Holding the Sacred Space

August 21, 2013 by  

Recently, I wrote about my experience with Maude and Hannah this spring in “Hannah’s Gift.” Please read Maude’s words about the event from her perspective as facilitator and Hannah as her co-facilitator. This is a great example of what I have termed “Relationship in Motion.”

So many times facilitators of Equine Facilitated Learning resort to their horsemanship techniques and patterns when doing active round pen work or giving the client an opportunity for a mounted session with the horse. I hope that the following discourse gives you a sample of the possibilities of a “simple” riding session. What is happening with the horse within a session? With…in the sacred space of possibility?


Within the Sacred Space:

image002For me there is a palpable sense that we are in this together… I am aware that Hannah is observing me, taking in what I am thinking.. doing… she is “tracking” with me. And I am aware that Hannah is aware …. that I am aware of her… she knows I am watching her, taking in where she is, what she is doing and conveying to me. This is where we begin….we are ready.

Kathleen is ready to ride. I check in with Hannah, ask her silently … “Are you good with this?” “Yes,” she replies. “I am fine.” I am holding the reins underneath Hannah’s jaw, as a safety check just in case she decides to move as Kathleen gets on. My other hand is gently against Kathleen. I am “feeling” her while at the same time providing physical support. I sense Kathleen gathering herself up to step up into the stirrup. Hannah is very intent on Kathleen; very still.

All of a sudden Kathleen stops and says “Wait a minute”… “I am feeling dizzy here”… we feel it too; we pause waiting. Kathleen is quick; she lets me know that she just had a sensation of falling down the long flight of stairs; that she needs to take a minute to process this. I check in with myself – my body – what do I sense about this? Is Kathleen okay proceeding with what she is doing? Yes, Kathleen is fine. She feels present, grounded…. Busy. I check in with Hannah. Hannah is aware; connected to what is happening. She is waiting. Okay, I wait too.

Then Kathleen takes a deep breath and turns her attention to me and explains that she wants to take a moment to tell me about what just happened. She seems alert and energized. I acknowledge this and say “okay,” and “breathe.” Hannah is listening to us; she licks and chews (When a horse licks and chews it is a sign that they are listening and hearing a “truth”). Kathleen relays her experience and then is done, ready once again to ride. We re-do the mounting sequence. Kathleen is monitoring herself for a re-play of the falling sensation. Nothing comes up so she gets on Hannah.

Once up she seems to have an unsteady sensation; I pause. Hannah is watching Kathleen; right there with her. Then Kathleen is back again, paying attention to her comfort and lack thereof in the saddle. We adjust the stirrups; I lead Hannah for a few steps; Kathleen seems tentative and uncomfortable. I decide to work with her on her body comfort with the length of the stirrups; adjusting equally, unequally, stretching, feeling in certain parts of her hip, thigh. Her knee is paining her, so I take her leg completely out of the stirrup. I sense this is concerning her; I pause letting her feel her leg stretching pulling down from her hip. That is better she says. I gently bring her foot back to the stirrup. How does that feel now? “Good,” she says. “The pain is gone.” We talk about body comfort in position versus form as the objective. How important comfort is. Why I like dressage saddles; because I can feel the horse better. I feel more secure the more I can feel.

Kathleen is ready to walk on. All this time Hannah is listening to us. What are we doing? What is next? And I am listening to her; we are together in this sacred bubble. I show Kathleen how to hold the reins along with the grab strap and explain how this gives her something to hold onto if she needs. Hannah sees that now…we are ready to move? We walk off very slowly. I have to hold Hannah close to me. She is not used to taking such small slow steps. I am watching Kathleen. I feel her breathe; loosen. Okay, she is feeling better. “Okay,” she says. “Yep I’m fine, keep going.”

I am leading Hannah slowly in circles, Kathleen is relaxing down more into her seat and the saddle, so I mix it up a bit; travel in figure eights then change direction. This can feel so different from going in a straight line; changes in direction; one side weighted differently from the other; unbalance, shifting, rebalance. I sense this is making an impression on Kathleen. We continue slowly in silence. I keep watch constantly; Kathleen, then Hannah. What are they telling me?

Hannah is with us, just walking. Then she jumps a little sideways. She looks at me as she jumps… seems like just a simple reaction, perhaps to something she sees, hears, smells in the trees up on the hill above us? Not sure. I see Kathleen react, startled with the “jump”, she looks to me. I feel her inquiry, her emotion, where she is in her body. I sense Kathleen’s arousal level go up…come down a little…. and stabilize. I look at Hannah, this was just a blip. She is done and back to walking. So I keep walking. Kathleen is still looking to me. I look at her to acknowledge her; so she sees that I see; that this is okay. But I do not speak. Kathleen’s arousal level comes back down and we continue for a while longer.

Then there is a sense that this has been enough. I ask Kathleen how she is doing, if she feels like we can end. We agree we are feeling complete; that “just walking” around the arena is enough for today.

Hannah is calm…I sense she is ready to end. This has required her active involvement and consistent attention. We go back to the bale of straw and she stands perfectly still while Kathleen dismounts. We end here… Kathleen is going to journal. All is good.