There's something 'more' in our horses. We know it's there, but sometimes is seems out of reach or even impossible to reach, despite our sincerely best effort.
So how do you experience true connection - the kind that leaves you warm and glowing inside when you go home from the barn, and that words fail to describe when you want to tell someone all about it?
And how can we bring that consciously and reliably into our partnership with our horse, not just in fleeting moments we can't quite explain or repeat?
The simple truth (isn't it always in the end?) is that experiencing this heightened sense of connection happens effortlessly, when you enter Flow together.
“Flow? Isn’t that something reserved for the gifted Olympic athlete?”
Actually you probably know Flow well.
Think of something you love to do (it could be anything from mountain climbing to an art project or gardening), where action and awareness seem to merge and you lose sense of time. You even lose your sense of self, as the line between you and what you’re doing seems to vanish from your awareness. That’s when you’re in Flow. It's an effortless state that happens naturally when a certain combination of factors occur together.
Anyone can experience Flow - and being in a state of true Flow is a wonderful way to be with your horse. Not just 'flowy' in a long mane, poetic way, where there may or may not actually be true connection, but mutual Flow, which is more like a merging of mind and body in a way that is conscious, deliberate and predictable.
“In flow, every action, each decision, leads effortlessly, fluidly, seamlessly to the next.”
Steven Kotler, Director of Research, Flow Genome Project
Everything we do, we do better in Flow because our awareness is activated.
We naturally (and automatically) disregard the unimportant, narrow our focus and become deeply present. Horses love the Feel of this because we are so much closer to their awareness of the particles of Feel in the connection and what matters right then, to them.
Clarity in that moment between you is all that is left.
Do you see it in this horse’s expression (below)? He doesn't just do what I ask, he follows a Feel I connect through his mind to his feet. I offer this Feel within his Flow, right then. I can feel his mind in my fingers tips. He is 100% with me on my plan to lead him off.
The true Feel of a horse feeling back to you like this is exquisite. Once felt, it's never forgotten nor does it ever get old!
Whether handling a horse or riding, getting into Flow is not so hard to do, it’s just that we need a shift in mindset and technique to initiate and maintain Flow.
Why isn't everyone doing this? Doesn't everyone have Feel?
We learn practices steeped in the wisdom of the old masters, who took the time to record their discoveries so that those that followed might find their way more easily. This is wise, I would say, and the gift of experience, expertise and knowledge handed to us. I was (and am still) a student of their works, under the guidance of excellent coaches in France, then England for 30 years.
Until a horse came along with a clear message: there's more Karen.
Chase was right and the hundreds of horses that followed agreed with him.
Did the old masters mean their works to be considered the end of the story? Far from it, I believe. Read about William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle and we find that his passion for expanding his understanding of horses continued well beyond what was published. Baucher's story is similar and we only have the gift of his later findings thanks to his student. In his book "True Horsemanship Through Feel", Bill Dorrance writes that he studied those masters for the fifty years leading up to the publication of his own work and notes that he "almost didn't live long enough to understand this". These are not the words of a man who thought he'd figured it all out.
Our horses are calling us to go a little deeper. Evolve our work with horses. Because there's more in them, so much more.
In a journey under Chase's guidance, first into the Abyss, then to Bliss, he had a clear message of horse wisdom about what I had missed. And was missing out on.