April 1, 1991 was a big day in my life. I gave birth to my daughter Caitlin - and acquired the raw land that was to become Galleywinter Farm. As with any farm or rural venture, it's been a lot of work! Also a labor of love and blessings. Many have come here to our little place in the Rockfish Valley for Horsemanship and Healing, and imbued their special energies into the land and the horses who grace our lives. I am ever humbled by their gifts of insight, wisdom and love - and grateful for their helping hands. We are looking forward to more years of sharing the magic of a special place.
This is Caitlin in the farm fitness studio. Her exuberant stance attests to the rewards of a Healing Life - full of horses, self inquiry, exercise and good nutrition.
"Why are natural horsemanship methods, deemed more "effective, safer, more humane, more civilized" becoming more accepted in the horse world?
For one thing, "for the first time in human history, women dominate the horse industry and most women have the empathy, the nurturing sense, the sensitivity, the perception to see the vulnerability, the timidity and the dependence of the horse." Robert Miller, D.V.M. Lettors to the Editor, Eclectic Horseman July/August 2007
I appreciated Dr. Miller's recognition of the role women play in the horse industry. I have been working entirely with women students of the horse for 20 years now, as natural horsemanship gained attention and validity. Bridging what seemed like a gap between the working cowboy ways and the way women naturally engage with horses has been quite an experience. It has stretched me - which I needed! I have endeavored to mix and blend these approaches, to honor the traditions of horsemanship, to notice what works for horses and humans in given situations, and to honor the perspectives, gifts and talents of my students as they find their way of being with horses. This has helped women become happier, healthier partners and citizens. Some have healed from trauma, not unlike the horses we work with.
Even my cat Frizzen is into horses. He oversees horse lessons by day, helps desensitize the horses to rapidly moving small fur-bearing predator types. Here he is taking a nap on a great book I was reading "The Noble Horse" by Wendy Williams. I've never read such a comprehensive history of equine evolution. Inspired me to visit fossil sites in the West and Europe.
We were so pleased to host Maria Alfaro for a Tension & Trauma Release Workshop on Monday June 13. The Trauma Releasing Exercise technique is a method of somatic release for tension, stress and traumatic memories.
We had a full house and really enjoyed the new Health and Fitness Studio at Galleywinter. Thank you to new and returning students. Maria shared a wonderfully inclusive model of trauma and how a human body deals with tension and traumatic occurrences. We are excited to continue our practice of TRE and explore its fit with Equine Centered therapy and Horsemanship.
"I just can't thank you enough for providing the TRE workshop! What a unique experience. I woke up shaking the morning after the TRE workshop....in a good way, as we had practiced! For 3 days, I lived in a wonderfully euphoric state, which everyone noticed, even when just hearing my voice on the phone. My mind-body-spirit reached a new, natural connection. It was unbelievable to me....a place that I hadn't realized I could take myself. You, Maria, and all the participants are the mesh that a true mind-body-spirit community of believers is made of. Thank you!" Participant, June 13 TRE Workshop
Mossy rock banks, swimming holes, orchids, wild blueberries, river rock ledges to lie in, dark chocolate, good company, the changing weather, always the horses! We love to get away from the digital world, reconnect with nature, and test our horsemanship. Always a new lesson, a new delight!
There is some beautifully subtle communication going on in horsemanship sessions at the farm. Things get really quiet. I like to think of this as whispering to horses, seeing how little physical effort is needed to share an idea. Women seem to have a real gift for it.
When the horses shift their behaviors it gives us hope that we too can change. Nothing seems to hurt more than believing we are not okay as we are and feeling hope-less to move out of old habits. So when we are able to suggest a new way to our horses, especially the older ones who have more entrenched habits, give them guidance, and witness subtle or obvious behavior change, it sure is encouraging. Being in the latter stages of my lifespan, I am particularly pleased to see an old horse soften and get more comfortable in their life.
“Animals long for our ability to change” Rumi
Working with horses in a mindful way on a regular basis we are able to facilitate and witness their growing trust in us, in things. They let go of some of their fearfulness, preserving just enough of their innate horse-ness, their beautifully evolved survival mechanisms. We also try to undo some of the tensions that humans have put in there. If we have done them disservice, we do our best to make amends for that. In 12 step programs they say the best way to make amends is to lead an amended life. What would that look like? Wouldn't the way we live our daily lives be of benefit to the horses? Part of the beauty of these reclamation projects is that it benefits both horse and human. For us to see a change in our partner and in our relationship with them, we may need to do something a little different, or a lot, and make a commitment to that over time – to become as consistent as possible. Ala human behavior change, sometimes so elusive.
We have scratched our heads quite a bit over our beautiful buckskin mare Willow. She has so much potential. How can we help her to regain her physical prowess, her trust in her body? When I wonder if I should have ever bought her, I just think how much she has helped my also beautiful talented daughter to regain her sense of self. As she likes to say, they have rehabilitated each other in the past year. She took Caitlin to meet Wendy Murdoch, now her career role model. I will never forget the session in which Caitlin had Feldenkreis body work "on the table" then rode Willow. Wendy prompted her to remember the feeling of her hips in tablework, to subtly shift her weight in the saddle - what happened next put Caitlin on a her life's path! She's a kinesoilogist, bodyworker, and horsewoman in training. Thank you Willow (& Wendy)!!