‘Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.’ Anonymous
I am trying to verbalize something that can’t be verbalized. This is probably why I am still a student and not a master. The one who knows doesn’t need to say and really has no questions. The one who doesn’t know, thinks and asks in excess.
I think my horse trainer is a zen master and I think it is more relevant because it wouldn’t matter to him what he was. That’s not what he is trying to do, that is just who he is. I’m honestly not sure why it’s even important for me to write this down. I feel if I can understand it better by writing it down, somehow I will capture it in a way that will stick with me. I know now after writing most of this already, capturing and clinging to it isn’t the goal.
There are several things that came to my mind on why I started looking at this from such a perspective.
- Every time I assume to think I know what he is saying and repeat it, his response is always ‘no,no,no’. Ok so I didn’t get it right…You never get zen right in words because zen just is and needs to be experienced.
- I took some notes one day when I was riding alone. I wanted to ask him some questions on things my horse was doing and how I should respond to these things in the future. He says ‘I can’t answer those questions, that day doesn’t matter anymore. What happened then will never happen again in the same way, so those questions can’t be answered’. Much like zen mindfulness and living in the moment… So there went my question asking session. Although he did tell me to go ahead and ask the questions, which I did, which may have stuck me in a place that I shouldn’t be (in the past or in the future and not in the present moment…) I concluded that he doesn’t want me to think. It’s better to react to whatever happens in the moment (knowing your aids), not overthink everything. He would not say he was trying to tell me to do anything.
- When I ask him a question he seems to always answer ‘Do what you feel like’. Is it ok if I ride with the reins long when I first get on her? he responds ‘do what you feel like and pay attention to what she is doing so you can react’ (mindfulness). Another question ‘when she starts lifting her head really high to look at something should I keep her from looking (knowing she can get really distracted and ‘higher’ when staring at something)? his answer… ‘you can keep her from looking but after a while she is going to start to resent you telling her what to do all the time’ (I think he is speaking from personal experience)…’Are my old habits going to come back and ruin all you have done?’ (I am spooky which makes her spooky and then we both are spookier…). His reply ‘no, no,no!’ you can never ruin her, we just make things we might need to fix…It’s about the moments…not about the future or the past. Just because she did something today doesn’t mean we should expect it’s going to happen tomorrow no matter why she did it.
Thankfully, I have had very similar learning experiences with other horse masters…so that when I hear what he is saying, it’s sinking into areas of my brain that have already had impressions placed. Hearing the same things in different ways, from different views and life experiences creates an even deeper level of understanding.
I never had someone actually ride my horse at my house before. It was always about me riding while receiving instruction. I think a lot of assumptions go into that. First and probably the worst is that the horse knows what to do and second that I know what I am doing to some extent. Poor Repay. Our continuous cycle of staying the same in a place of being inconsistent in our progress (frustrating each other) had a lot to do with both of our ignorance. The trainer rides her twice a week and I get on her and she responds consistently and peacefully. He says he didn’t do any of that, it was already in her with good training from her previous training experiences but what he did was quiet her down so that I could feel all that was already there. Plus he is so accurate with his requests that when he tells me what his cue or aid is, she reacts in a way that she is teaching me how to be correct as well. I still have these bad habits of thinking (not zen) she is trying to evade something when it’s really the way I am asking that makes her think I want her to do one thing and she is trying so hard while I get frustrated thinking (not zen) she’s doesn’t want to do it.
My favorite part (and something I really never ‘got’) is that getting on and standing under the trees is something she needed. Not working her was working her. Being a thoroughbred off the track that was trained from a baby to get up and go when a person got on her back had never really been taken out of her. Even in my own mind, you get on a horse and go. Walk, trot, canter. No matter if it was a trail ride or in the arena, it was always going. Repay never had trouble going, she had trouble not going. She had trouble even in her own self of calming down in every gait consistently. One day she’d be ok, one day not so ok. Even one of my favorite dressage teachers would say ‘she’s a thoroughbred, this is how she will be’ with such steadfast confidence. Thankfully for both of us, we have a new way that has finally gotten into my head. It seems pretty obvious and simple now that I really think about it. We are still a long way from achieving our powerful quietness, but our path is more obvious to me now.
I love her tail in this picture…It was really, really windy that day!