REFLECTIONS ON THE SEMINAR ‘BEING WITH HORSES’ IN DREAMVALLEY

Leena made an exceptionally beautiful clip of the seminar Being with horses that took place in Dreamvalley 7-9 of august, instructed by Birgit Meiler Ahlers. 5 horses  and their owners took part in the seminar, two of them were guard parent horses from the Dreamvalley herd. I took part with Sindri and Sjaman. Julie came back with her wonderful mare Lykkja and a girl from Sollia took her 2 years old nordlandic gelding to the seminar for the first time.

I experienced Birgit like a broom wiping out old dust and bringing fresh air in our attitude and handling of the horses. She put an emphasis on the everyday interactions between the owners and their horses. Watch out: they watch us all the time!  If we feed in an unclear way or move through the herd in a defensive way –  how can we then expect that our horses will respect us if we ask them to go out in the countryside riding or doing playful groundwork? The horses have to believe in us and it starts in the small everyday interactions. Leading, grooming, feeding, or simply moving in a straight line through the herd.

It all starts with our consciousness about personal space. I know this since many years but I tempt to fall back into compromising attitudes moving between the herd more like a servant than like a leader. It doesn’t mean that I have to behave dominant, it just means that I take care of my personal space and walk a straight line from point a to b without making a compromising round around horses standing in my way. When leading it is easy to forget that the horse should keep one side behind me, not shift sides or creep into my space in a rather subtle way.

When the seminar took place we finally had the first warm days this summer. The horses were enjoying that and in the mornings they were rather sleepy. So we had to work on waking them up. That is also the first step when establishing a relationship of mutual respect and devotion. In my case I have overworked some of the horses here with ground’work’, so it seemed better to go out and ride in order to bring back life and joy into the relationship. Unclarity in the everyday and too ‘work’ – oriented groundwork with somewhat unclear positions can wear out a horses willingness to take part in good conversations on the ground.

So this is what we started the seminar mornings with: we lead the horses out on our gallop trail. We gallop them home so they wake up and get motivated. They see quickly that is is fun to go out that way. After a short time we can also ride them out, taking up the discussions about that if they come up. The horses find pride and joy in this way of riding.

Some days ago my icelandic gelding Sindri showed me that he is ready for a playful groundwork again, after all the gallops (I have been riding him almost every day since the seminar.) It is wonderful to watch the difference it makes!

Sjaman wants me to be a true leader and presents a true challenge as any small insecurity or unclarity on my behalf will bring us into the bushes at a gallop…

Elodie has become a wonderful riding horse and Leena rides her almost daily. They  look so harmonious the two of them. Some days ago Elodie gave her a really fast gallop for the first time!

The seminar with Birgit has brought a pathway of more joyous riding and also awakening the horses by clear everyday handling to Dreamvalley. For some this may sound unspectacular but it is in the small things the devil lives they say in art. This seems to apply just as well to being with horses!

 

Become a guard parent for one of the dreamvalley horses!

Because it is such a positive ongoing experience Dreamvalley is inviting two more guard parents for two more horses in the herd. These are ready for meeting their person. In the following text you can read about the option of becoming a guard parent for a horse in Dreamvalley:

Since last autumn we have practiced a new system: Maiken and Lea, both living in Oslo, work on building and enjoying a true relationship to Gråleiknir and Tyr, both living in Dreamvalley. Tina guides them through the process as good as she can. Maiken and Lea visited their horses about once a month for the weekends, and for three weeks during summer time. Now – after one years’ experience we know that the idea with guard parents for horses in the Dreamvalley herd is a wonderful option! Gråleiknir is happy when he sees Maiken and misses her when she has left. The same is happening with Lea – her guard horse is so happy to see her when she comes back.

These horse-human couples do not have to start all over each time they see each other again, they can go right to the issues in their personal relationship. They might have a talk about scratching and food, about going out for a walk or ride, or just staying close to the rest of the herd strolling around in the field, having fun playing with one another. Of cause a relationship is not only and always easy. There will be discussions too. We will always be searching for what the horse is trying to say however.  Mind – in Dreamvalley a horse is allowed to say ‘no’. He will have a good reason for that. Truly listening and developing our skills in observation is our aim, not controlling, dominating or learning how to manipulate the horse to function according to the humans wishes and orders.
The deal is that the guard parents pay the food for their horse for one year at a time. They can come to Dreamvalley as often as they like / if it fits the situation. Here they can learn how to form a true and even magic relationship to their horse. When they are visiting, nobody else can share time with that particular horse (there is only one guard parent per horse). Tina – who is still the owner of all the horses – will help the guard parents during their process as good as she can. They also participate with their horse in the yearly seminars being with horses.

Lounging, free play on the fields, going for hikes and develop the joy of riding are activities they develop slowly and in a way so it  makes real sense to the horse. The guard parents will help with the feeding and other horse and herd related works and activities when they are visiting. Once a year the mutual contract between guard parents and Dreamvalley can be renewed or cancelled.
From the horses’ point of view it is great to have a returning friend in addition to their owner – a friend they know and like well, and who really makes an effort to understand and learn from them. They enjoy the extra attention. In addition to that they have their stabile place in the Dreamvalley herd. It is a big difference to have someone just coming for a visit and then maybe never return again compared to form a true relationship over time to the same person who loves and cares about you. You can have a nice talk to a stranger in a café but it is a different thing to develop a lasting dialogue over time.

There are so many sad stories about young girls buying themselves a horse … and then they grow up and have to study abroad so they do not have time for their animal companion anymore. So many horses open their heart for a person who then disappears, sells them or gives them away to an insecure b-solution future. The dream of a horse you called your own had turned into a problem…
When you become a guard parent you know that the horses in Dreamvalley have a life of their own in the herd that will continue even when you have to move on in life. Their owner Tina will still be there, and the herd will still be there. The advantage for a guard parent is that they can enjoy the privilege of calling a horse their own and experiencing the wonderful magic things that may happen between a human and a horse – without being so bound up. They can travel the world without having to worry for their animal back home: their guard horse is living a wonderful life in Dreamvalley and will be taken care of. In addition to that the guard parents support Dreamvalley  – they help the herd to stay together by financing their horses’ hay for one year at a time.

Take contact with Tina at tina@dreamvalley.no if you are interested in becoming a guard parent in Dreamvalley!

 

SUMMER 2014 – a looking glass blog into our little dreamvalley world with an forever slowly passing Atna river (and a way too slow internet…)

BEING WITH HORSES
Sabine and Dan Birmann held a very deeply moving and engaging seminar some weeks ago. To be with horses is to be with life and to face its realities. It is not a horsemanship method but a way of living honestly and authentically together with your beloved horse & family members. It takes years to understand the depth of that way of being with horses. The puzzle I am left with after the seminar is: how can I learn to let go of wanting even to want????? To let go is a very spiritual lesson in life:  the horses open up when you are able to let go of wanting them to do something. Then they have the space to think themselves and to offer the power, devotion and love, the finesse and humor they have. There  is also a photo of Julie Jørstad, one of the participants, together with her lovely young icelandic mare Lykkja, relaxing together in the sun some days before the seminar.

PFERDEZAHNFEE
Kathleen Bachmann has visited Dreamvalley with her great ways of horse dental care (Pferdezahnfee Kathleen Bachmann). All the 9 horses in dreamvalley have been treated without sedation. Now all the teeth are well taken care of. Also Elodie, the arab, behaved astonishing relaxed to the long rasps and the noisy activities in her mouth! I was really impressed by Kathleens’ way of always staying calm, focussed, friendly – not avoiding the conflict but just standing through it in a grounded and peaceful way. The horses had a chance to express themselves. Even Maya, who hates to be forced into deworming or anything else of a similar kind, relaxed and participated in the end. I can only recommend Kathleen with all my heart. If you want a horse to be relaxed and happy with healthy teeth and a stressfree dental care – call the Pferdezahnfee (“horse teeth fairy”).

 

FREE WALKING
Elodie and me went for a harmonic walk up the mountains together the other day. I took off the halter. Elodie stayed with me all the way and enjoyed our peaceful walk together as much as  I did. Also she liked the distant view down to our farm…

ARTIST JANE HUPE
Art has been much in focus this summer. We had artist Jane Hupe from Sarpsborg visiting for 10 days and enjoying dreamvalley life. She painted the horses from morning to evening, at the farm and also when the herd went for their daily wilderness stroll. Here you can see her explaining her ways of building up her paintings to dreamvalleys’ working students.

PAINTING SEMINARS
Inspired by Jane I developed Dreamvalleys’ future painting courses. I will be explaining how I build up a painting with horses in a landscape. The art course participants learn also how to mix eggtempera colours and how to draw horse croquis (fast horsedrawings) in different inspiring techniques. We will open these workshops for the public right away. Each saturday and/or Sunday people can come and participate in either drawing or painting courses – beautiful horses in amazing landscapes.

Thank you all of you who have been visiting so long this summer for your great contributions – may it be with art or horse knowledge or just with your inspiring presence! You all are co-creating a real dreamvalley up here in the norwegian wilderness!

HERD HIKING EXPERIENCES IN DREAMVALLEY

Margrit Coates, an english animal communicator, writes  in her excellent book “Talking to horses” about horses as our mirrors and teachers. A good question is: “what can that horse teach me today?”

In Dreamvalley we think: “what can the herd teach us today”… But for the herd to teach us anything they need to be free to make their own decisions. The great thing about the new farm is that we have the option to let the horses go outside of fences without putting them into the danger of fast driving cars or other worrisome factors. We can let them run and then blend in with their plans. It is very exiting each time we set the herd free. And they just love it. We never know what is going to happen.  They seem to consider us humans (including the electrical all terrain 4 wheel vehicle) as part of their herd and they often come to us after a gallop of their own and say ” O, hello, there you are, how nice to see you”. By the way it is also a great way to exercise 8 horses at a time.

We are learning so much from the herd this way: for an example how they organize themselves. It is not always the same horse taking the lead. Sometimes 18 years old Sjaman has an idea so they all willingly follow him – up the hills, through the woods, to an interesting field, or following an interesting track. Sjaman has a lot of courage and is seldom afraid of anything. On other occasions wise 21 years old Dama will take the lead. She has had 15 foals, so she will take clever decisions for the herd and they seem to know that. Sometimes, in more rebellious situations, it is Maya galloping in front of the others. She is the herds’ anarchist, believing to be high in rank (the rest of the herd does not think so). But when she needs a fresh gallop away from the world of fences and restrictions, they will follow her eagerly and she looks so proud after that!!!! Also Gråleiknir loves to run in front of the herd. He is an adventurer and loves to explore new areas. It is big time if he manages to lead the herd to a new site with good grass. Flyga or Elodie like to be in front if they feel safe, but only then. Both of them find their place between the more self secure and experienced horses once they get anxious about something – for an example a bicycle leaning towards a tree or a person with a dog walking (a rare view in our area).

The herd movement is at a flow, with its members changing roles depending on the specific situations. In the same fashion I can take over the lead, and they will follow my ideas without the need of a lead rope as long as they trust me and find the situation safe, exiting, and interesting. Collaboration in a herd is about being a team, and sharing leading. Every members’ voice is heard – even if one of the low ranking horses turns back home, they most often turn all of them in the end. They belong together.

I know this amazing herd freedom experience is not possible everywhere, because streets and cars are dangerous for the animals, but here in Dreamvalley it is! The coming summer we will arrange a herd hike experience for the public every thursday, including some walking meditation and art events as well as a vegan lunch prepared by the camp fire.

A big thanks to Julie Jørstad who is doing her practicum here these days, and who made the beautiful pictures.

Spring signs in dreamvalley

SPRING SIGNS IN DREAMVALLEY
The river has opened and the other morning two white swans passed. Yesterday I heard a nightingale sing for the first time. The snow is old and rotten now (thats what norwegians call it when the snow no longer carries – when you go down up to your hips when trying to walk on snow). The horses are enjoying the mild nights with only a few minus degrees. It is light in the evenings until 21.00. Yesterday we had the first rain of the year. The river is making more water sounds for each day. One evening a fish otter couple was jumping from an ice flake into the water and taking a bath. It looked like a great pleasure!

SITTING AND CELEBRATING THE SLOW ARRIVAL OF SPRING
As going for walks or riding is really difficult with the rotten snow I’m enjoying to just sit with the horses and celebrate the arrival of spring. If the sun is shining I might take a book and read (just now it is “When species meet” by Donna Harraway, very inspiring!), or just drink a cup of tea and observe the herd interactions. Most often it ends with scratching sessions – the horses are loosing their winter fur and loads of hair are coming off.

MINDFULL WALKS WITH THE HERD-EVERY THURSDAY THIS SUMMER!
Preparations for summer are at stake. We will arrange a mindful, meditative walk with the herd to the mountain farm every thursday from the middle of june to the middle of august. The public will be introduced to a very respectful way of being with horses. People can become a part of the herd, and experience a day with space for stillness and reconnection with nature. In the middle of the day we will make a fire and serve vegan lunch up in the mountains. And maybe there even will be an artistic happening in the end of the day…

CURRENT ART PROJECT
I’m in the studio for long hours each day now preparing a new art project, that involves painting animals eyes on traffic sign plates. Here you can see a scetch and the first almost finished painting…

New Dreamvalley

Dreamvalleys’ life on the new farm has begun. A new art project is in the making. A new herd culture is growing, and new feeding routines have been established. New books are inspiring our thoughts. Soon we go into our first spring here at Nordre Finstad. The new farm influences different rituals and options, but the stillness is the same, the meditations and the yoga sessions, the closeness to nature and the life in coexistence with the horses are playing a central role in our new Dreamvalley Life.

 

The old herd will always be in our hearts. We wish you all happiness – may you be able to share your wisdom as you did with us! May you be able to teach other folks what you taught us during the 12 years we’ve been living together:  Feykir, Alvur, Svala, Sindri, Frida, Sara, Embla, Tobbi, Ljufur, Odin: we love you forever and we will never give up the hope that you one day will join us here in our new Dreamvalley!!!

Just now I’m working on an art project I call ‘The animals are looking at us’. I’m painting many different animals’ eyes. Eyes reflect the outside and represent a pathway to the inside at the same time. The eyes tell us so much about another beings’ soul.

When I’m with the horses I always look at their eye’s expression – are they wide and proud and open, are they small and tired, are they depressed and withdrawn, are they irritated, or are they happy and relaxed – all can be seen in the eyes. We humans just have to learn to notice!

One version of the eye works will be participating at a peace art project in Kiel. There I asked fellow artists to send me photos of their own eyes while thinking about peace – and photos from their animal companions. I paint these photos and aim at covering a whole exhibition wall with many many eye circles. So now I’m painting a new eye almost every day.

The eye works are inspired by a norwegian book called ” Hvem er villest i landet her” (Ragnhild Sollund, Morten Tønnesen and Guri Larsen), and by a german book with a similar theme by the german philosopher Hilal Sezgin “Artgerecht ist nur die Freiheit” (a book discussed in Der Spiegel, german magazine).  Both books challenge human being’s anthropocentric view of the world, and propose a life where other beings – the animals – are seen as equals,  not as things at disposal for our human needs. We strongly recommend to read these books, as they truly widen perspectives upon what kind of change we must take part in – for the climate – for the environment – for animal welfare – for humankind.

Perception

I want to share a text from Sabine Birmann with you – it is so to the point about what this horse work is and is not about!

Dears, actually I wanted to post a text about letting go, also for the advanced people, but due to the many new people the current topic is still explaining the principles of ‘being with horses’. Especially why you can’t ‘mix’ it. Those who write something like that or want to do that have not (yet) understood being with horses.

First of all: What I teach is no method, but what this means in practice is not easy to comprehend for ‘lay persons’, since the horse world usually is focused on functioning and not on perception and mutual ! communication between horse and human. In that world, communication is used to make the horse do what I want it to do – with us on the other hand, it is used to see the state the horse is in and to tell the horse that you understand it. Communication serves to build a real connection.

In this, our area, there are never-ending possibilities how to act and react in the interest of the horse. A young stallion may signal: “Show me who you are and where you stand, so I can believe you.” A traumatized horse: “I am sceptical concerning people and don’t want contact anymore, I will do my work but other than that, leave me alone.” A third horse: “I am bored, you are finally here, let’s do something great!” The first one is testing, acts purposely ignorant, not respecting the room, and is happy if ‘his’ person notices that, perceives it and acts accordingly. The second horse will show itself by ‘reeling something off’, by turning away and by other small signals like the expression of the eyes, the way it cooperates with people and its complete posture. The horse that wants to do something will also give signals accordingly, by proposing things and in the way it does this. So depending on the situation, I have to react totally different to a horse for it to feel understood and to be free to turn to me. I teach the ‘tools’ for this, the body language signals – but these are not worth much without a proper inner attitude to the horse (and to life in general). A human or a horse will notice whether you really mean it or if you are just acting. If I want to ‘open’ a horse so it can turn to me again, I have to open myself, totally. Then I can feel its sadness, its scepticism, its aggression or its willingness to devote itself. If you perceive, then you hold the key to everything else, then you see which way of riding is better for your horse, if it prefers to live in an open stable because it likes to be outside or in a box which provides safety and where it can rest without stress. You notice if it looks better on oat, barley, or a mixed diet; you notice if the ride was too long or too short, if the back has risen or is pushed down, if your horse looks sad or happy. Either you perceive or you don’t. But as long as I am just looking for ‘spare parts’ to use, then I am nothing but a technician, applying a method. Either you speak a language or you don’t. Those who mix totally different languages quickly end up in total gibberish and the horse has to try and understand that, but often it just can’t and does not feel understood in return.

You can’t swim without getting wet – sometimes perceiving something can also hurt a lot. That’s the case when the beloved horse says: “You’ve never understood me and I don’t want any real contact to you” or “You are disgusting and I don’t want to be touched by you” or “I’m always unhappy when you are there, because you do things that make me uncomfortable” or “I don’t care at all, do what you want with me, I’m no longer ‘there’ “, then it’s really hard in the beginning. But only when I want to see, only then I can be able to perceive the state my horse is in and change something about it and only then this ‘joint way to a special relationship’ really starts.
in this sense Sabine