Zen and the art of Grooming
This guest blog comes to us from Kathy, a wonderful blogger that you can enjoy over at Horse Listening. Kathy has a way of taking our work to a new, more happy place while getting in touch with our equine buddies. Namaste!!
"Before Zen men are men and mountains are mountains; during Zen study things become confused; after enlightenment men are men and mountains are mountains, only one's feet are a little off the ground." Dr. D.T. Suzuki
The exterior of the horse is nature's work of art. The curves of the muscles, the strength of the back, the glow of the coat, the soft flow of the mane and the glint in the eye all lead the mind to a place of beauty and magnificence. At once strong in stature and mild in nature, the horse represents a blend of power and generosity that has selflessly served humanity over generations of growth and civilization.
And he is standing in the barn, patiently waiting in cross-ties while you groom in preparation of your ride. The horse is the expert of existing in the natural state. The horse is the horse - simple and true and deeply profound. When looking at a horse, you can see the horse as it is. The head, the tail, the legs. But when you look deeper, you discover the nuances that contribute to the whole; look toward those details and find fulfillment in the "knowing".
He's zen all the time. Even when running around like a fool - he's living in the moment!
As you run your eyes over your horse, learn to "read" the messages that are left there for you. Look for the glow in the coat, indicating good nourishment and healthy upkeep. New nicks in the coat might mean the horse perhaps enjoyed a more rambunctious day "at the office" while out in the field today. New lumps/bumps/injuries require specialized attention to any sores or possible areas of developing infection. Clean, cold hose and medicate if necessary.
Touch with the tips of your fingers, then the palm of your hand. Feel for irregularities in the skin and muscle tissue. Is there tension in the horse's body or is it soft and elastic, indicating a calm, relaxed interior? Or is the body tight, reactive (flicking the skin at the touch) and rigid in the muscles? Is the horse's hyper-alertness due to internal considerations such as heat cycles or metabolic irregularities, or is the horse reacting to external stimuli such as weather changes or bug bites? Also observe any heat in particular locations or over the body. Note any areas of warmth; they may be signs of upcoming concerns.
While you brush the horse, what messages does the horse give you? Are there any areas of pain/discomfort? Does the horse look at you from the corner of his eye and pin back the ears? Alternately, does he lower his head, get soft in the eyes and gently lick and chew? If you listen carefully enough, you will know within seconds how your horse feels that day. Identifying the horse's frame of mind can assist you in planning your ride to meet your horse's current needs.
As you step into "the moment" with your horse and simply enjoy his company, you step out of the incessant grind of daily life. Your world disentangles and you are left with the here and now, the moment in the moment, the world of the horse. Every equine appreciates the quiet personal attention of a calm grooming and will let you know through his overall demeanor. Appreciate the beauty of the horse standing before you and soak in the spirit of togetherness before you prepare to embark on a riding adventure with your four-legged friend, this time with your feet literally off the ground!