What Is Our Relationship To Control?

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With the unclipping of the lead rope, she begins to wander round the salt and pepper surface of the arena. On first impression, she appears black but the dark caramel on her flanks and underneath her stifle suggests this might not be true.

I look with more attention, see she’s the colour of deep and burnished toffee. The light falls in such a way that one side is accentuated in its brownness; the shadows magnify the black. She is far from one colour but a cacophony of many that, if I look with lazy eyes, my brain merges into one.

The rails of the arena are one, two, three rails down and then the ground. A foot drop, maybe two, enough to angle the head at 45 degrees and take a well-intentioned snatch at the grass that spans the perimeter underneath. She snatches and walks, snatches, and walks, consistently lapping the arena in a pattern we aren’t sure is pre-designed. But who knows really; it may be only the limits of our perception that suggests this is the case.

I sit within in the bowels of my dark green fold up chair, and I watch. I am observing at a clinic with Elsa Sinclair, and we are in the early stages of our time together here. These moments are just for observation. We are looking out for patterns of curiosity and concern, and if we are clever, to notice the signals that are communicated before. The uprisings of sensation and feeling in the body that choose to travel to the place of comfort or a place of worry. The skill on our part is to begin to discern which.

Is it possible for us to get more active and distracting before the worry settles in?

Can we be in relationship with our horses in a way that encourages activity of their senses, to create movements towards cooperative patterns, rather than acceleration towards places of fight flight?

The observation stages, whilst seemingly inert, can be a telling moment on the inside of a human.

How comfortable are we with our horses choosing to leave us, and pay us no attention?

What ultimately is our relationship with control?

What images are conjured in the shadows of our brain if we see them run, or buck, or frolic?

What are the behaviours we would ultimately like to shut down, and what are the ones we want to encourage? And why is this the case?

How willing are we to try something new, to allow ourselves to learn, to not understand or mess it up or experiment in situations where we are witnessed?

Observation of our horses when they are free of our control brings us face to face with all of this. Just as we need to learn to identify pre-concern in the minds and bodies of our horses, we need to learn to become familiar with our own.

Identifying patterns of pre-concern, to use Elsa’s term, is not about being perfect or having your insides sorted to the place where you feel like you’re a solid human, because this will rarely, if ever, be the case.

Instead, it’s about maintaining agency and the possibility for action.

What’s possible right now? What takes me half a step beyond the current moment?

And at what point do I lose my ability to act?


❤️ Jane

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