There’s nothing better than beach riding.

I’m on vacation in my hometown, Hatteras Island, North Carolina. I grew up here and my family still lives here. It’s half fishing village, half resort town and it’s got spectacular sunsets, laid back vibes, and some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. I have a friend who works at a barn here as a guide taking tourists on beach rides, and she was nice enough to take me out on a ride for free! We rode about 30 minutes on a trail that leads out to the beach and then we rode down by the water for about an hour. It was glorious. Wind whipping my hair all around my face, waves crashing on the beach, the horses eager to canter on the hard packed sand down by the water. Absolutely glorious. I am now determined to get Baron to a beach somehow.

But first I must gush about the horse I rode that day. His name is Zeke and he’s a bay 15.3 Appendix gelding (will post pics soon!). He looked almost exactly like Magic, the bay mare I leased before I bought Baron. I liked him immediately. Every once in a while I come across a horse I “click with.” It’s just like meeting men. Sometimes I meet one I am immediately attracted to and I’ve noticed it’s the same with horses. As I began to groom him, he whipped his head around and swished his tail. He did not like the stiff brush I was given to use on him. Another guide at the barn said, “Be careful. He’s not crazy about that brush and sometimes he kicks.” I wondered why no one had bought a softer brush to use on him. I’m big on respecting the horse and allowing him to maintain his dignity, so I traded the offensive brush for a currycomb and then smoothed him out with my hand. He was much happier. 🙂

Then the guides brought out his tack and I was surprised to see that he is ridden in a pretty severe bit, a corkscrew I think, but I’m no bit expert. It was thin and very twisted. I said, “Wow, that’s one hell of a bit you’ve got him in,” and the guide responded that he gets a little strong sometimes. Now keep in mind that this is a barn that takes tourists on beach rides. Most of these people have been on a horse once or twice in their lives and have zero riding ability. I could just imagine nervous riders yanking on his mouth all day with that painful bit. I made an extra effort to have quiet hands and stay out of his mouth that day.

Keeping with the theme of  the dignity of the horse, I’m reading a great book called “Hope…From The Heart of Horses” by Kathy Pike. She’s a Counselor/ Life Coach who uses horses in her work to help people move through personal issues, anything from low self-esteem to overcoming abuse or fear from past trauma. What I find so interesting about it is that she isn’t really using the horses in her clinics. Every horse has the option to leave a session at any time, and many times the horses find healing from past abuses as well. She allows the people in her clinics to choose a horse to work with, and she  has found that invariably people instinctively choose the horse that can teach them the most. For example, a person who has trouble setting boundaries will choose a pushy, domineering horse that forces her to define her space and defend it. Or a person with a background of abuse will unknowingly choose a horse with a similar past of ill treatment.

She also conducts riding clinics that are designed to integrate mind/body/spirit. I am a firm believer in chiropractic, massage, craniosacral therapy, and reiki, because I think energy imbalances in the body restrict a person’s ability to progress as a rider. I have to be balanced mentally, physically and spiritually if I’m going to achieve the kind of “oneness” I’m looking for in my riding. Obviously, that’s an ongoing process and part of the continual challenge to become a better rider. I’m really interested in Kathy Pike’s work on this subject and I want to learn more.

She talks about an experiment she read about in the August 2007 issue of Horse Connection. People were sent into a round pen with a horse and told to basically think good thoughts, like focus on love or gratitude. The person would be hooked up to a heart monitor as would be the horse. The  observers saw that, almost invariably, when the person’s heart rate changed as a result of the chemical reactions going on in their brains because of the positive thinking, the horse’s heart rate would change to match the humans and the horse would often approach the person. Fascinating! Anyone who knows beans about horses knows that they are sensitive creatures who can pick up on human energy whether negative or positive. This experiment gives that idea the approval stamp of science! 

I’m definitely going to try this with Baron. I’m going to let him graze in the round pen, and I’m going to sit in the middle and think good thoughts. I’ll let you know what happens…

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