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Round Pen Experience - Chapter II (continued) -


". . . after my last visit, I feel that I shall always return there. It is beyond doubt a place of healing, which I particularly felt on my last evening. The sunset was golden, stretching endlessly across the sky, breathtakingly beautiful, so my constant companion, Tzar the farm dog, and I decided to take a late evening stroll to give me a chance to say my au revoirs to the animals. An overwhelming sense of peace enveloped me and I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from watching the last rays of the sun dropping behind the horizon to return to the house.

I am not an eloquent person, although I do enjoy shooting the breeze with anyone who will humor me, neither am I often inspired to write. However, here I am again waxing lyrical and wondering what makes my fingers fly so fast across the keys.

The purpose of my latest visit was to attend a course hosted by Gill and given by Equine Assistance Growth and Learning Association. It was very informative, entertaining and insightful. I felt that I learnt a lot, both in respect to my impending volunteer work for the Coalition for the Protection of Children in Bermuda, and about myself personally. It was astonishing to learn how much one can find out about a person’s character by a simple exercise such as catching a horse and putting on a headcollar, just by watching the body language of the human and the horse. Greg was great fun, he obviously knew his stuff, and presented the course in a professional manner. If I had any criticism it would be that safety should have played a bigger part in the proceedings and that the course could have been condensed into two days if we’d talked a little less and done a little more – but then I’m not a therapist.

However, for the three days of the course, I felt myself looking forward to once again working in the round pen. After my last session, I really felt that I had “done” the round pen – how wrong can a girl be! As Sunday dawned, I felt nervous and jittery again. The pressure was on - aaarrgghhh!!!

Penny, my allotted equine partner, and I know each other from old and I felt a knot developing in the pit of my stomach. She is a wise old mare who has seen and done it all and has retired to Kentucky to help with Gill’s therapeutic program. It was her first time in the round pen so, in retrospect, the poor mare had no idea what was expected of her, she was a little sore and I didn’t help her at all. At the time, I could feel my temper rising and my patience waning as she steadfastly refused to comply! My mind went blank and I found it impossible to assimilate the directions given to me, becoming more and more confused. Thoughts were going through my mind that had nothing to do with that moment. I think Bruce, Penny and I worked together for much longer than the planned hour. Bruce somehow kept his patience but I have to admit that I can’t say the same for myself – I felt agitated with Bruce that he dared to suggest that I should look inward for answers. Somehow I calmed myself and tried my hardest to see the situation through the eyes of the dun mare staring suspiciously at me as if to say “what on earth does this woman want of me?” I tried to break everything down to the very next step and it worked – we managed a few simple exercises, and I had to take on board that I had tried to offload any responsibility for what was happening. I gratefully retreated to my seat thanking God and Penny for the reprieve – lessons learned? – yup many, but I don’t even want to go there!

Day 2 – by now having fun and looking forward to the challenge. After all, it had to get better! I was also very excited about the prospect of my daughter working with Bruce and Nony again – she had come on in leaps and bounds since her initiation back in April. The biggest test was gluing myself to the ground while they were all in the round pen. I didn’t want to influence her experience, rather leave the three of them to work out things together. What amazed me at the outset was how keen she was to get in there, she obviously remembered what was expected and was determined to do the best she could. I watched her carry out the same exercise as she had previously done in April with completely different, but equally positive, results – proof that each time in the round pen is a new experience and many lessons can be learned. At one point, she fell off Nono, understandably getting upset, however, Bruce persuaded her to stay with him. I was so full of admiration for her – she has a big, brave heart and it made me realize how she has come through such a hard start in life so very well.

My turn – I actually felt excited and determined. Trusty was the horse du jour and we were both upbeat from the start. He is my favorite type of horse – forward going, kind but with a strong mind and opinion of his own. This was turning out to be a great day. We worked on a few simple exercises and I could feel my confidence rising. Bruce then threw in a few turns for us to work on – slight hitch here. Although Trusty would turn away from me beautifully, he really didn’t want to turn in towards me. This is where Bruce’s strength of character came into play – he patiently and quietly tutored me through the moves, never once raising his voice or rushing. The more we worked at it, the more I wanted to do, I was out of breath but the exhilaration had started to kick in. I felt that Trusty and I were performing some kind of primitive dance, my body was moving of its own accord and I had gone past trying to consciously work it out and had given in to working with my instinct.

Finally, I felt that we’d achieved enough. Bruce suggested that I turn away from the horse and position my body in a certain manner, I could feel Trusty moving closer to me and could hardly believe what was happening. I moved a little more and that magic moment came – I felt him touch his nose to my shoulder – as I write this, tears come to my eyes again –I felt an explosion of emotion too deep to describe. I am not able to do justice to what happened, suffice to say that I cried as I hadn’t for many years and, although I tried to hide it from my daughter, she sensed something of it. She also burst into tears and I truly feel that right there and then, we bonded as mother and daughter – completely and unequivocally. How and why I have tried to speak of, but am left speechless. I am so full of gratitude to the man and the horse who made it possible.

Since then, I have not really been able to speak much of the experience – it left me feeling raw and vulnerable and somewhat shell shocked. I know this sounds dramatic, but I am trying to be honest here - I felt that my soul had been turned inside out and didn’t really know how to handle it. I have had to face issues since then that I thought were long buried and it has been difficult, there have been a few more tears and much soul searching. However, I believe that I can be a bigger and better person and, more importantly, a better mother, if I can truly deal with my past, rather than burying the hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a wonderful life and it keeps getting better, however, as with any other person, I have had my “ups and downs” and the “downs” need to be dealt with. It is now 2 weeks since I returned home and my mind is once again beginning to clear – life is so sweet and I feel truly lucky to be where I am and going in the direction that is being paved for me.

The only teensie weensie problem that I have is logistics – I just can’t wait to meet another equine therapist to try out my newly acquired skills. Gosh, who knows what could happen next time!"

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