My wise senior mare, Posadka, did something out of the norm the other day. Whenever the horses do something out of the ordinary in the context of an equine-guided learning session, I tend to get quite curious about it.
I was standing among the horses with a four-year-old non-verbal boy I have been working with. The bay mare and her partner - the black gelding Eaglet - and I were holding space over the boy, as he stood transfixed among them. She had approached us first, blocking our path to the round pen, where the chestnut mare we usually work with was waiting with my helper, equipped with a bareback pad and halter.
Posadka is generally not very sociable with my clients like the younger horses are, but when she is, she is very purposeful. If she has something to say, I take the time to listen, as do the other horses. She is our teacher, guiding the herd during our sessions, silently and intently. She tries to guide me too, but since I am not as skilled as she is in working on horse time, I sometimes miss her deft signals.
The mare stopped over the boy and lowered her head. She began to breathe heavily into the top of his head, lips quivering, her eyes distant as if in a trance. The gelding stood nearby with eyes half closed, also supporting.
Behind the mare, the young but huge Perch cross Daisy was dozing. Suddenly I heard a loud "crack," as the mare kicked poor unsuspecting Daisy in the jaw.
Why did she do that? My helper asked me.
I've never seen the mare kick her adopted daughter Daisy.
Then it occurred to me: Because Daisy's not helping. She's just standing there dozing off. Maybe she was even disrupting the flow by shunting off energy behind the mare.
Called to action, Daisy immediately came around to where we were standing, and closed the third side of the triangle, with me and the boy in the middle of the three horses. She lowered her head and started to breathe in a trance-like state.
Seeing this, the young pony, Fable, usually high-spirited and in the midst of everything, approached us hesitantly. She looked at the wise mare - her approach to us would take her right under the mare's neck. Fable stopped just outside the triangle and assessed.
Can I come in? She was asking the mare. The absence of a visible "no" (from my perspective) for her was a "yes," so she came into the equine triangle with us, not being pushy with her nose as usual - but just standing there calmly as the boy put his hands on her.
Yes, good, let's stay here as long as we can, I thought. The boy petting the pony will keep him occupied so the other horses can do their work. This must all be part of Posadka's plan.
I don't know what the horses were doing. But I know enough to know a good thing when I feel one. And I know enough not to get in the way. So I just stood there with the pony as we did our best to keep the boy there and stay quiet, focused on sending loving energy, holding that sacred space together with my equine partners. The usually hyperactive and tense boy was quiet; his body was soft, receiving.
Afterwards, the rest of the session proceeded as normal, with grooming, playing games, leading, riding, and lying on the horse's rump and melting like butter at the end. But I was so grateful for the gift the horses gave us at the start.
That moment was something I could never plan, never ask for, even, but only stand witness as something greater than us happened. And then I reminded myself that the magic happens in moments when we simply allow it to, when we give in to the unknown. It's when the horses can be themselves and we stop getting in the way.