Yesterday morning when I was driving to the barn, I was listening to a recording of a call with Linda Kohanov, the founder of the Epona method. The subject was leadership and how horses can teach us a non-predatory way to be effective leaders. When I finally arrived to the barn, I felt extremely inspired by Linda's words. I have always been a fairly emotional person and Linda's teachings have always resonated with me and helped me make sense of my relationships with horses. Horses, as we know, are masters of communicating with emotions and they can teach us how to do it effectively.
For a while now I have had a strong feeling that Little Love is ready to start teaching other people than myself and Melissa. This is one reason why I invited my friend Marjo and her daughter into Lilo's life, to see what would come of this relationship. I can see that it is working and what Marjo tells me of her encounters with Lilo, I am convinced that she has become Lilo's student as well. But, would Lilo want to share with others, too? Does she have in her the capacity and the want to help more people find their way with the horses? Is this, in fact, why she is here now, with me?
The barn owner was at the barn when I arrived. We started talking and soon the conversation turned to Linda Kohanov's work. The barn owner had heard of Linda, but didn't have much of an idea what she was all about. I tried to explain and sort of wondered out loud about Little Love wanting to "teach" in the same way as many of the horses who work in the Epona environment do.
"Oh my gosh, yes! I think Little Love wants to do something like that," the barn owner said immediately.
"What makes you say that?" I asked.
"Well, just in the past few weeks I have noticed a change in her. She is just always seeks a connection. Like in the morning when I let the horse out of their stalls to go outside, the others just rush out without a second thought, but Lilo..." She looked into the distance. "It's hard to explain. When I open the door, she just stands there and looks at me, waiting for me to communicate to her that she can go. It's the same at feeding time or whenever I'm around her, she is always communicating. Not just going about her business like the others."
Wow. I thought Little Love was like that just with Melissa and me, but apparently it is starting to happen with others, too. She is no longer just a horse functioning around humans, but an interactive being.
As a spur of the moment thing, I asked the barn owner if she would be willing to try something new. She said yes, so once I got Lilo out of the paddock, I put her into the little fenced-in area we call "the pikadero". I asked the barn owner to stand with her back towards Lilo and then we did a body scan. This is when the person goes over her own body, feeling and taking in any sensations that come to her. Then she picks one that stands out the most. In the barn owner's case it was her breathing, she said she felt like she couldn't breath and this feeling was strong in her chest and around her sternum. I asked her to turn and face Lilo, who was digging for roots in the pikadero and see if there was anything the horse would give her, like a message in connection to this feeling. This could be anything starting from a big, blue ball (I had this once, turned out to be Mother Earth) to a clear emotional message.
"Nope, no message," the barn owner said.
I asked her to go into the pikadero with Lilo and follow her instinct. If she wanted to touch the horse, she should try that, or she could just hang out. Whatever she felt like doing.
At first the barn owner helped Lilo pull out the roots from the ground. They labored together for a few minutes, until suddenly the barn owner broke off and walked a bit to the side. She squatted down with her back towards me. Lilo stopped pulling on the roots and just stood there, with an extremely focused look on her face. Then, after about a minute, she turned and walked a half-circle around the barn owner. It looked extremely deliberate, that is the only way I can describe it. Once she had completely the half-circle, Lilo took a sharp turn and headed towards the barn owner. At first I thought she was going to go to her, but instead she walked right in front of her, extremely close. Then she stopped. The barn owner, who was still squatting down, didn't move a muscle. Lilo's face was so focused, as if she was nearly in a trance. After many minutes, I asked the barn owner who was literally squatting at my horse's feet, what was going on in her mind, in her heart. What was she feeling?
"Nothing," she said at first. I knew this was not true, so I waited silently. She is a very private person who doesn't engage easily in conversation about her emotions.
"Well, actually," she said. "It sort of freaked me out that she came so close. I mean look where Lilo is standing." At the moment Lilo moved two feet forward. This placed her back legs directly next to the barn owner, who was still squatting on the ground. The barn owner continued: "She could kick me and kill me. I don't know, is this like all that stuff I have been taught about horses pushing through or what, but what I'm thinking about right now is trust and how hard it is to trust that she won't kick me. So yeah, I guess trust is what I am thinking about, or the lack thereof."
Lilo started licking and chewing, then she walked off to the other side of the pikadero. The barn owner stood up and wiped her eyes behind her glasses. I said nothing for a while. Then, I took a small leap of faith.
"Is trust something that comes up in your life a lot?" I asked. "And I don't mean with horses necessarily."
The barn owner looked up at me surprised. "Well..." she started, but then stopped. She bit her lip. "I guess I should say yes." She thought about it for a moment. "Actually, it's one of the biggest issues in my life." In the back ground I could see Lilo licking and chewing. She walked over to the barn owner and nudged her jacket for a carrot. The barn owner gave her one.
"I guess we are finished," she said and came out of the pikadero. "And just for the record, it feels easier to breath now."
Afterwards, I hung out a bit with Lilo. We walked around the pikadero together. I had the feeling she was extremely pleased with herself. And I can see that this is what she was born to do; unearth the issues we all have and help us come to terms with them. Not every horse wants to be a teacher in this respect, but I believe mine does. I hope I can help her with this in every possible way.
PS. More about Linda? Go to www.eponaquest.com