Friday 26 February 2010

Bare Back

Meet Lise. She's an Icelandic pony - built for the harsh weather. She's also rather lovely, and she's my first real introduction to horses.

For most of my 50 years, I never really understood the attraction. Why would you want to climb on some poor creatures back and kick it. But, like a lot of other things, my cynical aversion to this thing I'd never tried disappeared - when I tried it.

A lot of my writing is about learning to let go of beliefs - those things we know to be true - without good evidence. Usually, we inherited those beliefs from childhood - absorbing them by osmosis form parents or from bitter experience in the twisted plaground-world which children, depressingly, must inhabit in their most formative years. When we let go of our beliefs, we become free to see the world clearly, un-encumbered by preconceptions and fears.

So - back to Lise. Being around Lise is oddly spiritual. She is clearly "in there" - she's a conscious being - but she's different. She's calm for one thing. As you move around her space she watches you carefully, and being watched by her feels special. She's not thinking in human terms; she's not making judgements. She's patient. She seems somehow eternal.

When I first rode her (with a saddle), I felt dreadful - like I had no business being on this creature's back, but she didn't mind a bit, and once I got used to the fact that this vehicle was like no other, I settled down.

Yesterday, I rode her bare back. You might think that's a quiet, tranquil experience, but not the first time! She's warm through my jeans. I can feel the bones of her spine moving left and right, forwards and back. I have to role with her body, but not too much because - with no stirrups and no saddle - there's very little to stop you falling off sideways.

Initially I found my brain was whirring away wondering what was right and wrong, what should and should not have been. I was tense all through my legs to the point where I was exhausted within three minutes. But after a while, I learned what was necessary and what wasn't. You can relax below the knees, so I did.  You're more stable if you push your backside out and allow your pelvis to rock with the horse's back, so I did. You learn that - what seem to be alarming indications of imminent removal from office  are nothing to worry about - just normal excursions form the vertical which stop all on their own.

When the busy brain receeds you can begin to appreciate the experience more; to place yourself in context.
I'm riding an animal which I can feel under me. They are carrying me through countryside, out in the weather. I'm connected with them - aware of every detail of their walking; every footfall. Breathing. There's something about their obedience and a humility which that brings, too.
Well, I'm clearly droning on without clarity or purpose here, so I guess I'll stop. But I wanted to try to get something of this experience on paper. If you're horsey, you'll know what I'm trying to say. If you're not - try it!

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