We Need Your Help!
Please consider making a financial contribution to Medicine Horse Program. Your donations support our programs and help some great kids and families.
Your help is greatly appreciated. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Contributing money is easy!
1. Mail your donation to Medicine Horse Program at: 8778 Arapahoe Road, Boulder, CO 80303
2. Call us at 720.406.7630 to provide us with your VISA or MC number
3. Make a secure donation online right now by clicking the Paypal "Donate" button below
Thank you for making
a secure, on-line donation
In accordance with the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act and the City of Boulder Human Rights Ordinance, there will be no discrimination against an applicant for services or benefits based on the basis of age, source of income, sex, race marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, religion or handicap. Medicine Horse Program complies with all state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination. the City of Boulder's Human Rights Ordinance protects against discrimination. If you believe your rights have been violated, call the Colorado Fair Housing Hotline at (303)672-5437 or 1-800-877-7353.
Copyright 2008, Medicine Horse Program
HopeFoal Project is a registered trademark
Breakfast With Mama - part 39
By Kathy Johnson, Executive Director, MHP
Back to School
Anapanasati, the mindfulness of breathing- At first the mind wanders off. Once we are aware that we have wandered off the breath, then we very gently return to it. We use the attitude of being very, very patient and always willing to begin again. Our minds are not used to being held down, they have been taught to associate one thing with another and form opinions about everything. Being accustomed to using our intelligence and ability to think in clever ways, we tend to become very tense and restless when we can't do that, and when we practice Anapanasati we feel resistance, resentment to it. It is like a wild horse when it is first harnessed, getting angry with the things that bind it. -Venerable Ajahn Sumedho
Mama and I came out of the summer doldrums with a vengeance. I decided it was time to either fish or cut bait. Mama had met most of her challenges in becoming domestically safe. But would she be a riding horse? We went back to school with new intent, and an audience. Our group of veterans with Veterans Peace of Mind came for their mindfulness class. We began by sitting outside the round pen, breathing, and meditating. Mama stood as close as possible in the round pen, watching us. Our facilitator mentioned the idea that the training of the breath was like the training of the horse, and that resistance to meditation was like having a wild horse on the end of the longe line. How vividly that metaphor became reality.
I had long felt that if I could teach Mama to long line then I could probably teach her to be ridden.
Always when starting back to work, we began with a review. I let her run in the outdoor. I free longed her in the round pen, then I sacked her out with the long lines. Only then did I introduce new equipment, first the surcingle, which was not unlike the bareback pad we had placed on her previously, at least in my mind. It was simply a padded strap that went around her belly. But it was like a lion landed on her back. Mama tried a spin and kick, and I pulled her around abruptly.
When things went awry, we backed up a step or two and began again. I threw the long lines around her some more. Since she did not object to the long lines, I put them around her belly and tightened. That was better, not perfect, but better. When she finally stood still for that, I reintroduced the surcingle. She was fine.
We began longeing on the circle, something she knew well. When I added the second line, things began to fall apart. I tried to keep the lines over the top of her back. But all too soon, she spun in the lines, and they went behind her haunches. The rodeo began. The veterans were treated to their first sight of a wild horse gone mad. She bucked. She ran, she reared, she kicked. She could not bear the line touching her haunches. And the exercise exposed the hole in her training, the hole I knew was there but had been too afraid to approach: she was not desensitized around her hind legs and touching her there triggered every flight or fight instinct she possessed.
The good news was that she would eventually stop, I could straighten her out and we would begin again, throwing the lines over her, disengaging her haunches with the rope, getting her used to being touched. But, when things went wrong, she would go again. I began and again and again. Throughout the process, she improved, not always in ways I expected. She stayed solidly ground tied while I threw the lines. She stopped when I asked her to stop. As long as the outside line was over her back, she went well. But she wouldn't turn in the lines without freaking out. Any change outside her comfort zone brought on an explosion.
At one point, she turned in the lines and began long lining me. She was happy to stand and spin as I ran around the big circle trying to send her forward. But at least the adrenaline surges were becoming fewer and less strong.
She improved. We had moments of looking civilized and moments of communication. Our interminable session ended. When our class debriefed, I shook my head in wonderment. "I was not surprised that she blew up. It wasn't too huge. But I was surprised the she continued to blow up over and over again at the same trigger." The vets all nodded. They said that was the way of PTSD, one bad thought could trigger the same panic attack over and over and over. They said that Mama at least would come back to reality, to breathing, to grounding herself because I was there with her. She didn't always identify my actions as the cause of her panic, but she always looked back to me for help.
And when she did, I steeled my courage, untangled her from her lines and began again. And the next day, I made very sure that the lines never touched her hindquarters. She was perfect.
Chapter Index - Don't Miss The Other Episodes
Breakfast With Mama copyright 2011, 2012, Kathy Johnson
Photos copyright 2011, 2012, Tony Johnson
Don't Miss Events, Classes, Photos and "Breakfast With Mama"