Sunday, October 27, 2013

We Enter Mythic Realms

Sorraia filly, Esperanda (Altamiro x Ciente)  shows us a mythic realm

How peculiar it is!  Certain features of one's personal landscape appear "normal", yet a tightening of the innards (slightly alarming) directs your attention to profound nuances of change.  A look over your shoulders reveals the bridge has lost its integrity - there is no going back - yet at the same time moving forward shimmers with illusion.  Feeling momentarily lost, the mind persists in the games of reconstructing memory and organizing/categorizing the future, but now you know these are human constructs and not the ultimate reality.  By and by, you simply withdraw undue attention from manmade ideas and in doing so an awareness of the entelechy of natural processes enriches your senses.  And it feels very good!

I am not sure just what put me into this "peculiar" state of being...a combination of factors most likely:  pulling back from the frequency of social engagements/obligations, dwelling in an austere wilderness environment, observing "wild" horses on a daily basis, experiencing menopause, practicing new art forms, as well as mindfully selecting what I eat, what I read, what physical activities I engage in, etc.  It may not be the lifestyle best suited to you, the readers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie, but it provides well for me, especially in my dealings with the horses.

When Kevin and I made the decision that the purebred Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, and his harem of Sorraia Mustang mares should live in separate environments, it was based on the realization that the offspring they created (19 thus far!) have significantly contributed to the enhancement and safeguarding of the residual "Iberian Tarpan" genetics present in the Sorraias in Europe and the Sorraia Mustangs in North America, and until more public and private conservation initiatives involving these types of horses manifest themselves, it would be unsustainable for our numbers to grow unchecked.  It has proved to be a decision that the horses have adapted well to, with the bachelor group remaining here at Ravenseyrie and the mares and filles living on a range an hour's drive to Twinravens in the southeast sector of Manitoulin Island.

2013 Sorraia colt, (Altamiro x Bella)

Just one "loose end" remained...and that was Ousado...

Ousado is the last foal born at Ravenseryie before the males and females were separated.  This handsome colt by Altamiro and Bella was born earlier this year (March 8th) and accompanied Bella when she was moved to the Twinravens range in April.  We knew that at some point we would be required to either geld Ousado so he could remain with the females living at Twinravens, or we would have to bring him back to Ravenseyrie.  With the conservation of important genetics in mind, we opted to bring Ousdao back home.

I worried a little bit at how we would accomplish this bringing back home of Ousado, especially since he and I had not made a hands-on friendship prior to his going to live at Twinravens.  How would we develop a closer relationship if I could only visit with him once a week for a handful of hours? 

Worries like this by now are like little puffs of agitated wind that quickly pass on by, for I have experienced the teachings of Nisargadatta at work in my own life enough times to feel convinced all will be as it should be and goodness will prevail.

"See your world as it is, not as you imagine it to be. Discrimination will lead to detachment; detachment will ensure right action; right action will build the inner bridge to your real being. Action is a proof of earnestness. Do what you are told diligently and faithfully and all obstacles will dissolve."

"I don't get flustered. I just do the needful. I do not worry about the future. A right response to every situation is in my nature."  --Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj from the book, I AM THAT

It wasn't long, after the mares settled into claiming their new home and making it "horse country" that Bella's colt, Ousado, decided I was a person of interest and he would seek me out to provide itches, entertainment and treats.  A friendship was born and such a friendship as this between a horse and a human can develop into an easy exploration of new situations. Ousado loved attention, and not just from me, but from Kevin and Michelle also.  We played many games with my shawl and brushes and whatever else might be on hand.  And when he grew sleepy and laid down for a nap, I was able to sit with him and pull out the copious amount of burrs belonging to the many Agrimony and Burdock plants that crisscross the Twinravens range.  I was quite confident that Ousado would be ready for a ride back to Ravenseyrie in the autumn and that he would be especially happy to find other young colts to play rougher games with him than what I could engage in.

Ousado, after I've groomed him...burr free for a brief moment in time!
Ousado playing with my shawl

Ousado's delight in playing with the shawl attracted even Pinoteia to come play also!

Autumn arrived and the very first day that Kevin and I had set up our trailer at Twinravens, Ousado jumped in while I was organizing buckets of oats and cubes, taking me by surprise!  I wasn't ready for him yet!  He followed me back out and helped me distribute buckets to the female members of his herd.  He went back in when his mother climbed into the trailer to see what treats were inside, but when she somewhat hastily turned and leap back out, he followed her, a little frightened by things and was not willing after that to have another try.  No matter...we would come back the following Monday and have another go.  It was Bella's comfort with the trailer back in April that convinced Ousado that it was an okay place to come and go from, giving him his first good experience with traveling by wheels rather than hooves.  But Bella would not be returning to Ravenseyrie and Ousado would be traveling Kevin and I were committed to not pressuring Ousado to climb aboard, but worked instead to create a pleasing, enticing, comfortable feeling so that he would make the choice himself to go for a ride.  When we are moving horses ourselves, we do not use halters and lead ropes or any other means of pressuring/coercing them to get onto the trailer, rather, we prefer to invite them in and allow them to decide if they want to come aboard or not.  In this way, "wild" horses teach themselves how to load and unload from a trailer, based on decisions they make for themselves.

The next Monday, Ousado wasted no time being first at the gate to be let into the portable corral within which the trailer was set up.  We had arrived midday this time and the weather was sunny and warm and after a beautiful morning of grazing Ousado wasn't hungry enough to be interested in entering the trailer to get oats or cubes, but instead stood by Kevin and decided to doze.  In fact, all the mares were standing outside the portable corral in deep states of dozing that went on for more than an hour.  After that they were ready to move off to graze and Ousado of course wanted to go with them.  We opened the gate of the portable corral so he could rejoin them and decided we would try again the following Sunday and the Monday after that if necessary...we would come however many times it would take for him to make the choice himself to board his ride back to Ravenseyrie.

As it happened, when we came on that following Sunday after about a half an hour of goofy playing with stepping in and out of the trailer Ousado was feeling confident and ready to go.  Once the door was closed and he could no longer see his herd-mates, the Sorraia colt became nervous and upset, but after we got rolling, he took a position at the front of the trailer, facing rearward and quietly travelled alone in that rattling metal lorry.

When we pulled into the range at Ravenseyrie, the herd of bachelor horses were no where in sight.  Kevin swung the wide trailer door open and I sat on the edge of it, just feeling the quietude of Ravenseyrie and letting Ousado know that he was safely home and could come out whenever he felt ready.  He walked forward, stopped to sniff me and receive my praise and caresses then jumped off, while Kevin and I applauded him for his bravery.  We should not be too surprised at just how brave this 8 month colt was to make the choice to get on board that trailer by of the meanings of the Portuguese word, "ousado" is "brave"!

Ousado explores Ravenseryie, looking for his mother

Soon Ousado was off exploring the range, looking more grown up than before, and calling to see if his mother was somewhere out there.  Ousado's calls brought the bachelors out into the open and in no time at all Ousado was in the midst of them!

Ousado runs toward the group of bachelors

I had a feeling that it would be okay to release Ousado into the big-wide-open with all the bachelors right away because I sensed Altamiro would be smelling Bella's scent on the young colt and would likely immediately take custody of him and protect him should the older colts get too aggressive.  And that is precisely what occurred.

Altamiro impresses upon Legado that he should not approach Ousado

Likewise, Fidalgo and the other yearlings were not allowed to be too aggressive with their younger brother, Ousado

Altamiro would not even allow the old domestic Thoroughbred gelding, Zeus to be near Ousado!

Knowing Ousado was now occupied with making new friends, I was eager for Monday to come so that I could go to the mares and see how Bella was managing without Ousado.  Our taking away Ousado was not nearly as rough as when Altamiro used violent aggression to forcibly expel his "kids" when he figured it was time for them to be weaned, but it was just as abrupt and final.   I was relieved to find the mares peacefully grazing when I arrived at Twinravens.  They each were eager for my buckets of oats and alfalfa cubes.  It was only after treats were finished when Bella began to wander the range, looking and calling for Ousado.

Bella looking off to the Ousado out there?

She was not frantic, did not seem worried or anxious.  She desired me near, seemed to appreciate my good itches and the work I did to free her mane and tail from burrs.  Still there was something else I could feel Bella was asking of me, especially when she repeatedly pushed her flank into my hands.  Of course I knew Bella must have a very full and urgent udder of unused milk, but did she really want me to work on relieving some of that tension?  I have never milked a cow before, let alone a horse, especially an untrained wild-living Sorraia Mustang!  Somehow I tried to relay to Bella that I was too afraid to try milking her...but she persisted in pushing her flank into my hands, much the same way she pushes her butt or shoulder into them when she wants these specific regions itched.  So I gave it a try and began milking Bella out there in the big wide open spaces of Twinravens.  She nickered as I worked away first on one teat and then on the other.  But what a mess I made of things!  I was spraying milk all over her, all over me and only managed to relieve a little bit of that taut pressure on her straining udder.  I think I disappointed her, but I dared not try to experiment with firmer attempts to get a good steady stream out of those teats...I was honestly afraid I would hurt her, make her angry if I got things wrong, and so I quit.  She gave me a long sigh and then went off to graze.  It was time for me to leave.  As I wove my way along the lower trail back to Mark and Michelle's yard, Bella followed me walking along the upper ridge, looking exquisitely beautiful.

Ousado's dam, Bella

At the time of this writing, it is one week that Bella and the mares and fillies have been without Ousado's presence among them.  I am interested to see how Bella is feeling tomorrow when I get to go and visit with them again.

Thinking about how different it is now for me when I am with the uncomfortable I am to even contemplate going about things with them using structured training techniques often means that I am at a complete loss how to proceed when it comes to getting certain things accomplished.  I feel I no longer have any training sense left, but somehow things do get accomplished anyhow.  A couple of days ago, while reading a book titled, ENSOULING LANGUAGE / On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer's Life, I realized author Stephen Harrod Buhner had written something about the art of writing that seems to me to be speaking also about the art of being with horses.  As you read the following quotes, imagine you are sitting in front of a horse you desire something from rather than a blank page.  The horse represents what Buhner calls the "living book"...

"If you truly are committed, once you sit down in front of the blank page you initiate a process that will unmake you.  There is not a writer alive that has not found that when they write their entire personality moves through a process of destructuring and then a later restructuring.  We enter mythic realms.  Something from out there flows into and through us and it has impacts on us when it does.  It alters the nature of our psychological structure.  It alters how we see ourselves and how we see the world in which we live.  And it allows the 'out there' to come 'in here'.  We, for a time, allow something more ancient than the human to take up residence inside us."

"We hit the wall.  The writing life suddenly becomes very difficult.  Days of struggle ensue.  We keep insisting, hammering at it over and over again.  And slowly, usually with much resistance, we begin to hear what the living book is telling us.  We begin to let go of our certainties.  Begin to listen more carefully.  And suddenly letting go of our human exceptionalism, we truly begin to hear what we are being told.  We engage in a living conversation--we no longer insist on only our own voice being heard.  In consequence we are taken places we never would have found on our own."

I began living with Sorraia horses in a wilderness because I was convinced that the world needed to keep these representatives of a wild horse type from complete extinction.  I still desire the world to take note of what horses like the Sorraia mean to the overall biosphere, but I no longer feel I have to convince naysayers of their relevance and why they should be allowed to live free and wild in various habitats around the world.  Altamiro and the mares and their offspring have taken Kevin and I to "places we never would have found on our own".  The retention of true wild-horse genetics has not been adulterated by whatever admixture of domestic blood their ancestors may have been subject to - their homogeneity and capacity to flourish in virtually wild settings proves this, I feel.  Being among them one indeed realizes we "enter mythic realms"...because of them. the grasses recite poetry, the rocks dance, the wind chants, the ravens perform choreographed air dances.

Of course all these things occurred before wild horses came into my life...but I remained largely unaware (or unconvinced) until I began to "listen more carefully".  Because of the horses, the nature of my "psychological structure" has altered.  It is the horses who have taken me to a that "peculiar landscape" I mentioned at the beginning of this journal entry.  It is the horses who demonstrated to me there were more voices than those of humans which have implicit meaning and essential knowledge...and how when earnestly open, the right action manifests itself when needed and nothing more is required than to "simply be".

You should know...domestic breeds of horses have this same capacity to open us up to the mythic do dogs, symphonic music, certain relationships of colours, the wind, waves coming to shore, the touch of another being, the dark, deep, frightening shadows of mystery...through these we "enter mythic realms" and discover our authentic selves which have for so long been obscured (cheated) by the marvels of human constructs which we have been cultured to believe are where reality dwells.  A part of you already "feels" this.  It is just a matter of time before you see the bridge, walk across it and realize there is no going back and no going forward and feel completely whole in each and every moment.

Sorraia stallion, Altamiro his son, Ousado...the older tyrant seeming to be unusually tender as they reunite