While it wasn’t the ideal day to take a walk in the desert with the horses, there was a restless part of me that wouldn’t settle for anything less. No matter how I tried to redirect my attention, the restlessness only grew louder.
On any given day, there is always the desire to spend my day outdoors with the horses, but there was something more urgent about today. A quick glance at the clock, helped me make the decision. Summer temps have arrived in Phoenix and I knew the longer I waited the hotter it was going to get. So, I grabbed my boots and headed out the door. As I approached Butler and Max's pen, I was surprised to see them both standing at the gate, anticipating my arrival. Normally Max is tucked away under his favorite shade tree and Butler is napping in the sun by this time of day. They seemed to be waiting for me, which led me to believe there was something afoot. The horses and our walk now had my full attention. We had the trail to ourselves and were enjoying a quiet walk through the desert. The trail turned and headed toward a long-abandoned stock tank dug into the desert. This tank, one of many in the area, was once filled with water by ranchers for livestock. Today they are large holes in the desert, surrounded by thick stands of trees and brush. As we approached the tank, the rhythmic hoof beats of the horses suddenly stopped. So abruptly that I hit the end of the slack in their lead ropes before I realized they weren’t moving. When I turned to look at them their heads were high, eyes wide, and nostrils flared. They were taking in the scent of things I couldn’t sense or see. We stood quietly for a few minutes, me curious about what they were sensing. After some time, they relaxed a bit, but were still on alert. I coaxed them on, only to be met with resistance. We stood for a few more minutes before a family of javelina emerged from the brush. The parents gave us a wary eye, and quickly moved the youngsters across the trail and into a nearby wash. I waited a few minutes longer before urging the horses to walk on, and again was met with resistance. By this time, both horses were ready to turn and head back the way we’d come. They weren’t interested in any more trail adventures that day. However, I had a different idea. This would be a good experience for us to work through together. My next ask to move forward was more insistent. They took a couple of steps before they dug in again. This scenario continued to play out for some time. With each ask we gained some ground, but it was tentative, and they’d stop when no longer comfortable moving forward. This went on until we finally reached the edge of the tank. As we walked through and explored the tank, I reflected on the experience we’d just had. There are two take-aways that were important for me, and I’m betting you’ll see the wisdom in them too.
1. Even though the horses could smell and sense things beyond my abilities, they still trusted me to take a few steps forward each time I asked. They were willing to release some control in the situation and explore the next couple of steps. This not only required trust in me, but more so trust in themselves to move out of their comfort zone.
There is a gap between where each of us are and where we desire to go. In this gap lives the unknown, because we’ve never been in this exact place before. To successfully navigate this gap, it becomes necessary for us to release some control and trust where the path takes us. If we control every move, we often recreate where we’ve just come from because it is what we know best. Releasing control and trusting are key ingredients in personal growth and open the potential for things greater that we can currently imagine.
Questions to ponder – Where are you trying to control something too tightly, and therefore limit what can be created? Where are you not trusting yourself, or the process?
2. When the javelina appeared and moved past us, the horses had experienced something they didn’t like. Left to their own accord, they would have turned around and ran back home. All because of what they had experienced and the story that experience had created in their mind. (I am taking some liberty here to make my point. Horses are prey animals and survival mode plays a key role in their behavior. I’m intentionally giving this a more human experience to make my point and share the wisdom in the message I received.)
Our beliefs can keep us from moving towards a dream or desire we really want. These beliefs often create fantastical stories that seem so real and truthful we believe them. These made up stories often keep us from moving towards our deepest soul-felt desires.
Questions to ponder – What limiting beliefs and stories are keeping you from what you most desire? What beliefs and stories is it time to release and rewrite?
I am grateful my inner restlessness prompted my walk with the horses that day. The experience and take-aways were exactly the wisdom and guidance I needed. And with a smile I realize this is why I love coaching people with horses. The horses and nature know exactly how to create an experience that is powerful and deliver the just-in-time messages and wisdom we need to hear.