Riding Beyond COVID-19
A message from Trish Broersma, Director of Riding Beyond:
Never have our Saturday sessions for the general public with the theme of “Challenging Times Call for New Strategies,” held more relevance. In the absence of our Riding Beyond face to face sessions with our horses in the coming weeks through April, and perhaps longer, I’ve been contemplating what we’ve harvested together these past years with our horses that might hone our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of my favorite natural talents that horses offer us come to mind, pointing to new strategies for these times.
Return to calm / modulating emotional responses.
While my dear drama-queen and king horses will immediately react with caution and distrust, snorts, sidles and shies, to a saddle newly placed on the railing or to a rock in the road that’s been there the dozens of times we’ve passed it before, and my steady-eddies will show equally excited curiosity in approaching anything new, they all, in the company of their companions, find their way back to calmly grazing within minutes. It’s an admirable natural ease in navigating the highs and lows of life. They model healthy emotional responses for us to mindfully attend to our own encounters with chaos. As COVID-19 radically changes our daily patterns and suggests dire consequences in the near and long-range future, we can feel into our horses’ returns to calm and likewise return to calmly grazing, human grazing opportunities like sharing poetry with friends across the world on a Zoom call, practicing breathing meditation that breathes in all that COVID-19 represents and breathes out a new virus of caring, as friend Jean Houston invites us to create, reaching out to those more vulnerable than ourselves as well as neighbors.
- As our preparations carry us into extended quieter times, check out this list of 100 suggestions to avoid boredom and stir-craziness, fresh strategies for our grassy grazing. Sometimes a list is all I need: https://chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/3/18/21185118/coronavirus-quarantine-things-to-do-stuck-inside
Herd dynamics / the power of community.
I smile, thinking of the researcher who startled a group of monkeys and observed them scatter among the trees in all directions, even the young away from their parents. With similar startling, however, a herd of horses banded together and ran in one direction. He’s pointing to our human tendencies to be on our own, fiercely at times, individualism and resistance to the collective still firmly rooted. My son from England (who arrived to visit here initially for a week in February and now it will be at least 3 months), reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s motto: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” And it’s right here in my generally progressive and caring town: grocery store customers venting anger and ridicule at clerks about protective new pandemic policies. Closer to home: A friend who traveled home to my neighborhood the day before Italy went into lockdown immediately instituted self-quarantine upon her return. In her text response to my check-in as soon as I learned of her situation after a week, she spoke of her feelings of isolation and disappointment in people’s fear reactions.
Yet everywhere, there are heartening declarations of the power of community. I imagine our horses’ patient appreciation of our human evolution finally making progress here. Our local grocery coop chastised unruly customers by mass email, calling for respect in our collective response as a caring community. My neighbor lighted up at the idea of re-installing Zoom to reconnect with friends and work associates, a return to calm within her beloved community. And this, elsewhere: even with those who can barely check email, intention circles and meditation groups have found surprisingly meaningful gatherings with online resources.
We are evolving as human beings to honor the gifts of what has been denigrated as the “herd mentality,” fortunate to have horses in our lives, along with intention circles, and all kinds of heartening community responses, to remind us of this higher ground.
Heightened sensing of the environment / the subtle energetics in our surroundings.
The flick of an ear, the widening eye, then a calming eye, the swish of a tail, a wiggle in one nostril, a raised head: horses’ nonverbal cues fuel my conversations with them. Their attunement to all around them wakes up my whole body as I engage in similar manner. First, I’m noticing what they notice in our surroundings, and then I’m noticing what I’d not recognized before in other people. Subtle cues begin to have significance: tone of voice, the flick of a lock of hair, bright eyes gone flat. I take it in from my own eyes, ears, skin. I feel it in my gut. I figure all this has been available to me before, but now I’m paying attention, exploring its significance, like one of my favorite detectives whose stories I may be in danger of ODing on in the coming days. Boredom is a thing of the past. And then, as the subtle and even unseen becomes available, a wonder unfolds. I take it into my heart and feel a growing joy there, a confidence in being held and participating in a sparkling web that connects us all. We are kin with all of the natural world, even the living cosmos.
When my springtime gleeful horses gallop and cavort across the pasture, they sometimes turn and run toward me and stop in snorting, bright-eyed, larger-than-life power and beauty as they reach my boundary bubble. They remind me that horses like them have lent us their beauty and power throughout human history in our most trying times, providing heroic opportunities in history-changing events. They reside in our imaginations that way through stories coming to us over the millennia. Today they can give us powerful, imaginal companionship to help us access new resources for challenging times,
• Rising up within our mind’s eye with a comforting eye of compassion when we are sorrowful or anxious,
• Glancing backward as they walk forth, encouraging us to come along, get out of bed, get dressed and meet the day’s challenges with them,
• Wrapping a long neck around our shoulders, muzzle pressed gently into our back, inviting us to be one with something larger than ourselves,
• Gladly coming to join two human friends in conversation sharing their own nonverbal contributions from their huge heart and gut brains,
• A winged Pegasus offering a wide back to fly above our blue planet to shower blessings over its living essence,
• Riding in a quiet twilight with no tack through the neighborhoods, offering peace and wellness to one household in quarantine, calm to another, feeling gratitude for the Way, the way that helps us all ride beyond, together.