“Cherokee: A Mustang Ballerina for Halloween ”
Submitted by Stacey Couch, Colorado Horse Rescue.
Oftentimes I ask myself and am asked by others, “What is it about mustangs for you?” I have unintentionally been caught up in their mystique and find myself continually drawn back to their presence. Of all the over one hundred horses I’ve known in the past five years, the mustangs are the most interesting to me. Not to discredit the lovely Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Arabians, but mustangs have a certain “it” factor. As I push the levels of my horsemanship with my mustang mare I am challenged to a level of awareness on all levels, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, that I would not otherwise experience in my life. Cherokee is not difficult to train as she learns quickly and has a lot of try, but by her nature she is always holding a bit back. That is the way for most mustangs, they retain a level of self preservation that originates from the open prairies and hills they were born on.
My focus with my horse up until recently had been for her to turn down the dial of this self preservation. She needed to become a good equine citizen, to function well in a domestic environment. No human had ever shown that to her before. I worked on giving her the tools she needed and she responded in kind with more trust than imaginable. On a base level we were having a discussion about survival and coming to a sense of safety. The transformation has been stunning and extremely rewarding, but after any major milestone comes the question of “what’s next?”
I decided to seek out joy and laughter and lightness. In my heart that’s how I feel when I’m with her, but it was not how I was acting. There was a ceiling on the level of exuberance and energy available to us. She was holding out on me. My big, powerful mare wouldn’t canter more than a couple laps around the arena and was tentative about really freeing up in my presence. I had been focusing on my technique and ability, but not my perspective. So, I changed one word in my vocabulary. In the past few months, I have begun to “play” rather than “work” with my horse.
Now is when the mustang’s personality really comes to shine. She plays so hard at following my lead that she matches her footfalls to mine, exactly. She watches me so closely that the slightest softness in my posture brings her to me at a trot. She is so willing that a firm stare will turn her at a canter. She side passes around me a liberty light as a feather. Every fiber of her being comes present with me and tries her heart out. This does not come from a sense of duty or an innate ability. This comes from a soulful place that is pure, organic magic. These horses enhance the human experience beyond what’s possible, and in their presence we become more.
Cherokee Looks for Treats hidden in the snow. Fun, fun, fun in winter’s playground — that is if you’re Stacey’s mustang.