Every year we return to a beautiful horse riding lodge in Tuscany called Il Paretaio. It is fairly unique in many ways. Besides its amazing picturesque setting, beautiful horses and skilled teachers, it offers breakfast and dinner at a long table where all the guests sit together. The table outside, which is used during the summer, offers an incredible view over the valley. Over the years I have met people from all over the world and enjoyed some lighthearted as well as some deep conversations.
What I learned in particular over the last few years: the horses mirror me so much just like my dog. Admittedly I have a completely different level of awareness now. Years of self-development and self-reflection allow me to recognise the mirroring and "messages" much faster.
I had so many insightful experiences and learnings from those big, powerful but also very sensitive and gentle animals. There are people who probably believe that we can't learn anything from animals. The opposite is true. If we can get passed our limited perceptions and become the observer as well as open up to being willing to learn then an influx of information pours into our awareness and field. Taking the time to pause, reflect and understand the information leads to more insights about the status of our current life and where we need to allow change to happen.
The experiences in my life have taught me over and over again: if I don't "listen" then the universe (my soul, my higher self, my intuitive mind and body etc) will make me listen in a way that I can't ignore those sometimes faint voices anymore. They are faint because my conscious thinking tries to drown them out. The consequences are: a "forced pause".
First my dog got sick and had one issue after the other to the extent that he had to have some sort of growth / tumor removed from his leg. He too mirrored me aspects of my life as I discussed and discovered with a holistic vet. More about that in Part II.
I felt that I had slowed down enough already but I came to realise that my mind hadn't. It felt like the issues with my dog kicked off a "forced pause" but I hadn't grasped the scope of it yet.
Our recent horse riding holiday ended with me falling off the horse. It has been about 12 years since I have last fallen off the horse. Usually we get back up on the horse and continue our ride. However I couldn't get back up on the horse. This was the second time in my life that my physical pain after a fall off the horse was too big to get back up on the horse again. Now I was truly forced to pause. If your body is aching and every step takes conscious presence then there is not much time for your head.
When we love doing something then falls and pain won't keep us from following our passion. We reflect on what didn't work and try again. It was very clear to me what the horse had mirrored me and why I had fallen off. On the outside it looked like "the horse had spooked suddenly, I had lost my stirrup, leaned to one side, the horse cut a corner to avoid another horse which made me lose my balance even more and I fell off".
That's the outside but if we "look behind the scenes" we find out that there are a lot more dimensions to it!
Since childhood I have loved horses and longed to ride. It was a continuous "on and off" journey. Every time I got "good enough" I stopped, usually for practical reasons. I had no one to take me to the stables. Other times I moved countries and didn't find the time or stable that seemed to be the "right place" for me. Yet my love for horses and riding always remained.
I like to tell my kids the story of my first fall. I had just had a few lessons at age 11 that had been organised by my school as an activity for the last days of the school year. Other kids went sailing or did other things.
At the end of the day we rode the horses to the paddock. The horse next to me started trotting and so did mine. I realised I had no stirrups but I had only learned to trott with stirrups. I got all confused about what to do and slowly slid off the horse and fell on the ground. As a child it wasn't too bad.
Fast forward 40 years later and my head still gets in the way! Every single year I have the same experience. My first riding lessons work really well. I am relaxed, I know how to ride and I enjoy it. By day three my riding starts to turn into a mess. My head starts focusing so much on using the aids and narrows its vision that I lose myself in the technicalities. One other horse in the arena might still work but add two more horses and my "keeping up" and "doing it the right way" program subconsciously starts even more sabotaging.
Suddenly the ride becomes more and more tiring, I become busier and busier and nothing works anymore. Hm, how does that remind me of my life? Luckily I have learned how to change that in my life which was another learning curve.
Every horse could get a fright and spook at some point - they are flight animals. Just like humans some horses are more relaxed and some are more fearful depending on their experiences and even age. They are also very sensitive beings and sense and feel every part of us. I too am a highly sensitive being and feel the horse and people, the environment etc.
Usually I know what to do and how to calm the horse if it spooks, which usually doesn't really happen. As I stop it and keep breathing deeply and tell my horse "all is well, we are safe" we re-connect and continue. Well... isn't that the same in my life again? Things get off track and when I stop and breath deeply and calmly it all realigns again.
When I am relaxed, have the big vision and view and FEEL connected everything FLOWS.
When my head starts narrowing down the vision, doesn't even "see beyond the horse's head" and becomes too busy with stirring the horse like a tractor the inevitable happens. The horse does not have a clear sense of direction either as it is connected to the "not connected" rider and when it gets a fright there is not enough presence to stop and calm it. The horse however trusts that I am the one who knows what to do and will calm it. That's how it grew up and was trained that the rider gives the commands just like in a herd the leader of the pack would do.
This time I had been "uneven" on the horse during the whole week, which had never been the case before. My horse had got a fright twice that week and I had no issue calming it down again. However, the more I had moved into my head the less balanced I was. Somehow my horse spooked again - it is not a horse that usually spooks - and I landed with full of force on the ground.
It is unclear whether my stirrups had been uneven as it seemed later or my all week long "uneven" riding was part of uneven stirrups or I actually have become more uneven... In the meantime I have learned from a German horse whisperer what could have caused an uneven rider or horse.
In any case I leaned too much towards one side, lost my stirrup (which isn't too big a deal either if you have a good position) and ultimately lost my balance. As I cantered towards my son and his horse I wondered if his horse was going to spook as well. In that moment my horse turned right to avoid them and I had this feeling and thought of "I can't control it anymore" and maybe even let (?) myself fall. It seemed like there was no other option in that moment.
My son's horse was unfazed by the whole "drama", as was my daughter's. They patiently stood their and watched it unfold. As I left the arena to sit on the bench my children continued the lesson. Tears rolled down my cheeks. An emotional release. I had to fall off the horse to have this emotional release? It was a moment of acknowledging where I felt I was in my life and how the horse had mirrored it to me so beautifully all week long.
Although I seemed to have lost connection in directing him he was never truly disconnected. He followed all my instructions or lack of them and to a certain extent it was even comical. I can laugh about the whole episode - not too much though because I immediately feel my pain spots but maybe the laughter will help heal the physical pain faster. Hold on, maybe I don't need to rush the healing process to ensure I pause long enough so the change in my life can happen!
For me it was also important that the horse knew it was not his fault in any way.
My horse is incredibly experienced in what it can do - just like myself with my whole skill set. So why then am I not just merely enjoying the ride? I was so happy at the start of my holiday to ride such an advanced horse and it gave me so much joy and feeling of "being a more skilled rider".
Why did I allow my head once again to get too busy and narrow my vision? Why did I once again lose trust in my natural connection and skills that I had acquired over time? How did "outside inputs and impulses" effected my "performance", my choices and ultimately my ride? Why did I once again lose myself in technicalities?
If you are curious about the answers then you can read them next week in part II. I also describe in part II what helped me heal and re-balance after the fall and how conversations with different people contained few but very impactful words and drawings. Even more importantly I became aware how and where I was blocking the flow in my life. The discovery of a famous German horse whisperer who had his own TV show opened up my field and vision even more!
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