Living in-relation with horses: why I ride

December 27, 2023 – Ann Game

No matter how attentive we might be to issues of safety, there are always risks involved in working with horses, and, particularly, in riding. Given my age and the bone density issue I have, I am acutely aware of these risks. Consequently, I contend with a certain level of fear, particularly, with a fear of falling. In adulthood, I have had a couple of traumatic falls, and, although they were a long time ago, the bodily memory remains. Despite this, I have a deep need to continue riding.

Some time ago, Corey suggested that I write about why riding is so important to me and how I address my issues with fear. This could be encouraging, he thought, to others in similar situations. While we all have our particular histories with horses, fear in working with them is common, even if not always acknowledged. (At this point, it is perhaps worth mentioning that it was after the second of those falls that I sought out a different way of working with horses, one that focussed on learning how to understand and communicate with horses.)

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Living in-relation with horses: foundations

September 15, 2022 – Ann Game

When I hear ‘groundwork’, I hear two things simultaneously: work on the ground and foundational work, which together require a state of being grounded. From the moment we meet our horses we are doing groundwork in this double sense. Everything we do matters – how we greet our horses, lead them, groom them, will have implications for further work, on this particular day and in future situations. We will be establishing foundations. Most importantly, we want to establish a trustworthy connection, so that wherever we might be, in whatever circumstances, our horses will trust our leadership.

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Living in-relation with horses: being grounded

August 19, 2022 – Ann Game

Gardeners speak of the transformative effect of having their hands in the earth. In gardening, we connect with a life bigger than ourselves, with life-and-death cycles of plants, with earth and air, and worms and bees. But, typically, it’s the grounding experience itself that is spoken of as the moment that brings about a change in our being. Having our hands in the ground has a wonderfully calming effect, alleviating anxieties and chatter in our heads, allowing us to come out of ourselves and into relation with the world around us.

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Living in-relation with horses: having faith

July 9, 2022 – Ann Game

When I lack faith, I become controlling, thinking it’s all up to me to get something done. My hunch is that this is a common experience in all domains of life, and that it is prevalent in our life with horses. The trouble is that as soon as we become controlling, we lose a connection with our horses. If, on the other hand, we have faith, we can let go of this self-centred condition and, rather than trying to make things happen, we can work with feel through a connection with our horse. In short, having faith and trusting in the relation can help us, as Tom Dorrance would say, ‘get ourselves out of the way and let it happen’ (see eg Tom Dorrance, True Unity, 1987 Pp 46-48).

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Living in-relation with horses: practice

June 16, 2022 – Ann Game

While everyone knows that practice is essential for developing our horse skills, it is often thought of simply as a means to an end. But, in order to really connect with our horses, we need to be present, undistracted by goals and outcomes. This is where an appreciation of practice in the fullest sense of the term can be helpful, namely practice understood as a vocation to which we are devoted. When engaged in such a practice, we have a sense of participating in something bigger, more important than ourselves. It is something that we feel we should do, that is good: this matters, it feels right. Practice then becomes a way of life and a learning without end, thus allowing us to hold our goals lightly and become immersed in what is before us here-and-now.

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Living in-relation with horses: awareness

March 4, 2022 – Ann Game

Throughout these posts I’ve been referring to the centrality of awareness to the development of a connection with our horses. So, it seems appropriate now to say a little more about what is involved in this relational state of being and why it is crucial to the process of learning feel.

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Living in-relation with horses: The impossibility of teaching

December 31, 2021 – Ann Game

‘I can’t teach you anything. I can only help you learn.’ (Tom Dorrance, True Unity, 1987, P 49

Deep learning involves discovering an intuitive feel for a discipline or field, whatever it might be – maths, Italian, cricket, playing the piano, working with horses. Like all good teachers, Tom Dorrance was insistent that feel could not be acquired through instruction, the transfer of the teacher’s knowledge to the student – ‘it is not something that can be handed to someone – it has to be learned’ (Dorrance 6). While people might get something at a cognitive level, real learning only happens through full-bodied experience – ‘It’s experience, I guess’ was one of Tom’s constant refrains. Learning feel, then, is an organic process in which each student learns in their own way, at their own particular pace (6, 12, 18, 30). And, a good teacher will set aside any outcomes they might desire for a student in order to allow this learning to happen.

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Living in-relation with horses: boundaries

September 6, 2021 – Ann Game

In the previous post I described the stillness of a supportive holding space. Here, I want to talk about the significance of boundaries in the creation of that space and the role they play in building a horse’s confidence in our reliability.

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