Wednesday, February 22, 2012

more time in the herd mind

This morning I was busy scrubbing out a big water trough. The wind was gusting around me as I stood armed with the hose nozzle in one hand and a big scrub brush and a sharp knife in the other.

The horses were finishing their breakfast tubs in the barn, and as they finished, my daughter let them out their back doors so they could head out to the pasture and their hay.

As you might imagine I was suddenly the center of attention. Keil Bay came up, then the pony, and then Cody. I was literally surrounded by 3000+ lbs. of horse.

Keil Bay was standing with one hoof on either side of the hose I was holding. I was trying to keep the sharp knife out of the way of curious noses. I was hoping they would decide that nothing interesting was happening in the empty trough and move on out to the field.

Suddenly Keats our black cat jumped into a pile of leaves a few feet from the water trough. She came out of nowhere but made a loud noise doing it. Horses, pony, and human did one huge spook in place simultaneously. I mean, literally, all 14 feet went airborne and then landed with one loud smack on the ground.

"What?! Oh, it's Keats!" I exclaimed. And we all relaxed.

One by one the horses walked on to the field, leaving me to finish my chore and to marvel at what had just happened.

That they all spooked in place was pretty remarkable. Not one of them wheeled or bolted or even moved any part of their bodies except straight up in the air and down again. Had they moved even an inch, I would likely have been knocked down, cut with the knife I was holding, and maybe gotten kicked by a fleeing hoof.

That I spooked with them, without even thinking, was even more remarkable to me. I've written before about incidents when I have been in the midst of the herd and moved with them without thinking. I've never had it happen in such incredibly close quarters. I was brushing horse shoulders on each side and three heads were leaning in around me. I didn't even get a bump from any of them.

When these kinds of things happen, it's impossible not to think about the power of connection we can have with our horses. And if their presence is capable of pulling us into the herd mind, what does our presence do to them?

And what is possible if we give them our full attention and our focus, along with permission to them to be exactly what they are - exquisitely gifted with the ability to read and respond to the tiniest sound, gesture, or cue, even those that are silent to us?

When I think about this, I become even more convinced that a huge percentage of what gets done to horses is too loud, superfluous if not downright traumatic.

I want to say to everyone: take off all the excess gear. Loosen the too tight straps. Stop asking the horse to DO something. Stop talking. Just stand still, shoulder to shoulder, and see what happens.

My guess is you'll be pleasantly surprised.

18 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

A good post to get us all thinking of what it means to our horses when we're less than calm and collected around them. It's pretty amazing that in such close quarters with you all spooking at once no one fled or even banged heads. A testament to how much your horses are connected to you and trust you.

billie said...

A, it was a bit muddy around the trough - not soupy but just right for looking at hoof prints. I looked down as soon as it happened and noticed that the hooves went right down into the prints where they'd all been standing. It was pretty impressive.

I meant to add in the post that it impressed me that all three of the equines apparently communicated, in that herd mind way, that this needed to be a "spook in place." The odds of them doing that independently in such close quarters is imo near zero - but I suspect my presence caused them to decide, as a group, to stay in their respective spaces. That all those messages got communicated, heard, and carried out really gives me the goosebumps, in a good way.

Jade said...

So enjoyed this, Billie. And it made me think of a similar herd mind which also occurs among human beings. Sometimes these connections between people can be so positive, but then again, sometimes it can be too easy to get caught up in negativity. Maybe we should be more aware of the herd mind which can affect all of us.

billie said...

Jade, you're right - with the human version we tend to notice the negative group energy that can happen more than we do the good stuff - I think there is a lot of synchronicity and collective unconscious stuff that happens daily but we tend to write all that off as coincidence. If we embraced it and developed it we'd be so much more evolved as a species than we are!

Horses are way ahead of us in that regard, imo.

Matthew said...

A lovely story about connection. Thanks for sharing it!

billie said...

You're welcome!!

Máire said...

Great post. I absolutely agree with you about so much done to horses being too loud and superfluous, and as you say traumatic. These days I am being aware of being silent around Ben and Rosie, I want to tune in to my own body and energy more and I am naturally at talker so it is good for me!

I love how you all jumped on the spot. They could so easily have wheeled around which would have been dangerous. You have a great connection with them.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Yay for spooking in place! They were taking care of you billie. :)

Regarding your response to Jade - I like to think of that hundredth monkey evolutionary theory. If enough of us (humans) tune in, maybe the rest of the species will spontaneously join...

billie said...

Maire, I have seen them wheel around in concert with one another, which I suspect they would have done had I not been so tangled up and right in the middle of them. They were gracious to remember that my two legs can't work the way their four do!

billie said...

C, we hope for spontaneous awakening!

Victoria Cummings said...

What a great story! There's no doubt that your horses trust you and you and the herd are totally in sync, and this is a perfect example of it. The more connected I am to my horses, the more I realize the endless potential to go deeper and deeper into myself and into my relationship with them. Your story is such clear illustration that every single thing we do with our horses can teach us something about how to be a better human being.

billie said...

V, that endless potential is part of what makes me so thankful that I am living with these wonderful equines. I know that they're teaching me moment by moment and that these lessons won't ever stop - what a retirement we all have to look forward to!

Elaine Luddy Klonicki said...

Billie, I've never had a horse, but I loved this piece! Your observations and writing never cease to amaze and touch me. Thank you!

billie said...

Elaine, so good to see you here. Your comment made my day! Thank you so much for sharing it with me!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Just dropping by to wish you a very
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope you get all that you wish for.

billie said...

Thank you, A!! It was a very nice day.

Greta James said...

Hey, Billie, I know I can't add anything new or meaningful to the many comments, so I'll tell you what you just reminded me of. Mike & I love the Westchester Dog Show. It was interesting to see that most of the handlers had their dogs on fairly snug leashes. I was impressed by the woman who had a large white dog (pit bull type, I think) on a leash so loose it looked like a lei AND the dog obeyed/behaved beautifully. They were communicating without visible means! Wonderful.

billie said...

Greta, I love that - I am hoping Bear Corgi eventually gets to that point with me. Right now he has to wear a HARNESS! :0

Chase Corgi used to go out with me with nothing - he would come when called. Kyra has always been an independent spirit and still will take off down the lane if given half a chance.

A good sign: about a month ago she took off down the driveway, clearly heading for an adventure down our lane. Bear took off after her and just as he reached the end of the driveway, I called him, clinked the sound of a spoon on a bowl (I didn't trust him to come w/o some incentive) and he wheeled around and ran like a comet right back to me on the front porch. So we're working on that communication. I have never been able to get Kyra to come when called reliably when she has a little journey in mind. :)