Equine-guided meditation is a mindfulness meditation method that is practised in the presence of one or more horses. Initially, when I started sharing this practice with our workshop participants, I decided to call it equine-facilitated meditation. My intention was that it would be a focused form of meditation, the horse serving as the focal point, instead of a candle, for example. I thought that the horse or horses would facilitate meditation in a passive way. I did not intend that the horse or horses would take an active role as in actually guiding the meditation.
To help our workshop participants reach that state of thoughtless awareness when the mind is calm, yet completely alert that I understand meditation to be, I usually start an equine-facilitated meditation session by directing them to a peaceful spot somewhere near the horses. I begin by asking them to concentrate on their breathing. At first, we breathe normally, gradually letting our breathing slow down until it is regular, smooth and slow.
I then ask them to focus their attention on one of our horses. I encourage them to engage all their senses and even imagine that they are in fact a horse, that they can see, hear, smell, feel and even taste what a horse sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes. I suggest that they imagine how it would feel to have four legs, four hooves and a tail. I ask them to imagine that they are seeing the world through a horse’s eyes, physically, mentally and sometimes metaphorically,
I encourage them to look at their individual problems as a horse would look at a problem, as a member of a herd, interdependently and individually. Sometimes, when I personally reach out to the horses, they respond in kind, offering me solutions to problems from their perspective. Guests are often surprised to find that when they are sitting near the horses, it is much easier to quieten their minds and enter the meditative state than it is at home. Especially if they do not have much meditation experience.
Horses’ ability to be at once fully present in their bodies, in their environment as well as in the moment, facilitates mindful meditation by giving us a perfect example to follow and to focus on. Our workshop participants found the sessions very useful and continued to practice equine-facilitated meditation at home, by imagining that they were still in the paddock with the horses or by watching a Youtube video made for this purpose. So it worked quite well, until the day I decided to add a loving-kindness meditation at the end of the session.
That day, everything changed. We were a small group, not more than six. We were sitting in a circle in the paddock closest to the lake. Belle, Bass, Aurore and Tess were with us in the paddock, grazing peacefully nearby. I lead the loving-kindness meditation, starting with the focus on each individual. I then moved the focus to a loved one. I then moved the focus to the horses. I asked the participants to send waves of loving-kindness to Belle, our boss mare. Before I had voiced the second sentence, Belle had walked over to us and was standing just outside the circle. She had never approached a circle before. It was intimidating because we were sitting flat on the ground and Belle is enormous: 1m65 at the withers. As I started the third sentence, she came over to me and made it quite clear that she intended entering the circle…