Yesterday I went to work with Nelson. There is The Work, but the other part is that I go to Nelson because being with him is an immediate way to get happy and move into focus.
There had been snow so things were different. Nelson was spookier than he has been for a long time. The snow was falling off the trees onto the hood of my car making this random timpani sound which he found alarming (so did I). For both of us the light was refracting differently, and the footing was sloppy and icy. He allowed me to take the giant snow balls off his feet, and then we went to work.
I have been developing the work on Nelson’s left – the dark side – asking him to move on cue onto a circle going left so that his dark side is the one facing me. When he circles to the right, his body is a smooth curve, and he moves comfortably – either close in to me or farther out, depending on how I have asked. When he goes left, his body is straight as a plank, he doesn’t want to look at me and he is markedly more tense. It is as if the cannot feel himself on that side.
The BLM freeze brands the captured Mustangs on the left side of their neck. Given Nelson’s terror and ferocity at that time, I am sure that event was traumatic and violent at least. Maybe that is why the dark side is so persistently dark.
The lovely thing was that after we practiced his a few times, he got quieter and calmer. Not exactly soft, but I could see that coming. That was when I hit a patch of slippery slush and made a shockingly disorganized predator movement. Arms flung up for balance. He took off. After a few moments, he came back and we went on. That is the very beautiful part of developing a long relationship with a horse. There is a foundation of trust, a language of ask and answer that let’s us slide seamlessly back into the work and the relationship.
Here are some of the things I have learned from Nelson. These are lessons that spill into my writing, my choreography, my mothering.
- the importance of consistency
- how to go slow
- how to build the work incrementally
- how to begin again
- the meaning of love
The last one is probably the most important. There is nothing like stopping to take in the sun, the trees, the hills while standing next to a creature that is choosing to be there, to be next to you in that breathing moment. Today my stallion Capprichio put his nose on my neck and stood like that, just breathing for about two minutes. Bliss.
postscript: I am teaching an online class called Breaking into Blossom: Moving into an Improvisational Life starting on January 23. If you register before December 23, the price is $75. On Christmas Eve Day it goes up to $100.