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.