Some of the most magical, heart centered experiences of my annual Wyoming Retreats come from our evenings spent up on “the bench” with the big herd. The bench is where approximately 140 horses spend the night grazing, eating hay, wandering about and just “being”. This flat open plain is surrounded by mountains where one can simultaneously watch the sunset in the west and the moon rise in the east. It is a magical place to meditate, observe horse behavior and immerse yourself into their world.
At dusk one evening my group and I were walking towards the exit gate and came upon a lone, grey mare. She was standing approximately 75 feet from the water trough which is located near the gate. She was standing stock still, staring across the plains towards the east mountains. Her entire herd was well back in the distance behind her. As we slowly approached I asked my group to stop so I could relate what was happening. I understood her dilemma right away as I had seen it many times with my own horse Riley. Being alone and dropping their head to drink creates one of the most vulnerable moments for a prey animal. Their vision and ability to run are greatly impaired, creating a high risk situation. At home I will often hold a sentry position while Riley drinks after a ride, especially if his herd is not nearby. If there are any “disturbances in the force” he’ll actually look at the water, lick his lips and turn away without drinking, even more so if the water in the trough is low. A low water level causes a horse to actually become blind to the outside world when they lower their heads to drink. This can be a deal breaker for a horse that lacks confidence and/or doesn’t feel safe in a new environment.
I explained to my group what her concern was. Then I stepped up in front of her, looked where she was looking, pointed, blew sentry and then relaxed, telling her the coast was clear. She seemed to glean a little comfort from my actions but continued showing us her concerns. I asked my group to fan out, creating a protective semi-circle behind and to the sides of her. We scanned the horizon and blew some sentry breaths. I asked those standing in the back to raise one palm towards her hip and take some calming breaths, sending her the thought of “We’ve got your back.” After a few moments the mare began to slowly walk towards the water. We followed her, keeping our positions, continuing to scan and “holding” her from behind. She reached the trough and lowered her head to drink. We stopped and held our positions, offering her a calm, sense of security. After drinking her fill and showing us she was done we lowered our hands and stepped back, creating an opening for her. She walked slowly past with a gentle swish of her tail. She didn’t hurry. She moved calmly towards the herd knowing that we still had her back. We stood quietly for a few moments absorbed in the the magic of the experience. Then we continued our long trek back down to the ranch in the now darkened sky.
I continue to feel blessed for the friendship, mentorship and teachings of Sharon Wilsie, the founder of Horse Speak, and for my opportunities to help spread this amazing work. If you are intrigued or interested in learning more about Horse Speak and how it can enhance your personal professional journey with horses please visit www.HorseSpeakEducation.com.
P.S. In addition to my annual Centered Riding/Holistic Horsemanship Retreat held in July we are very excited to announce the first Horse Speak Herd Dynamics Intensive Retreat in June 2020. Participation is limited for both events. Visit www.heidipotter.com to learn more. Hope to see you there!