Documentary Film Crew Visits Epona
Filmmaker and horsewoman Stormy May traveled to the Epona Center last month to film a segment for her upcoming documentary exploring the future of the horse/human relationship. Over the last year Stormy has traveled around the world capturing the unique approaches and philosophies of a number of internationally-recognized equestrians. Path of the Horse features Epona founder Linda Kohanov, Mark Rashid (who’s written a number of books including one of Linda’s favorites: Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership), Carolyn Resnik (author of Naked Liberty), Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling (German trainer/author best known for Dancing with Horses), and Alexander Nevzorov, an innovative Russian trainer.
“Stormy agreed to be filmed experiencing the Epona work herself, along with her father, Dean, a retired businessman and engineer who had little experience with horses,” Linda says. “She also brought one of her students, a very talented and intelligent14-year-old rider named Sam, and his mother Jeanne, who had little previous experience training or riding. It was amazing how well these people of varying ages, interests, and horse experience took to the work. Kim McElroy, who collaborated with me on The Way of the Horse, happened to arrive the last night of filming and they were able to do an inspiring interview with her as well.”
A taste of the film, scheduled for release next spring, can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j0Z19IhgPA.
“Stormy’s intention in addressing the spiritual and consciousness-expanding potential of the horse-human connection is obvious in this trailer,” Linda says. “I love the brief shot of Rasa interacting with the filmmaker. By walking up, circling Stormy, and standing shoulder to shoulder with her, staring at the horizon, Rasa seemed to be sanctioning this important documentary as an expression of the grand new adventure horses are calling us to experience.”
Black Horse Wisdom Retreat
Space is still available in the Black Horse Wisdom Retreat to be held Monday, November 26 through Sunday, December 2. Linda decided to expand this popular workshop to 7 days, offering an in-depth retreat exploring what she has learned over the years about the horse’s ability to expand human consciousness.
“This clinic is for people who want to exercise animal communication in ‘both worlds,’” Linda reveals. “At Epona, we’ve been seriously studying how to integrate intuitive, ancestral, mythic, and nonlocal forms of communication with the intensely grounded awareness you need to effectively ride, train, and care for horses. The ability to stay on site at Epona and let go of mundane humans concerns actually allows people to immerse themselves in horse time. At the last Black Horse Wisdom workshop, we were delighted to find that the retreat setting allowed people to stay in a low-grade yet highly productive altered state for days. Deep insights into the horses and themselves arose naturally, and quite normally, in the field of awareness the herd can’t seem to help but draw people into — when we have the time and space to truly rest in their world. The only drawback was the workshop length. At four and a half days, we seemed to just be getting started. So we’ve expanded the workshop to include an extra two days to allow us to reach that crucial balance of reflection and action, ‘wu wei’ time with the horses, and actual practice working with the horses in ways that honor their unique intelligence, power, sensitivity, and wisdom.”
Spirit Finds a Mate
Five-year-old Arabian stallion Spirit, son of Rasa and Merlin, took the entire staff to an advanced level of “black horse wisdom” this past spring, artfully challenging the people in his life to integrate, and constantly dance with, insights flowing from both worlds: the world of consensual, material reality, and that mythic “otherworld” where consciousness constantly, and mysteriously, breaks all the rules.
“In quantum theory,” Linda writes, “the most basic building blocks of life have a dual nature, appearing as particles with a set location in time and space, and waves, invisible regions of influence that can flow through walls, resonate with physical matter, and yet not be limited by the laws that hold physical beings together.”
The author was inspired to investigate the twin nature of reality after Spirit was born in 2002. “So many potent synchronicities came into play during that time,” she says. “Spirit was an actual twin. His brother was stillborn. And like so many cross-cultural myths concerning twins, he seemed to have a hoof or two in each world.” (See “The Twins” essay, card 36, in new Way of the Horse guidebook for details).
Adding to the mystery and the mythology, Spirit was born during the Year of the Black Horse in Chinese astrology, drawing yet more attention a concept Linda has been developing in all three of her books.
“Black horse wisdom,” she summarizes in Way of the Horse, “challenges us to step off the well-worn paths of civilized thought. It is wisdom shrouded in mystery, wisdom that’s felt more deeply than it can ever be explained, wisdom we often ignore unfortunately, until some difficulty in life opens us up to other possibilities. This universal archetype champions knowledge rejected by the mainstream: instinct, emotion, intuition, sensory and extrasensory awareness, and the human-animal partnership associated with tribal cultures. Science may never be able to dissect this wisdom, to bring it into the light of conscious understanding, but through the metaphor of the horse, and through real-life interactions with these animals, we can learn to track these mysteries, maybe even ride them if we develop the right balance of trust, discernment, skill and abandon.” (from card 29: “Black Horse Wisdom”)
“Really, if all Spirit had done was draw our attention to the dual nature of reality, he would have lived up to his calling,” Linda muses. “But he wasn’t content to stop there. This past spring, he managed to call in his own mate, a beautiful black mustang mare named Panther, also, oddly enough, born in 2002, the Year of the Black Horse.”
It all started when the five-year old stud colt became a bit unmanageable during breeding season. Like many young stallions, he was overwhelmed with the promise of mares in the air, becoming increasingly aggressive with the humansand horses in his life. At that point, only Linda and Epona ranch manager Shelley Rosenberg were permitted to handle him as he had to be moved out of his bachelor herd of geldings to an isolated corral.
“It’s such a sad and frustrating experience for stallions to be isolated,” Linda says. “Shelley and I are committed to changing the pattern of how domesticated studs are treated, but we couldn’t find any role models for integrating stallions into a herd life where all the parties continue to interact with humans daily. Usually, studs are kept separate and bred with significant human intervention, having only brief, perfunctory contact with mares. Or they’re turned out on pasture with a group of mares and left on their own, at least until breeding season is over. To try something new meant stepping into the unknown, and that involved every scrap of previous knowledge Shelley and I had, as well as significant imagination, intuition, collaboration, and adaptability. Basically our goal was to find a mare or two for Spirit, teach them to respect each other and live together full time, while also interacting with humans daily, together and separately as part of our training program.”
While Linda and Shelley continued to handle the frustrated stud, teaching him to manage his overpowering instincts, Linda also engaged intuitive communication—with Spirit, and with the collective wisdom of the species she refers to as the Horse Ancestors.
“No matter how many helpful insights I’ve gained with non-rational forms of perception, there’s always a little part of me that remains skeptical,” she admits. “And so when I conveyed to Spirit that he had two ways out of his lonely condition—to either find, and learn to live in harmony with, his own mares, or consent to being gelded and return to the herd—I had no idea his answer would be so obvious and efficient. Within a month, Epona Approved Instructor Holli Lyons emailed me out of the blue and told me that her daughter Erin had found a black Kiger mustang mare, born in the Year of the Black Horse, who was just about Spirit’s size. The letter came during an unexpectedly lean time at Epona and I was doubtful I could pull it off, especially since the horse would have to be shipped from Oregon. But everyone seemed to rally to the cause. Panther’s owner, Donna Cross, offered to take the mare’s fee out in trade for attending an Epona workshop. Holli was making the trip down to Epona the following month to help with an apprenticeship workshop, and she offered to trailer Panther for the cost of gas, which Donna offered to split with me. How could I possibly say no? I’m not sure if the Universe, destiny, a guardian angel, or Spirit’s own powers of manifestation were involved, but the result was that Spirit not only found a mate, he managed to arrange for her cost and transportation!”
Yet true to his twin nature, Spirit had to woo Panther in both worlds. His ability to call in his mare through nonlocal means did not immediately translate to an ability to connect to her in physical form. “He was much too intense for her at first,” Linda reports. “We kept them in two large corrals with a small aisle way between. Panther not only refused to come near him, she managed to avoid going into heat for six weeks at the height of breeding season. Every time she even looked in his direction, Spirit would seem to grow three times his size and put on such a noisy display of adolescent enthusiasm that the intensity of his presence alone seemed to push her right out of his orbit.”
Linda and Shelley had both worked at breeding farms and were well aware of techniques for forcing horses to mate. “It was clear that to change the paradigm, all parties had to agree, had to feel safe, and had to respect each other every step of the way,” Linda says. “Shelley and I were constantly brainstorming, experimenting, and adjusting to the horses’ responses to each other and to us.
“It turns out that mating in virgin horses is about as graceful an act as two teenagers fumbling around in the back seat of a car. They don’t automatically know what to do, but they’re highly motivated to do it, even though they don’t really know what ‘it’ is. From the moment they met each other, Spirit and Panther were constantly experimenting and adapting, asking questions of each other and of us. Stepping into the unknown with them was an act of consensual leadership, where we were all ‘sensing together,’ willing to back off without question when any member of the team was frightened, and granting leadership to whoever was calmest, clearest, and most centered at any given moment.”
The team’s first success came from teaching the horses how to respect each other’s space. In much the same way that Linda teaches people how to set and respect boundaries through nonverbal and energetic cues (a core principle of the Epona Approach), Spirit learned how to “rock back and sigh” when he sensed Panther’s escalating tension. Shelley also taught Spirit how to stand still and remain quiet as Panther approached.
“We did the initial work with Shelley leading Spirit and me leading Panther. But it didn’t take long before we noticed Spirit actually using these same techniques over the fence with Panther, actually drawing her to him and even getting her to join up with him. At that point, she finally went into heat, whereupon she began to reach out and touch noses with him over the fence.”
Finally, it was time to mate. In the pasture that eventually became their home, Spirit and Panther learned—through much trial and error and coaching—how to connect at a deeper level, physically and emotionally. The story continues in next month’s Epona news.
Two workshops in December will offer concentrated studies in elements that were in fact crucial to Linda’s and Shelley’s success with Spirit and Panther: the first takes a look at innovative, cooperative forms of leadership; the second to relationship skills developed through dancing with the horses. These explorations are open to equestrians and non-equestrians. Participants will be working with members of the herd suited to their uwn individual level of horse experience, though demonstrations of some of these techniques will involve the now pregnant and content black horse couple.
It’s now commonly recognized that only ten percent of human communication is verbal. And yet in our culture, we’ve virtually become mesmerized by words as our social and educational systems teach us to dissociate from the body, the environment, and the subtle nuances of nonverbal communication. In his book,The Other 90%: How to Unlock your Vast Potential for Leadership and Life, Robert K. Cooper predicts that the “dinosaurs of the future will be those who keep trying to live and work from their heads alone. Much of human brilliance is driven less by the brain in your head than by newly discovered intelligence centers—now called ‘brain two and brain three’—in the gut and the heart. The highest reasoning and brightest ingenuity involve all three of those brains working together.”
In this four-day intensive, you will learn skills for accessing that “other 90%” with the help of the Epona herd, exercising the non-verbal communication, assertiveness, emotional fitness, and relationship skills essential to leadership—as managers, innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and parents and mentors of the next generation.
“If we’re serious about finding solutions to the challenges of this complex technological, now global society we live in, we do in fact need to engage all three of those brains,” says Linda Kohanov. “The true pioneers of the 21st century are those who figure out how to tap the vast resources of nonverbal intelligence. At Epona, we’ve found that horses provide the ultimate shortcut. It is ironic that for thousands of years these sensitive yet powerful beings carried our bodies around the world, allowing us to explore terrain we would have struggled to traverse on foot. Yet even as they’ve been release from their roles as beasts of burden, horses have not become obsolete. They stand, beckoning, at the edge of a new wilderness—the landscape of consciousness itself—waiting for us to accept the challenge of living life to its fullest potential.”
Join husband-wife team Linda Kohanov and Steve Roach for a special holiday retreat exploring authenticity in action. Through interactions with the Epona herd and awareness-expanding musical experiences, participants will learn to dance with horses, exercising the ability to improvise with the ever-changing rhythms of relationships—and life.
As Linda observes in her new book The Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self Discovery, “Horses spend a lot of time milling around in rarefied states of being, but they also connect through movement. They keep to the yin, but they definitely know the yang. The Way of the Horse can open our conditioned bodies and minds to a whole new world of sensory and extra-sensory awareness. To make it all worthwhile, however, we must ultimately live in this expanded universe, learning to act and feel, assert and respond, all at the same time. Dancing becomes the metaphor for leading without dominating, learning to follow someone else without losing your balance or your boundaries—and, at some point, upping the ante to fluidly trade leads in true partnership.”
This workshop, open to eight people, offers a special rate for couples or family members sharing the same room. Please contact the Epona office at 520-455-5908 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this option.
“Throughout the animal kingdom,” Linda writes, “mating is often characterized as a dance. Cultivating relationship, it seems, is more art than science, the language of love more musical than verbal….In human relationships, however, we often become impatient with the natural rhythms of engagement. Yet if we treat our significant partnerships with the same sense of discovery and delight we experience with music, we might actually revel in the ebbs and flows, harmonies and dissonances of our daily improvisations.”