At The Windhorse Ranch, a new herd is forming. Lucy, a beautiful German Shepherd who came from a rescue, and Cash a handsome new Tennessee Walking Horse owned by a friend-horsewoman on the property, join a well- bonded, existing human and animal family. Animals and nature teach us much: The focus and energy management of how the dogs and horses worked through this transition are illuminating for we humans. This blog is written by Cheryl Ridall, our Activity Coach, who helps people align full days with physical activity to keep moving and inspire creativity.
Lucy arrived at a time that was not planned and following the passing of two beloved family Shepherds, Heidi and Neiko who were recently called to be with the angels. Cash was being boarded at another stable and is a veteran of change, having seen many different residences, so coming to Windhorse was another change among many.
Sparky, a Shepherd mix who has been part of the Windhorse family for many years was adjusting to being lone dog. Equine, Ellie, and donkey, Benny who also lost their soulmate, sweet, stoic Arabian Antonio at the start of 2014, had been adjusting to life as a smaller herd. Then, as though delivered overnight by one of those strong country breezes, it all shifted: a new dog, a new horse and new human!
The laws of nature work in ways that have much to teach us. As the equine herd out in the pasture adjusts to their new member, there was a question pre-arrival as to who the herd leader would be. Ellie, Sheila's mirror of strength and grace, has been the herd leader at Windhorse. Cash, has also been herd leader in his various environments.
In the same way as humans in a new work group do an “integration dance,” so too do horses. In the human world there are four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing, where polite “forming moves” occur at outset. Horses begin with storming. It is common to see lots of running, spinning, kicking and hear ugly squeals. They get this over with, the goal being to reach harmony as soon as possible.
Over the past few days since they were introduced and started co-habiting, Ellie decisively asserted her leadership from outset by ensuring that Cash did not get within about 20 feet of her and Benny. Cash learned quickly and was ready to give up his lead role. He quietly acquiesced to standing alone at the outer edge of the bubble Ellie created. If she moved 5 feet to the right, he moved 5 feet to the right, however if he came any closer, she would run him back. He listened. In the horse world this herd ordering is very transparent.
Cash’s owner also observed that another side to keeping Cash at the edge of the herd was to let him know that he was also a part of it, being allowed to integrate in stages: there was an interplay of a more relaxing mirroring of each other’s body language along with setting clear boundaries. At one point, Ellie and Cash were mirror images of one another cocking their back left hoof to rest, lowering their head, licking and chewing in relaxation. Allowing. Feeling into each other. A herd’s natural instinct is to reach harmony as soon as possible to preserve their energy for real survival situations. As humans, we can learn much from horses.
With each passing day, Ellie allowed Cash to come in closer, and by day four he was standing alongside the rest of the herd peacefully, eating with them, moving with them as a unit, eyes relaxed, muscles holding less tension, mind at rest.
Ellie takes her role as lead mare, protector of the herd’s well being extremely seriously. Teaching a new horse the boundaries of this herd, how to stay safe, where resources such as water and food are, is transmitted without words via shared intelligence. Horses need to know who their strongest are so that if danger shows up in any form, they will be led to safety. They are working it out, one hour and one day at a time. Human intervention is not necessary as they do what comes naturally and instinctively to them.
The dogs are mirroring this in terms of finding their way as new buddies. In their case, they were intentionally monitored and separated here and there, being given more together time as they learn about one another and how to play respectfully and safely.
Lucy and Cash are learning the Windhorse Ranch way to harmoniously live and play together through loving "detachment," yet are under human vigilance with sensitivity to their natural animal ways.
Through patience, earned trust and respecting healthy boundaries each animal treated as a sentient being at Windhorse is developing a more whole, balanced, authentic relationship with their ranch mates. The environment they are in encourages and allows, rather than controls, this.
The same is true of us. If we can create an open, caring environment to allow our relationships and our "herd" to develop through being fully who we are, patiently learning what we need to know, creating healthy boundaries and earning trust we will flourish in them and with them.
Our Wind Horse Coaching Team Approach to Get to the Core of Today’s multi-Faceted Issues:
Activity = Body & Mind in Flow for Best Solutions
Authenticity = Clarity + Accomplishing What Matters Most
Artistry = Approachability + Application for Leaders and Teams
What We Are Up To
June 24 – Austin Women’s Action Tank, Get it Done Meeting
September 13 – Renewal Retreat
September 24 – Salon: Living an Integrated Life
Fall 2014: MasterMind Group
Family “Out of the Cubicle ™” Equine Experiences
In a situation where Mum traveled a lot for work, we decided to do a family equine experience so that they could play and learn about their family teaming and balance together.
This family had a strong connection with the herd, completing a difficult team assignment in record time. Clear planning, keeping agreements, knowing their relative strengths, putting the family horse whisperer on the biggest part of the movement task, considering the herd as part of their team, breaking the task into parts so that every family member had an important role and relationship in the process - all contributed to their success.
Kudos to this family for embodying clarity, shared leadership, respect, strength, and deep love.
Sheila Armitage helps individuals and organizations adopt everyday resilience practices that boost work, home, and health.