“Life is not coming at you, it’s coming from you. You are creating the life you live.” ~Wyatt Web, creator of Miraval Equine Experience. These were the words Wyatt shared with us before we stepped into the arena to meet our four legged partners.
There is a powerful connection and energetic exchange that occurs between humans and horses. When we open up to let that exchange happen, it is profound, powerful, and beautiful. The Equine Experience at Miraval is designed to give you insight into how you approach your relationships and gain stronger self awareness based on how your horse partner responds to your emotional energy.
My introduction to equine therapy was during college through an organization I volunteered with called Horses Help. Having limited experience with horses growing up, I was enchanted with the physical changes and progress I saw in the patients who performed physical therapy on the horses.
I remember watching Sandra Bullock struggle with accepting her demons via a horse’s hoof in 28 Days. I have been enchanted with the idea of yoga with horses ever since I discovered Big Sky Yoga Retreats in early 2009. When I bit the financial bullet of booking my New Year’s weekend at Miraval, I was determined to see what Wyatt was up to….
He was to be my woman whisperer, the reverse of Robert Redford’s character in the tear jerking film from the end of the ‘nineties. After a perfunctory demonstration of the grooming techniques we were to perform on our horses, my human partner, Jennifer, and I decided to pony up to the painted pony, Wynn.
I went first. I pinched Wynn’s tendon on his front shin as had been demonstrated to me. There was slight movement in his leg, but his foot did not pick up. I knew there was no way I could make this pony pick up his foot by grabbing the hoof, so I figured I probably didn’t apply enough pressure. I pinched again, slightly harder, and there was more slight movement, but no pick up. No avail.
Wyatt must have been watching me because he called out to me, “pick it up, grab his foot! He’s trying to give it to him, help him, grab his foot!” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I just realized, the first time I “asked” Wynn for his foot, he willingly offered it to me. I didn’t accept it because I didn’t recognize his offer, because it didn’t look like what I expected it to look like in my mind from that perspective, er vantage point… As if I should know what a horse giving me his hoof should look like. Despite not “knowing,” and not needing to know, and no one requiring me to know, I definitely had expectations of what me picking up a hoof should resemble. This particular discovery realization stayed with me.
And so, I cleaned out his hoof with the scraper/tool, then moved on to his hind leg. I had to bend over, with my butt in the air, and I could feel the chill in the wind on my skin where my fleece shifted. As bent over as I was, and awkward as I felt in this foreign posture and action, I was certain – absolutely convinced – I was struggling. I had to be doing something wrong. As awkward as I felt, it was still just seemingly too simple – I had to be holding his foot wrong or something… SOMETHING!
Then I heard my partner, Jennifer, call out, “Jennifer, you look great, you’re doing great!”
Up until then I created this story (as Wyatt warned us we might) about how I would mess everything up. In fact, I advised people in Phoenix I was dead certain what ever horse I was partnered with, would absolutely not pick up its hooves for me. Here, in the present moment, I was doing everything right. And my story, my first thought, was I wasn’t doing it good enough and that I wasn’t capable of doing it good enough. So, what the heck, why don’t I give my self a single break? Goodness, after all the themes I resonated this weekend I’m beginning to think a mule could collapse under the weight I pack on myself.
See any toddler argue with a parent and she will probably declare, “I can do it myself.” And that child will be satisfied with her competence until someone else comes along and says, “you can do that better/that’s not the right way to do (that).”
Wynn was so sweet and so giving, and he reached his neck and head in to me as I brushed him, nuzzling my hand and cheek.
Snow flurries swirled around us as we went for a walk in the arena. Wynn kept my exact pace the entire time. Another horse in the arena with us, Rooster, reared up and bucked near our space, and although Wynn got visibly startled, he didn’t charge off from/with me (thank you, Wynn, buddy!).
Afterward, in discussion in the tack room, when called to share my experiences, I spoke about my experiences in the corral. That was a moment of vulnerability I hadn’t expected I would open. I shared my moment of realization when I didn’t accept Wynn giving me his foot because it didn’t look like I thought it would, in my head. And I reflected that I see this metaphor repeated in patterns in my life. Particularly in my relationships.
I didn’t reject his offer because I wasn’t satisfied with what he attempted to give me. I didn’t observe that what he was actually doing was giving me exactly what I requested… and precisely what I wanted (his hoof). I didn’t “see” because I was blinded by my own expectation, and simply could not see it. I did state something about a metaphor for all the great, big, beautiful messes I make in my life.
Wyatt countered me with this: “they aren’t messes, those things you call ‘messes’ are invitations for you to learn. And, if you ignore the invitations, they will come back to you again and again, louder and louder, until you finally pay attention…. Do you have any patterns that continually arise in your relationships?”
Ugh! Do I ever.
And as he spoke, looking directly at me, I could feel the quiver trying to start in my chin and my throat tighten and get hot, like I had strep throat. My vision started to get blurry from tears that tried to well. Silently, I nodded, desperately focusing on steadying that darn quiver and blinking away those pesky tears. Wyatt closed his thoughts with me with the following:
“You can be in discomfort or miserable. Misery is optional.”