I drove up the mountain, by myself. Out of cell signal I missed a corner and my GPS spun. I flagged down a UPS driver to set me straight. The road was getting narrower and narrower, the surface getting more and more rugged. I was alone and on my way to the Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Thirteen of us (nine participants, four Natural Lifemanship trainers) were about to spend four days working with wild horses at the sanctuary during the day. At the end of the day we would go up the mountain roads to a remote camp. I entered this time quite distressed. Before leaving home I had been not told family information regarding my mom: to which I painfully reacted with a feeling of being excluded. Then I had a difference of opinion on a major issue with my daughter-in-law, and we haven’t learned how to navigate such things together yet. I felt doomed to suffer the family distancing I had experienced in the past: not at all what I want to live in.
Thankfully when I found my way to the Sanctuary, I experienced a warm welcome from Natural Lifemanship Trainers Tim and Tanner Jobe, Rebecca Hubbard, and Cindy Skelton Hodge; followed by a hot meal at the camp. My roommate seemed gentle and kind, and all of these strangers were about to embark on this adventure together.
The first night we ate and settled into cabins rather quickly. A mouse in my mattress and the stressful emotions of the week contributed to a poor night of sleep. I went seeking camp staff to help me evict my mattress mouse. Wonderfully, once outside I found a beautiful chilly night under a velvet sky filled with bright sparkling stars. The mousy mattress was traded for a cot: which was colder but quieter.
In the morning we traveled back down the mountain after a hearty breakfast cooked on the wood stove. This time there were four of us in my car: a mountain car pool of sorts. We gathered for circle time and received instruction from our trainers on how best to approach and work with the wild horses, before being paired into teams. Next we got to meet our horses! We worked together to sort the horses into round pens. Rocky was now my equine partner for the next four days. We were on our way to building trust and connection with our horses and with each other.
As I worked to be gentle and quiet in my requests of Rocky, I found myself losing my energy and getting tired. Not too unexpected with the stress prior to arrival, a poor night’s sleep before leaving home as my core needs felt threatened, and a poor night here with my mattress guest and a chilly night. But yet, this issue was deeper than feeling tired. I was losing my energy.
The next day in circle time, the trainers addressed the issue of not giving over your energy to another. We do best - for ourselves and for others - when we are true to ourselves in relationships. When we try to change ourselves to connect to another, we don’t bring all that we have to offer to the relationship. Perhaps, much like I was with this wild horse, we are afraid of being “too much”.
After circle time I could reflect on how I was being small in my approach to Rocky in the round pen so as to not be “too much” for him. I immediately stood tall and strong and felt much more present. If we were to have connection in this relationship, I needed to be myself and the two of us needed to figure out how that worked for both of us.
As I worked through this issue in the round pen, I realized this principle was present in my human relationships also. In certain relationships if I thought there was lack of interest in my voice, or no time or care to hear what I had to offer, I lost my voice. My voice was given to me for a reason: it needs to be heard. Of course I need to use it with consideration for the other. But giving my voice up is not the answer. I need to stand tall and strong and be present for the connection, even if I need to work for that connection in the relationship.
As I continued to work with Rocky in the round pen, I found my inner strength. My energy returned. My distress dissipated. My resolve increased. Beautifully, the connection happened more quickly when I was real and authentically me. I have some things to figure out: the principle of not giving over my energy to be in relationship with another is going to be a worthy challenge.
Natural Lifemanship trainings always come with personal growth. Keeping my inner strength and energy, not becoming less than who I am, and expressing my needs while looking out for the other also is going to be an ongoing challenge. Meeting that challenge with grace and love will be life enhancing. The impact of four days with wild horses at the Wild Horse Sanctuary with Natural Lifemanship trainers will be far reaching!