Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ceremonial Time

Pie has been teaching me some things that are important - I expect I have a lot more to learn.  We've been together now for a little over 3 months - I suspect he thinks I'm a slow learner, but he puts up with me.   I pretty quickly figured out that he really didn't like staying in a stall at night.  He tolerated it - he never misbehaved in any way but made his preference known, mainly by indicating that he was eager to leave anytime I opened the stall door.  But he never kicked or pawed or pushed - that would be too much drama and he's not one for drama.

Then, after a while of taking him to his paddock directly from turnout and feeding him up there, we noticed that he would pace and pace the fence line after eating his pellets - never running and calling, but just walking up and down with his head over the fence - until I would go and bring him into the barn, tie him in the aisle and groom him and take him back out.  Then he would settle down for the night and eat his hay.  My bringing him in and then back out again was clearly a move in the right direction.

But finally, as a result of trying to find a way to make things easier for our p.m. feeders, we've been bringing him into the barn from turnout, and feeding him his dinner in his stall.  I leave some hay in there for him to nibble on before the horses are fed, but as soon as he's done with his soaked pellets, I take him back out to his paddock with his evening hay.  Last night I finally noticed what this  produced - happy, happy Pie!  He marched right off to his hay and started eating, even though this was the first night that had been warm enough for him to go out in 5 days.

And then I remembered that when I met him for the first time, I went to the pasture with his old man and we haltered and brought in the horses.  The old man apparently brought all the horses in once a day to feed them their grain in their stalls, and then turned them back out.  This was probably the routine Pie had followed since he was a weanling.  By replicating this pattern, even though Pie goes out by himself without other horses to his paddock after feeding time, somehow I've given Pie back a ritual, a ceremony, that was very important to him.  He would have been fine without it, but having it has made him deeply contented, and it's a gift that I'm glad to give him.  Last night when I left the barn after putting him out, I could see him happily eating his hay in his paddock, and lifting his head from time to time to survey his world with the profile of his ears silhouetted against the sky.  Happy, happy Pie.

* * * * * *
This got me thinking about the importance of ceremonies, and ceremonial time, in our interactions with our horses.  One of the best things about interacting with my horses, and the others at the barn, on a daily basis - often several times a day - is the opportunity to participate with them in the ceremonies we share, and to observe the ceremonies they have with each other in their herds - I did a post about the rhythms the horses have.  To me there is a deep connection in the small moments - riding is the least of it - particularly when I am touching or interacting with the horse, where time slows and the moment is all that matters.  It's in the greeting we give each other of glance and touch when I halter, as we look into each other's eyes and I touch a face or neck before the halter goes on.  It's in the rituals of grooming - the careful, slow, movement of the curry, brush or comb, the connection we share as my hands rest on and pass over the horse's body and as the horse carefully lifts each foot for picking.  It's in the breathing of each other's breath as the horse raises his nostrils to my face and takes me in.  It's in the deep intelligence of the horse's eye as the horse looks at me and sees me for who I truly am.  It's in the coming to me when I call them by name - sometimes at a run.  It's in Dawn taking time to rest her head on my shoulder as we groom and closing her eyes in contentment as I stroke her face. It's in the communication and figuring out we do together, involving balance, focus and energy, when we work on the ground or when I'm riding.  I'm never more alive than I am with the horses when we share these ceremonial times, and I try to carry that feeling with me into the rest of my life.

To conclude, here is a Navajo Blessing Way prayer that I believe captures the essence of the deep ceremonial time I am fortunate to share with horses - the horse and I are both the "I":

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.


  1. This is a beautiful post and completely sums up why I love my horses. It's the small moments of beauty in my day to day life that sustains me and keeps me going when there is so much haste and anger, turmoil and worry that makes everyday living difficult. I've not seen the prayer before now, but believe me I'm printing it out and carrying it with me in my purse.


  2. Awww happy, happy Pie! That is so cool how you figured out his routine just by paying attention to what he was telling you. Good job!!

  3. Beautiful. That's an inspiring post today and an idea I'll carry with me and think about as I work with my horses.

  4. My old stud was big on routine. I swear he had an internal clock.7 am out for the day 7pm in for the night .If you were early or late he was huffy about it.Love the prayer

  5. What a beautiful post, Kate. I really enjoy trying to figure out what my boy is telling me when I am with him. It's like a never ending puzzle to figure out...and it's FUN. I sometimes pity others who only go by THEIR set routine when they are at the barn. There is so much in the relationship that they are missing out on.
    Griffin comes in at night as well....and I don't think he minds it during the winter months, but during the summer I think he is reluctant sometimes. I am working on getting my BO to leave him outside more in the summer when the weather is good :)

  6. Oh Kate! Thank you for this post. Pie's feeding ritual and love of its return made me cry. I am so happy when we are able to figure out what they are (silently) saying and give that to them. It makes it all right.

    I love sharing in their rituals. It makes me feel closer to them.

    Great post.

  7. They are very much creatures of habit. Even more so than people I daresay. And I daresay that it isn't too much for them to ask that we honor their ritual habits, when it contributes to their well-being and comfort.

  8. Very nice post and very true. Our horses are happiest when our rituals, our ceremonials are followed each day.

    Thanks for the prayer.


  9. You're such a lovely writer, Kate. :)

    All my horses have thought I'm a slow learner. Their patiences with our mental challenges always humbles me.

  10. Those shared moments, ceremonies, and rituals are the profound and priceless rewards that come when we be / are with our horses.

    Lovely post Kate :)

  11. Lovely post! I agree, the rituals we share with our horses are soooo important - and so fulfilling.

  12. I have heard that Navajo Blessing many times here in New Mexico. A friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail, Florida Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail had a shirt made with this blessing to remind him what a treasure and privilege he has been given to be able to walk in nature.

    Pie is very lucky that you are his owner. :)


  13. Wonderfull.

    I think being part of a horses ceremonies is a blessing that all of us horse people share. Somedays all I need to feel whole is to visit the barn, and help with the ritual.

  14. Beautiful
    Kate, truly.
    You have really nailed it. The beauty and routine and consistanceies of life, are treasures and can be leaned upon. An Awareness that can reveal the heart of being with these creatures.

    I adore the ceremony I have with my mare. It has given me more to my life and also much more to owning my mare. When All else fails, I have a deep love of the earth with her. Like the Blessing prayer mare and I live that~

  15. Lovely post. And how nice to call it "ceremony" rather then routine. It elevates the experience to something far more significant and speaks to the respect our horses deserve.

  16. Great post. I'm glad you realized what Pie wanted. He's so good, to always behave well no matter what, but then show you in his happiness what he needed to feel at home.
    Thanks for the information on sarcoids. Greatly appreciated.

  17. That is lovely, thanks for sharing.

  18. What a lovely prayer. We are fortunate to live in a climate that allows our horses to be on 24/7 turn out. They are in their stalls for meals of course (and sometimes to get out of the rain) but they all definitely prefer "staying outside". Glad you and Pie found your rhythm ;o)

  19. I should add that, as I understand it, the Navajo concept of beauty is one of balance, oneness and internal harmony that is inside the person and then carried into the world, rather than the concept of looking outside oneself for beauty to be perceived.

  20. Wonderful, wonderful post. I'm with Jean, I think using the word ceremony in place of routine is what gets the message across to me so well.

  21. Loved this post. Lovely that you are intuitive and in tune with Pie, and that you care to "read " him contribute to his emotional well being. Many people only want to do what is convenient for them, and expect the horse to adapt. Happy Pie that you are his owner!

  22. Wonderful.

    Our life lacks rhythm right now(and rhyme. and reason), hopefully that comfort will return soon.

  23. Very neat that you were able to figure out what Pie wanted. He's a lucky horse to have an owner who listens!


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