Monday, June 21, 2010

Elemental Entelechy

Elemental Entelechy is the title I chose for the exhibition of my works at the Gore Bay Museum's art gallery. For the promotional material, I selected a painting I did of our Sorraia stallion, Altamiro. There are actually several paintings I did with Sorraia horses as the subject which are also on display at the museum this summer. I thought I would share a glimpse of this exhibition, which also features the fantastic fiber art of Lynda Noe.

This is a newspaper clipping showing the advertisement of the exhibition:

Kevin wanted to take a few photos, and though I am very poor at posing for photos, I indulged him as he was so keen to document a bit of the the opening day.
Outside, on the west side of the museum, stands a forlorn looking creature, looking very nervous and uncomfortable.

Walking up to the main entrance of the Gore Bay Museum

The main room is the perfect venue to showcase Lynda Noe's incredible environmental statement titled:
"What have we Done?"

I was completely stunned by the fiber art of Lynda Noe. Using brightly coloured fabric and stitching in exquisite details, Lynda creates amazing fabric collages with breath-taking realism. Her large piece is the image of planet earth, with the polar ice caps melting and layers of pollution from years of human abuse cascading below it. It's a powerful image and a timely one, which calls attention to our "throw-away" society and the continuing damage humans are causing the earth and all its inhabitants to suffer.

Lynda's fabric art documents the many beautiful places she has seen while traveling across Canada from "Sea to Sea". Several of these artworks are not only lovely to look at, but contain a message highlighting controversial and troubling issues. One such piece shows a beautiful scene of wild horses running over a mountainous landscape and is accompanied by a short text telling about the plight of the wild horses of Alberta which are, like the horses in the western U.S., highly regarded by some and despised by others. If I get an opportunity to go back and take photos myself, I'll put up a close up of this particular artwork because I know a lot of readers here would appreciate the image and the message. You can see a bit of the image in the photo below:

Lynda Noe and Lynne Gerard stand in front of a portion of the "Sea to Sea" exhibit

Kevin had me pose near several of my paintings, and I awkwardly obliged him:

Ever since I was a young girl, I have felt a kinship with Nature and spent a great deal of time outside, exploring. I never felt frightened or alone when hiking the fields and forests, instead I felt I was being guided by a wise presence which created in me a deep awe and respect for the world around me.

I came to believe everything was alive--the trees, the rocks, even the wind.

As I grew older, I learned of the animistic philosophies underlying Native American and Old European societies. These were great revelations for me because they validated my own sense of how the world is and prompted me to realize that the acquired beliefs of human superiority (which evolved into the dominator model of abusing and exploiting Nature) are not normal beliefs, rather they perversions.

My personal studies led me to the concept of "entelechy", which is the vital force that defines latent potentialities and motivates optimum self-expression and is inherent in all things, whether material or non-material. Everything, absolutely everything, has a dynamic destiny! To know this is to suddenly realize how exquisite even the smallest aspect of existence is and how important it is to be mindful in our thoughts and actions, even more so when interacting with the natural world.

Especially after moving to Manitoulin Island my writing and painting determined to reflect a message of inter-connectedness and appreciation for all of Nature and the remembrance that domination, war and destructive usage of our planet are not our original heritage.

The only photo of me that I'm happy with!
Here in animated discussion with the Gore Bay Museum curator Nicole Weppler.

Nicole has been very helpful to me and my own gallery from the very first and I consider her a treasured friend. In addition showcasing my work in the museum's art gallery, Nicole has also prompted me to provide informational literature and photos on our Sorraia Mustang Preserve to help people become educated to the beauty and inspiration of these endangered primitive horses.

The author/artist's husband, Kevin Droski, posing near a small portrait of himself

Our friend, Henk Pel took this photo of Kevin. I was actually in the photo as well, but took the liberty of editing myself out of it, since in addition to looking nervous and forlorn, I also had closed eyes...but Kevin looks very dapper and I thought readers should see how well my farm boy cleans up.

I am honored that the Gore Bay Museum is exhibiting my latest works and that the Elemental Entelechy show hangs with the phenomenal fiber art of Lynda Noe. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to curator, Nicole Weppler for her nurturing diligence in promotion of the arts and for putting together such a lovely opening reception. I would also like to thank all those who came to the reception and to those who will come to see the exhibition throughout this summer season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Opening Our Eyes

29 year old Polish Arabian gelding and former dressage competition horse

In my last journal entry, I provided a link to a statement released by Alexander Nevzorov declaring that he no longer rides horses and that riding horses will no longer be acceptable among his NHE students. I also went on to say that while I may not agree that riding horses is harmful in all situations, I wanted to convey how important I feel it is to continually assess why we might choose to ride and what meaning it has for our horses.

Of the comments that readers submitted there was a bit of an outcry against Alexander Nevzorov and a fear that his campaign to ban equine sports was an Orwellian attempt to destroy freedom. I see Mr. Nevzorov's "Horse Revolution" as an attempt to put a stop to cruelty to horses and that he uses his considerable media power to expose what happens every day in the world of not just horse sports, but in more ordinary "pleasure" riding circles as well.

I would myself not vote for any legislation that promotes a sweeping prohibition, but I will for sure share information that graphically shows our human cruelty against horses, to facilitate opening our eyes to the abuses perpetrated upon horses. I feel that if we truly look at how humans are interacting with horses, we may see within ourselves something we recognize as morally outrageous and begin steps to reform this tradition of coercing horses with pain and force to do our bidding.

The Nevzorov Horse Revolution has just released a 71 page atlas chronicling the abuses which their program hopes to put a stop to. I think anyone of us that has any critical commentary for Alexander Nevzorov should certain make his and her voices heard, but not without first viewing this pdf document.

I can tell you that I can see myself in these photos published in the NHR atlas. I recognized many years ago that my relationship with Mistral was twisted and I no longer desired to force my will upon him in the name of "training", and I chose to follow different path. I closed one door--the door of a perverted tradition of subordinating creatures to fulfill human needs and desires--and opened a door of learning to commune and explore the world in togetherness.

For me there is no longer any "necessary roughness" allowed...horses do not need to be physically and mentally over-powered in order for us to feel safe and have a relationship with them. There are other ways of being with horses, some of which you have been exposed to here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, and by following the sidebar links to other websites and blogs showing what other people on this alternate path are doing to make life better for horse/human relationships.

Lest you feel that the NHR atlas is merely propaganda, I challenge you to look at the photos shown and then, as you move about whatever equestrian circles you belong to, look at how the horses and humans interact with each other--I'm certain that you will see some of the same images and you will not be so able to ignore what you see.

It's time for a change, and it begins one person at a time. Let's change our habits and behaviors, freely, without the need for legislation. Let us humans do the right thing not because there is a law enforcing us to behave differently, but because in our hearts we know reshaping our behavior, customs and traditions is the right thing to do and we have the courage to begin each in our own corner of the world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Complete Accord

Interessado and Encantara

I only very rarely seek out one of the many books on equitation in my private library, because for the most part, my interest in riding comes from an entirely different place now. I have acquired a mindset that no longer feels it is appropriate for me to place a bit in a horse's mouth or strap on a bridle or cavesson so that I can restrict the movements of her head and neck.

Coming from a background of first competitive dressage and later French Classical Dressage, I feel I have a thorough understanding of both the punitive and refined capacities of the bit and bridle as training tools. I have personally felt the delicate communication that is possible when riding a horse who has been trained to "accept" the bit in lightness and it can be exquisite--but the fact that a horse first has to be trained to accept the bit, bridle and reins and that this training necessarily entails initial discomfort, even pain and in many cases results in extreme physiological and psychological damage--well these elements no longer fit in with the feelings I have about my relationship to horses. Yes, the bit and reins can be used with finesse and articulate a dialogue with a horse for the purpose of guiding while being ridden, but once you begin to realize that you can communicate even more subtly with a horse without recourse to using its mouth as a translator for your thoughts, but instead develop your relationship to such a degree that your minds and bodies flow together in "complete accord", then the now obvious crudities of bits and bridles soon leads one to abandon them along with the traditional training that imposes the human's will over the horse's.


For today's journal entry, however, I did dust off one of my equitation books because I remembered a quote I wanted to share to illustrate that even at the master level of equitation, it is revealed that more often than not is is the harmony of the most simple movements that are most deeply moving to the rider.
In the past;, Baucher once said to L'Hotte, 'I often opted for movements that were complicated. Today it takes me six months just to get my horses to walk straight and turn well...When total lightness is achieved by making a horse walk straight and become well-balanced, the feeling that the rider gets is the sense of complete accord with the horse's strength. One then hesitates to pass on to any other movement which will modify the combination of forces and destroy this feeling of harmony.' (pg. 50 Alexi-Francois L'Hotte/The Quest For Lightness in Equitation by Hilda Nelson, pub. J.A. Allen 1997)

I'm using this quote of Baucher's as a springboard for a very simplistic, yet profound bit of riding that I have recently engaged in.

Archived entries of the Journal of Ravenseyrie, discuss the type of communication with equines I have been devoting myself to. It is extremely subtle, based on mindful intention and arises from a "heart connection", a term used by Carolyn Resnick which describes a magnetic entrainment of two beings--a very real phenomenon thoroughly researched by Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book, The Secret Teachings of Plants. I describe some of the ways I engage this form of communication in earlier journal entries which feature Doll (twice), Jerry, Bella and Encantara.

I have taken in the past few days some video footage which, while extremely clumsy, nevertheless demonstrates the type of interactions in which I find some of the "complete accord" mentioned by Baucher.

Before getting to these videos, I first feel it is important to talk a little bit about how conscientious we humans need to be regarding the placement of our weight upon the back of a horse (or mule). Though a mature, robust equine back looks like the perfect place for a human to sit, the physical structure of a horse is not designed to bear weight from above. Open any book on equitation and you will find discussion regarding how to minimize the deleterious effect of our weight upon the equine back. Likewise, stroll through any tack shop and you'll see an entire industry of specialized pads are available to deceptively lure us into thinking we are not causing damage while riding.

For myself, I feel that with a well muscled horse, very brief reprises of riding are not damaging if there is a complete willingness of the horse to accept such an activity and the horse takes pleasure in being ridden.

For the deep thinking human, who looks upon horses with egalitarianism and friendship, a determination against riding is something that should be decided not just by the human, but by the horse as well. Some structurally weak horses should definitely not be ridden, even if they appear to be accepting of it--and some horses that have the most robust bodies which could physiologically support a little judicious riding, should definitely not be ridden because psychologically they do not take any pleasure from a human sitting on their backs.


Questions I have come to ask myself are:

--Of what benefit is it to my horse for me to ride it?

--What are my intentions for riding?

--Is the act of riding something I do only for my own pleasure, or is it, from the very first, an activity that the horse enjoys as well?

--How will I know if my horse is simply obeying a request she feels she cannot refuse or if she genuinely is accepting of my riding her?

--How will I know if my weight upon the horse's back is damaging?

--Is my horse psychologically diminished by my presence on her back or enhanced by it?


The topic of the harm of riding is not the main point of today's journal entry, so I will not address it any further, but save greater scrutiny for a future entry.

I think it is important to place the videos I'll be sharing in the context of which they arose...

In October, here in Canada, a Nevzorov Haute Ecole International Seminar has been scheduled, and several individuals I became dear friends with (during my time within the NHE online school) decided that it would be a great time to meet in person. While none of us are any longer part of the NHE school, we each maintain respect for many of the people involved and appreciate the worldwide efforts NHE makes to provoke a perceptional shift in how we view our interactions with horses.

While we were making arrangements to attend the seminar, we became aware that a statement had been released that further refined the restrictions placed on an NHE student with regard to riding. This prompted a dialogue between us regarding the issue of riding and the damage that a horse's body (and mind) can sustain from it. It is a discussion we four have had many times, each of us holding opinions that differ depending on the many variables involved with each horse and rider combination and the situation of each new day. Because of our differences of opinion and knowing, once again, that my views regarding the minimal riding I engage in with the equines here at Ravenseyrie are not acceptable to followers of NHE, I decided it would be inappropriate for me to participate in the seminar, and instead I would wait for a more neutral venue for the merry gathering of friends.

Mistral and Fada

Having canceled my plans to attend, I was in need of a walk, so went out to the north west sector to look for Altamiro and the family band with my thoughts very deep on the subject of riding and questioning whether I was deceiving myself that on those rare occasions when I mount up it was as much a suggestion put to me by the horses (or mules) as something I ask of them. I also reflected on the sensation that there was truly mutual pleasure from these "rides"...and, of course, I contemplated whether these rare rides were damaging their bodies.

As I was crossing into the northwest sector I was surprised to find Doll there, all by herself, quietly grazing! To my knowledge, none of Mistral's group has ventured this far into Altamiro's "territory" in over a year, and I figured she was there because she was in heat again and looking for Altamiro, too.

Even though I take these hikes without horse treats in my pocket, Doll hooked into me right away and without much thought, I put down my camera bag and went over to stand on a rock. Doll came right up, offering me her back, so I got on her and gave her at least five to eight minutes of really excellent itches. Then I asked if she would take me for a few strides of a walk to the right, and she did, so I stopped and gave her another round of itches from my mounted position. Then I got off. I probably was up there ten, maybe twelve minutes. I gave her some under the belly and buttocks itches and then turned to go back to get my camera back with the idea to resume my looking for the family band. Instead of going back to grazing, Doll followed...then the idea came to me to see how much of a mounted itch session I might be able to get on video. As mentioned above, the results are very clumsy but I think they reveal the harmony of the moment and the "complete accord" between us. While viewing it, I hope you can see, hear and feel the subtle communication between Doll and I:

This type of riding is a very intimate thing, and certainly the intrusion of the camera, (especially because I was holding it and trying to interact with Doll while also hoping I was keeping the view finder in a good position), impacted the quality of the itches I would normally give. I made up for this once I got off and put the camera away and then Doll went back to grazing.

Lest readers think this teenage mule will let just anyone climb aboard because she might appear to be a slow-moving dullard, I'm sharing footage of what happen after I left Doll and found Altamiro's family band:

Though Doll would like the affection of this rock-star-bird-chasing stallion, he doesn't share the same feelings as she does and promptly drove her out of his territory, during which time she demonstrated just how agile and quick a draft mule can be!

I found myself recognizing the synchronisity of Doll being there in that particular moment just as I was reflecting upon whether or not my mounted itches and simplistic riding were things that perhaps I should turn away from. When I mounted the rock for the first time, it was a sort of test, I suppose...if Doll had not come over and positioned herself for mounted itches, I would surely have taken it as a "sign" that indeed this silly game of ours was something that only I appreciated and I should refrain from it in the future. Doll gave me a very clear answer, or so it seems to me. If Doll didn't want me up on top, being tackless, at liberty, in the big wide open, she certainly could have avoided me to begin with, or rid herself of me once I was on top...but she did not, in fact, she came back for more, which is what prompted me to video tape it for you to see.

A day later, I went down to the beach to be with Mistral's group. Everyone was in nap mode, so I just let the sound of the waves and the wind and the birds and the grasses bring me into a very mellow state of being. I took out my camera and began taking photos of the horses and mules, then I went over to stand upon a rock and simply admire them all. Here is what happened next:

What is remarkable about this bit of footage is that I did not call Jerry to me, or ask him if he would like mounted itches. I did not want to interrupt the comfortable position he and Dee were in for their companion napping.
Jerry and Dee

It was Jerry who took note of me standing on the rock and decided to take leave of his nap to come for a visit. Remember, I do not take treats for the horses when I go out on these hikes--he is not coming to me for treats, nor did he come to me when I was on the ground taking photos. But, when I was standing on the rock, just hanging out, he made his own choice to come over and see if he could get me to participate in a mounted itching session. Again, the presence of the camera severely impacted the quality of the itches I could give, and also the rock strewn terrain made it tricky to have him take me around in a circle as was my intention, so in the end I asked him to take me over to a good place for me to dismount, which he did perfectly, and before dismounting, I turned the camera off, slung it around to my back and then gave him all the great mounted itches he has come to appreciate so well.

Interessado and Encantara

To close, I will leave readers with several quotes by Carolyn Resnick from her book, Naked Liberty published in 2005 by Amigo Publications. It was Carolyn's experiences relayed in this book that prompted me to recognize if one has a relationship with horses built upon a magnetic heart connection, and the moment is right, riding at liberty in the big wide open is not only possible it is a rewarding feeling that both partners share. Though very rustic, very "untrained" and very simplistic, the riding shown in these videos is for me much more sublime than any haute ecole movement I use to perform with a bridle in an indoor arena.

"Why is it that some people can use a small gesture and get a favorable response from a horse, while others make the same gesture and get no response at all? It comes from a strong bond shared between horse and human, and from an innate ability to emote the kind of feeling that will influence a horse's behavior in a positive way. The naivety of a child lends great insight into how to connect with horses. Our childhood memories can return to us in the indelible connection of the heart." (pg. 153)

"My dad said, 'If there is unity in the moment with the horse, you can direct his next movement with aids almost as light as a thought, like geese flying in formation. Do geese practice how to be united? No! They just are. It comes naturally from the bond they share together.' He went on to say that harmonious acts seldom lead to trouble." (pg. 227)

"Her invitation [she refers to a wild mare named Moonlight--lg], convinced me that horses do have a desire to be ridden without domination, capture or restraint. If these methods were the only means to riding horses, I would have given up riding." (pg. 228)

"Everyone has experienced moments when everything feels right or safe, a moment that makes you feel you will live forever. These moments I have no name for, but they can be trusted. They are all around us every minute. The trick is to recognize these moments and act upon them." (pg.230)

What makes these simplistic rides I've shared with you especially meaningful is that Doll, Jerry and me engaged in them together, in complete accord, and this harmony in riding came at a time when I was reflecting on whether or not riding in this context was something that is harmful and for my pleasure only. I'm satisfied that the pleasure is not mine alone and that no damage results from these rides, even if others might hold a different opinion.