I once spent two weeks working as a volunteer at a beautiful farm that specialized in coaching with the help of horses.
Horses are very social, intuitive animals, trained to constantly watch each other’s body language for signs of peace or war. So it’s not surprising that they are masters in reading people as well. There’s no faking it – they are on to you.
To win their trust, you have to be totally honest and clear. And their feedback is straight and direct ; there’s no horsing around…
They hold a mirror up to you, because how you act around the horses is how you act in the rest of your life.
And what you get to see is not always pretty.
At the farm, I helped feed the horses in the morning, clean up their dung from the pastures, muck out their stalls.
I worked in the kitchen (a tiny bit). I drove the kids to the swimming pool, helped with the apple harvest and managed to burn the apple stew we made that night. I took long walks in the woods with the family dog, and at night I slept like a rose in my attic room.
I was also chosen to be the guinea pig at a training for horse coaches there.
I presented the group with a very lightweight, easy to solve question (“What should I do with my life ?”), and then we spent the day trying to get closer to an answer, with the help of the horses.
There were insights (for the coaches), there were tears (mine) and there was a lot of patience (from the horses).
I stepped away from the experience a bit closer to self understanding, but also with deep admiration for the power and wisdom of horses.
In the movie “The Mustang”, Belgium’s national pride Matthias Schoenaerts plays a convicted heavy criminal involved in training wild horses in the Nevada desert. Even wearing drab prisoner garb, with a shaven head and a goatee, he manages to look irresistable… those eyes…
Where was I ? Oh yes, horses. By the end of the movie, it’s definitely the man who’s most drastically transformed by their encounter. It’s beautiful to see how this aggressive, hardened human finds the courage to open up to life again by working closely with a wild, seemingly hostile horse.
This must have been in the back of my mind when I made this painting. I set out to make an abstract work, but out of the swipes and spots emerged the silhouet of a wild horse, running in a river, making a big splash. Full of energy, power, and a terrific sense of freedom. The kind of reckless freedom I felt splashing around in puddles as a child, pounding my little yellow boots for maximum impact.
It is my love song to these wonderful animals and what they, in all their kindness, can teach us.
(Equestrian coaching at HorSense.be)
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