Sunday, March 13, 2011

I may never be warm again ...

I just come home from a short Equine Facilitated Workshop up north of Monroe at the Northwest Equine Stewardship Facility and I'm very happy to be home. My daughter and her dad are putting together her Leggo Harry Potter and Hagrid's hut set, there is a fire going and I have a cup of coffee. And I love our comfy house!

I went up to ride my horse for a bit before the workshop and I checked the temperature in Monroe online and it said it was 48 degrees. I guess I didn't take into account that we would be north of Monroe and out in the woods and the wind chill made it colder. And sitting outside as opposed to running around or riding horses makes a person much colder. I would've enjoyed the workshop more if I'd worn more warm clothes instead of thinking "Oh yeah, 48 degrees isn't that cold," because my gauge is always "when you're moving around" not "When you're sitting in a chair for two hours". I ended up pulling my arms inside my fleece coat and pulling my knees up to my chest and pulling my coat over them so I was in a little black, fleece cocoon for most of the workshop.

It was very interesting but it turns out I'm not qualified to actually go to school for EFL because I don't have a teaching or counseling degree. But the head of the school said I might want to look into finding a partner who is a therapist or special education teacher and work as a team if it is something I really want to pursue. After the workshop I'm not sure it is something I want to do directly because I am far more interested in the horses than the people. Maybe I would like being the wrangler for therapists who use horses for therapy but not work with the actual people. It is definitely something I want to support because I think horses a great tool for counseling.

After we talked about what EFL is and how it works with psychotherapy, we did some exercises that one does with patients in EFL. The first was to observe the horses and choose which one we wanted to work with. For some reason which in hindsight I question my common sense, I chose Mariposa because she is huge and beautiful and very energetic and seemed to have a lot of alpha-mare attitude.

After talking about our observations of the horses we had another exercise where we went and stood in a round pen alone with the horse we chose. One other woman, Lynn, also chose to work with Mariposa and she was the last horse to come out. The first two horses and the women who worked with them were fairly uneventful and relaxing. They just hung out and the horse nosed them and they petted them and they just hung out together and talked about what they observed as they interacted with the horse (which might not sound like much - but as horse people we're always "doing stuff" with our horses and it's odd to just stand in a round pen with a horse and not be "doing something" with them). I found it quite telling when we started the exercise and my first question was, "What are the rules?" and facilitators said, "There are no rules, just see what happens," and I said, "Ok, but what are we supposed to be doing?" which made the facilitators smirk.

Finally it was me and Lynn's turn and they brought Mariposa out to the round pen. She didn't spook like the previous horse had when he saw all of us sitting in chairs outside the round pen, but she was concerned about us. As soon as she was in the pen she started cantering around in circles and bucking and being really amped and anxious because her herd wasn't with her. She never stopped moving. So, because I'm weird and like to jump into trial by fires that I'm not ready for I said I'd go first. We talked a little about my expectations and I took a minute to get my courage up, then went into the pen.

Mariposa really could've cared less if I was there and kept cantering around the outside of the pen. Then she started swerving into the circle and cantering really close to me and a couple times she stopped and turned her back to me and showed me her butt - which is an aggressive move on a horse's part. Despite my best intentions it worked just like Mariposa wanted and I started shaking and my heart started beating really fast, so she started cantering in circles really close to me and Matney (one of the wranglers) said, "I'm coming in!" and came and stood with me. We talked a little and I said that I'd just gotten scared and couldn't control it and Matney pointed out that it's natural to get scared with a 16+ hand horse is cantering and bucking in circles around you. She asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be left alone with her again and this time keep my composure and see if I can stay calm and therefore see if I could calm her down.

So Matney left the pen and Mariposa almost immediately swerved in to run past me too close for my comfort and I remembered how to deal with horses again, reached up my arm and said quietly but firmly, "Back off. Too close," and she actually swerved out a little and then when she came around in her circle again this time she very deliberately swerved in toward me but also left a lot more distance between us. I said, "Good girl!" as soothingly as I could and she did it a few more times each time very deliberately leaving the extra distance between us.

Between Mariposa and Rolls I think I've been spending time with some really easy horses. I thought that Atlas must be a more difficult horse because he's only been domesticated from being wild for about a year but the truth is he's super easy even if he is green. Rolls makes Sparky (the experienced students only horse because he's so spooky and hot) seem like Buddha-horse. And Mariposa has a wild spirit like my horse. Who now seems incredibly easy to handle and easy to ride. I hope on her back now and I feel like that is where I belong and like we fit perfectly. We were cantering today and she goes so fast and with so much passion and speed for running and we're whipping around the arena and I realized I wasn't nervous at all - just happy. But when I met her I was really scared of her. She did the same thing Mariposa did when I first went in the pasture to meet her - she literally ran and bucked in circles around me. So, of course, now I'm fascinated and want to get to know Mariposa better.


  1. Heh, when I hear "EFL", I think about this.

  2. jope: I'm sure you were wondering then why I was standing outside in the freezing cold all day learning about it.