Mornings start at the barn. The dogs know that and pace between the bedroom and the door until the zip of my barn boots sends them flying outside. They are always to the gate first. I don’t follow a schedule, except what the horses set. They are out on pasture all night long; often in view by the morning, but I wait until they purposely put themselves in the barnyard before I go down. I think that drives the dogs just a little bit crazy.
Filou and the donkeys are always first. Filou is treated to special meals and attention because of his advanced age and he is eager for his time. The donkeys are eager to take advantage of whatever he spills. Clever donkeys. I confine Filou in a stall to give him peace while he eats his meal slowly, as is his style now. I am never fast enough for him (I have to mix his food fresh and let it soak a bit) and every single morning he lets me know that.
It took a while to sort out the feeding routine for everyone else. Andante was aggressive standing her ground, and the geldings were pushy, shoving each other around trying to avoid her, but still stay closest to the food source. Donkeys would skitter everywhere and Boo and Belle would hover outside, too afraid to come in. I would work up a mighty sweat breaking up squabbles and keeping the right horse in front of the right food dish. Only Filou was chill.
In the horse world, there are those who believe a horse mirrors what you create; to change the horse, change yourself. Then again, there are those who believe if you give a horse an inch, he will drive a semi-truck through it, especially if food is involved. I’m pretty much of the former belief, but it’s hard to hold that space with all of those semi-trucks coming at you. Something had to change.
So I had a talk with each of the members of the herd, big and small. The barn needs to be a safe zone — for everyone. Always. But especially at mealtimes. I changed my energy, slowing my pace and treating preparation of their food dishes as a zen “wax on, wax off” experience. If they matched my energy, I happily let them share my space. If they were boisterous (as inevitably they were at first), I picked up a conveniently located stick, matching their energy as i shooed them out the door. Whoa.
This is what mornings at the barn look like now.
Filled food dishes are sitting on the floor in the open stall in front of them. I have gone to the barn door to escort Boo and Belle in. No one moves. They are holding the space. Now granted, Andante is holding a large amount of space for herself (she’s in the far front) and Loosa, the spotted one in the picture below, relies on Legs to hold space for him, but this is an amazing feeling. All is calm and I feel the vibration of that run all the way through me and them.
Once everyone has found a comfortable space, I serve each their dish and they munch in quiet harmony. As they finish, I walk among them, rubbing necks, smoothing tails and sharing breath. Everyone shows the influence of this new found peace in their own way.
Mornings start at the barn.
I am a lucky, lucky girl.