ;-)
That was all the first day, Saturday. The second day, Sunday I brought Mandy with me, because we had planned on taking the girls out on the trails again, and she was very upset when I decided I wanted to attend the second day, which I hadn't planned on because I didn't really know what to expect and if it was worth it, and I was feeling poor when I signed up. But then decided it was well worth it and wanted to go on Sunday, and Mandy was very upset, then finally decided to come with me.
Sunday involved working with the horses to clear your mind, and the horses really served as a barometer to your energy. The "monkey mind" is your thoughts, that constant jibber-jabber that is going on in your brain, what your thinking, all that white noise stuff always going on. Our exercise was to clear that, and connect with our bodies/selves.
The next horse exercise involved just going into the roundpen and having the horse just show us. So before going in, we were to ground ourselves, then ask the "monkey mind", what are we feeling? What are we feeling physically? Emotionally? Were we getting any message (from the horse)? Then to go back into the roundpen with the horse, ground again, and just see what happens. I chose Gypsy, a 2nd place 100-mile endurance Arab mare. I grounded myself before going in. What was I feeling physically? (some shoulder stiffness mostly -- for these excercises the why doesn't matter at all, we are to just acknowlege it, immerse ourselves in it and accept it, not hide it or stuff it down). Mentally? A tiny little bit of anxiety. Not much, not scared, just the slightest bit of getting into a pen with a strange horse. Messages? All I could get is the word "Quiet". So in I went with Gypsy. I stood in the center of the pen, grounded, and relaxed (or so I thought). Gypsy stood at the gate, with her head hanging over. Then she would paw at the gate. Then she would play with the chain with her lips, wiggling it obsessively. At that point, I realized that I was just the tinyest bit "up" in my energy, I think I wasn't breathing deeply enough, I wasn't feeling the ground enough. I took a breath, let it out, and totally let go, just relaxed and felt the ground through my feet, I felt like a tree. At that very instant, Gypsy turned around, looked at me, and walked right up to me. She sniffed, and nuzzled me a bit, then turned around to face the other way (a car had come from another direction with loud rap music playing, which got her attention). She was a little worried about it, but not scared. She stood facing the direction the music was coming from, with me just behind her rump to the right. I moved to another area of the pen, she wandered, came back, and put me in the same spot. And did it again. I didn't get anything else from her, but the feeling I got was that she was protecting me from whatever was causing the sound. Robert, the instructor didn't really think so, but afterward when I was back outside, three other people told me they felt the same thing, that she felt she was guarding me or protecting me, as one of her herd. She just considered me another horse, accepted me, and that was it, I was there, and she was there with me. So cool!!!!To remember how sensitive she is, when I went to leave the pen, I (rather slowly, I had thought), reached to stroke her neck to say "thank you", and her head FLEW up, and she sidestepped to avoid my touch. Wow, just like Lakota! I hadn't asked her first if I could touch her, and that was just too much energy for her. WOW!
The other attendees also had experiences, another with Gypsy who had health problems with her hands, and gypsy just sniffed and nuzzled over her hands the whole time. Another girl mentioned that her left knee hurt a little (Robert (the instructor) did also), then to everyone's astonishment, Remy (the horse she had chosen), was off on his left front! They actually were checking for stones in his feet before realizing what had happened. Judith went in with Dawn, who said she just wanted Dawn to teach her how to be more quiet (Judith is a very up, animated person). Dawn kept standing with her, then lipping at her hat, nibbling her shoes, walk away, come back and be quiet. Then she would turn her butt to her. Judith would move, Dawn would come back, fiddle with her again, turn her butt to her. When we talked about it later, Judith admitted to having a hard time quieting that buzzing/white noise in her head, and we felt that Dawn was telling her "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!", then it finally culminated in her showing her butt, she actually backed up to her (no pinned ears or kicking though), and that got her attention!
At the end, Bonni brought in her 2 year old Arab stallion for a little demo. Was this guy full of pent-up energy, WOW! All the mares were in heat, and he had been confined to a pen for the workshop because the roundpen was in his paddock, so he was in there for 2 days with 3 mares backing up to the fence at him, luring him. This boy was UP! He was snaking that head, kicking, spinning, rearing, I mean, he was rearing and standing on his hind-legs, walking on his hind legs, not just little hops. Bonni did a good job of keeping him off her and getting him settled down, and to see the shift in him was amazing! She had amazing timing and I barely even noticed that when he softened just a little bit in a turn, she just shifted her energy down, and he came walking in with his nose on the ground like a pussycat, it was amazing! Afterward, she admitted that he had never been that worked up and "big" and "energetic" before. She said she really had a hard time keeping her energy down and not getting caught up in his emotions. She said it well a few times: "That is *his* shit, I'm not getting involved in it. He has to work it out on his own." and "He's not coming in to me when he's still dealing with that crap, he needs to let it go, THEN he can come in." And she talked about how when we have stress/pent up emotions, etc., our minds work it out, or we stuff it down, rationalize, or whatever. When a horse is dealing with that, their only way to deal with it is to move, so they need to move and deal with it and work it out.
At the end of it all, as we were leaving, Mandy said to me: "Mom, I don't want an Arabian Stallion anymore. I'm happy with my little Curly mare."