Horses and the art of stillness

I have been inspired by the response to my recent blog “The contagious energy of quiet” and I wanted to take that journey further.

The pictured horse is an Andalusian (Viento), he belongs to friend of mine – this is him at a recent drumming workshop – I want to use him as the medium for my message. But first I would to start with an excerpt from Ted Hughes’ poem The Horses (click here for the full poem).

“….Till the moorline blackening dregs of the brightening grey Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:

Huge in the dense grey ten together Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,

With draped manes and tilted hind-hooves, Making no sound.…..”

In many ways, this was my first experience of horses – studying a poem at school at the age of 12. I was a townie. Yet for reasons I never understood this became the bucolic archetype that I carried within through my life.

I was moved by the descriptions of stillness through this poem, and the vision of the horse as a prehistoric embodiment of it, has never really shifted from my psyche. Also, the idea of the horse as a living element of the landscape similarly creates a kind of symphonic resonance within my heart strings.

Later in life when I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with horses this returned with force to me, like my life’s calling, calling out to me. Even when I was riding them, something of the experience for me was that silent time. Standing beside each other, sharing the moment, sharing the stillness. Finding our space within everyone else’s chaos.

For me Viento carries stillness, and hence my choice of him as a co-narrator.

When he joins me – once he has established there is no food – he joins close. Some would say “in my space” but I do not view this an invasion or rudeness, it is existential intimacy. He will drop his head before me and we become frozen for moments or minutes – I rarely know – like in the poem we are megaliths; still; ancient; grounded.

2017-05-21 16.07.06-2And in that moment we are bound together in the quiet, frozen in a silent oneness.

When we drum for him – he will arch himself over the drummer – holding the vibration between head and heart.

This behaviour is a behaviour that I often encounter. Every horse becomes a friend. Horses like Viento have taught me much about silence and the general lack of it in human space, but more importantly they offer us a path back to it.

But like most journeys it is a choice – we have to want to take the first steps. There is anIMG_3809 (2) awkward clash within the horse world – the clash of horse versus human agenda. I do not judge that, but I acknowledge it. However, this is not the place for that discussion.

What I would say is this, that agenda is an obstruction to connection and relationship. We use these words often in equestrianism, but generally in the context of our needs and aspirations. And that shifts as away from sensual and emotional receipt.

When Viento comes over to me it is almost as if his heart resets mine – slowing it and quietening it. And then together just breath. This does not have to long – duration is irrelevant – it is the moment where the value lies. That moment of acknowledged sentience – a mutually acknowledged sentience.

So I ask …

How still can you be? I challenge you. For years I have challenged myself to find an ever-quieter space within and that is the space that I share with horses – whether in their presence or remotely offering healing and compassion.

The megalith-still of Ted Hughes’ metaphor is a stillness that in tangible, and yet it is a stillness that resonates, it is a harmonic resonance, two-hearts beating as one, auric energies settling to a common pattern.

The universe creates harmony – we need to give it a chance. It is in stillness that we will find the key, and our horses, if we allow them to show us, hold those keys.


© The Mindful Horse (except poem excerpt)