A unique 28 day program in Equine Facilitated Writing.
28 days of writing/28 ways of the horse – daily wisdom and writing prompts for any writer seeking nourishment and motivation – through nature and the way of the horse, at home.
Make it your own. Shuffle days, repeat days, skip back and forward – it doesn’t matter. (There are seven days in each week section including two ‘rest’ days).
There are no rules.
Horses have no concept of busyness. If you tried to explain it to them they would simply turn and walk away. In fact, that’s exactly how they respond when we approach them with busy minds, or in a state of heightened action. Modern life means many of us are living in highly anxious states – constantly high levels of adrenaline is a modus operandus and mostly we’re too busy to even notice.
Horses interpret this adrenaline as reason to experience fear – our busyness actually makes them feel unsafe – no wonder they leave.
One of the first casualties of busyness is our creativity. Clutter in the mind obscures the radiance of our own hearts and our words will find it hard to make themselves heard
To cultivate a state of non-busyness is to open the pathways to our muse – to the sense of freedom and flow that makes our words rich and real. We cannot write in our fullest potential without the clarity of this openness. Busyness is a blockage that only we can truly manage.
Creativity and spaciousness go hand in hand and if we look to our equine companions we can easily see an example of what the optimal level of activity might be for ourselves. In a world that measures personal success by busyness it can be difficult to unplug from the myth but if we are able to slow into a space of conserving our energy and our time for our creative pursuits then we may just be set free so that we can step into the places that nourish us most.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes doing nothing, every opportunity you get, Period. Forever…
Often when I go to spend time with my horse, riding is the furthest thing from my mind. It is enough, always enough to just be in the presence of a horse (in truth it is also enough to be in the presence of the thought of a horse – reassuring news for those who don’t have the opportunities I do).
It is enough for us to simply sit on the earth, in the middle of the paddock and be part of the soft and willing energy that a herd emits through just being. My thoughts slow, and I find all my other sense come alive. The colours of the trees, the wattle, becomes brighter, the sound of horses rhythmically nipping and then grinding their morsels of grass, the feel of wind tickling my arms, the smell of deep earth, or eucalypt, even the sweet smell of manure all collide in a tapestry of being.
What is noticed in this space, all of it, is valuable. It is valuable because it means we are present, and it is also valuable because we are noticing-observing-the world around us. As we go to the page these observations are visceral. They make their way into our words promising a richness in our writing that can only come from sitting still and allowing the world to visit us through all five senses. This is real writing. You will never need a thesaurus to search for an alternative word, when you can sit still in an alternative world.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes writing in a public place. Write a sentence or two from each of the six senses to yourself.
Our diaries carve our days into little blocks of time that then hold the ‘things we are meant to do today’ in check. We set word count targets for the day or insist on ourselves that we spend four or even eight hours at the desk. But life isn’t always like that, and horses, who don’t care what your diary looks like, have a way of showing us the importance of dropping the agenda from time to time and just being. There are times when I go to the paddock and think that I am going to ‘do a particular thing’ with my horse and she turns away from me. There are times when I am taken by the urge to go for a walk in the bush with her and times when I feel she wants to go for a ride. When I drop my agenda of what I want to do, there is a free and open exchange that is always perfect in the moment.
I feel this same freedom when I drop my agenda with my writing too. I cannot always ensure I feel the way I need to feel at the time I need to feel it, and this ability to move into and out of writing space is a skill that once cultivated serves the words at a much deeper level than discipline does. Intention is powerful, but if you are not willing to respond to the forces it creates then it is just a wishful thinking.
Word and horses are incredible wise beings and our respect for them does not go unnoticed. An agenda might make you feel in control but it is an act of domination that appears as expectation, and only serves to shut down any hope of partnering you may have. Imagine your words as sentient beings and treat them as wise companions – partner with your words and set the tone of your time together, together.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes sitting quietly and ask the words what they want to do today? Write yourself a ‘possibilities list’ and sign it from your muse.
The cultural and societal expectations that we should look a certain way, wear certain brands, keep ourselves presentable mean absolutely nothing to a horse. What a relief I felt when I realised nothing mattered except the way I wore my heart. I could wear whatever I liked and arrive at the paddock without brushing my hair or a smidge of makeup on and my horse would greet me with the same enthusiasm. I was not my outer appearance and in a world where sometimes that is all we feel we are, I found this moment of truth one of the more profound lessons my horse has taught me.
I came to realise what a barrier these expectations were to simply getting on with the words. How many times have we given our precious time to the outer appearance of our words without truly arriving at a place of what they mean on the inside? How often do we not go to the page because we feel we are not ‘presentable’ enough.
Imagine if we could just be with the words and not care about what we looked like. If we could release them with rawness and in the truth of what they are, without that presence looking over our shoulder that is only concerned with expectations.
How much deeper our writing can be when we don’t dress it up. When we are prepared to be seen in our humanness. And our horses respond, with lowered heads and that outward snort of breath that says well done. You cannot know the liberation until you let go of all that holds you accountable to being presentable. To be real. To allow your words to be the same. Horses don’t care what you look like, and neither do your words.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes writing about who you are when you are only words.
In any given 24-hour period, a horse typically only lies down for about 20 minutes. Sometimes they will go for days without dropping to the ground to even rest. They bear their 500 kilograms of weight by being in constant motion. As they graze they move, as they play they move, as they respond to the world around them they move, sometimes with great speed and other times with the slow steps of those with nothing better to do. They move alone, and they move as a herd. They know where their horse companions are moving to, and feel it in their guts when another member of the herd’s attention turns to something unknown in the environment. Moving keeps them alive.
Writers are meant to move. Known as a sedentary task, there are of course practical reasons why we sit to write. But horses teach us that the art of movement can be woven into our moment to moment activities while we remain on task, and how essential this is to our ‘aliveness’ in our writing lives. Movement creates energy and energy feeds our words. Our pauses, our moments when we stop to think of the right word, are energised when we rise from our chairs and ‘graze on the view’ from our window, or drop to the floor to do a few cat-cows. We can move from the desk to the couch, from bed to the dining room table, walk to the café with our laptops under our arms. Let the blood move, encourage the energy to tingle in your fingers, bring dance to your writing practice. Find a song that makes you move and create your own writing ritual around it. Funk it up when you’re waiting on the kettle to boil (cos probably if you’re a writer you drink many cups of tea!).
Creating is an act, writing is an act. Acts are the way we create art and all of this requires honest, playful motion.
Writing is not an act of the hand but a motion of the whole body.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes pulling together your writers’ playlist.
Most writers are readers. What are the books that have shaped you over the course of your lifetime? Take a moment to make of list of the affecting and the unshakeable. Don’t stress too much about order, just as it comes. Reach back to your favourite childhood books and mark the decades of your life with a few chosen books. Notice any themes, styles, or moments when your heart opens. Is there wisdom in that?
Writing does not need to be hard. The image of the tortured artist does not have to be our reality. if we come to our writing with a sense of playfulness then we stay open to the muse, to the unexpected. Creativity has a chance to flourish.
The mare who is my heartsong came to me as a scared young girl, harshly trained and fearful of putting a step wrong. It’s taken hours of patient loving and reassurance to soften her edges and build a faithful relationship with her. I had it in my head that for her to feel safe I should walk her through terrain first before I rode her and this had become ingrained in my way with her.
Today I realised it showed my lack of faith in her. So, I rode a new paddock, alone, with the intention of trusting how we are together. And I realised it takes just a little step like this each day to achieve the miracles we seek.
I think it’s like this with writing too. We sit in places of our own limits – constructed carefully and for the right reason but forgetting that boundaries are also restrictions. What would it be like to have faith in ourselves and faith in our words? To evidence that faith in tiny increments by each day asking a little more of our relationship with our words. You can’t help but reach a destination and it may well be your wildest dream.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes, or as long as you can, writing about something you’d never write about usually – perhaps even something dark, or outside your comfort zone. When you feel an edge, push past it by writing one more sentence. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just write.
When gentling or teaching a horse, there are plenty of people with philosophies and techniques that will supposedly foster quick learning or development. But the most essential quality we can bring to our interactions is that of time, of patience and slow steading loving. Nothing happens any faster than nature will allow it and our enculturation to want quick solutions and instant gratification is putting enormous pressure on our relationships – with ourselves, with each other, with nature, and with our writing.
What we want in our horse may take months, or even years to foster but when it lands, it is deep and trustworthy and mutually beneficial. We find the best moments are built in the simplest steps, in breaking things down until there is no resistance, then building step by step on a foundation of trust and willingness. We can’t just saddle up and ride a horse from the wild, first we need to earn trust to even get close, then a sniff, then a scratch. These baby steps may take weeks. Finally, we may be invited to touch their ears, and perhaps then we can pop a halter onto lead–a simple walk to the gate can be months in the making. But we do this quietly and confidently knowing that each moment of connection will make the next just a little bit easier. Slowing down is the real gift.
What would it be like to take a similar approach to our writing? To realise the gift of taking it slowly, of breaking down our ‘tasks’ until there is no resistance to them, and then building our text and our writing life up in this steady way. Our expectations kill us. They make us demand results that may not be ripe yet. We need to have a discipline in our writing but
minutes spent or word counts are not always meaningful measures. There are steps to take before we even get to the page, moments that will enrich what you have to say when you do write. Rushing to the end post or page may mean you miss the juice along the way.
TO WRITE: Notice your ‘big’ writing goal and how it feels when you consider its breadth and weight. Tease out the essential things you can do today towards that goal that feel easy and light. Do them.
It’s a miracle that animals are so accepting of us humans. That my horse sees me and says ‘that woman is mine’ is a humbling experience. As sentient, pure beings they have no fear of us and wish to be willing accomplices. Humankind would not have evolved as it has without the willingness of the horse. So my mare seeks me–she may not always rush to me in the paddock but she welcomes me. She rests in my dreams, and shows up in my internal world when I need courage or valour, or am just searching for the right word. She has carried me on her back a thousand times and we haven’t even been near one another. She feels me and I feel her even when we are kilometeres away from one another. All she asks for is relationship.
And horses make great partners. They don’t judge, and they don’t care about how many likes your latest Facebook post has gathered. This is a liberating friendship. Horses embody good relationship.
Our writing seeks us for relationship every day too. It wants us to show up and let it come rushing to the page. Our writing wants to be in a relationship with us. We are our writings greatest lover and even when we resist, the words will seek other ways to find expression. Like the bond with a horse, our bond with writing, once we have taken the time to live into it, is ever more and across time and space. When we understand that our writing is seeking us as a partner, we too can offer the same in return. Our kindness, dedication, insights and pleasure exist as essential elements in our writing relationship. And in this is our deepest reward.
One of my favourite words is ‘meraki’ which means to do something with soul, creativity or love, leaving a piece of yourself in what you are doing. We leave something of ourselves in our writing, just as we do in our relationships and in every horse we connect with. I’m certain they leave something in us too.
TO WRITE: What kind of a relationship do you have with writing? Spend a few minutes journalling about how it is and how you know it could be.
Sometimes I can experience the most exquisite moments of grace with my horse. I am standing at her shoulder in the middle of a paddock quietly just breathing her in and I am filled with a sense of being in a place that is sacred and special. There is no action I have taken, or prop that I have used to create this moment– it is as random and as simple as a breath.
And I think we can find this same sacred space in our writing – in fact I think we must seek this. Carl Jung called this sacred space ‘temenos’ a safe place where we can heal.
In this sacred place, I have no need for a shiny new set of boots, a spangled halter or any of the other gimmicks life might try and impress on us as necessary. I am me. The parallel to our writing life cannot go unspoken. Truly we don’t need the latest model of laptop, another workshop or a special journal or set of pens to meet the sacred. Instead we can cultivate this feeling in tiny moments that are bare and full of our longing. The less stuff you have the closer you can be to the essence of what you seek. Neither horses, nor our writing, really care about what we have but more about who we are. Showing up as an authentic human being is the most natural place we can occupy.
These moments in scared space can reach outwards into our words and our way to be if we let them. Our writing will be enriched by creating and holding moments of grace. Cultivating a moment without expectation, placing my hand on the warm shoulder of my mare as we breath together–all we need is each other.
That is all our ‘room of our own’ needs to be–a safe container for our expression. We do not need distractions or things, but we can treasure the symbolic and the meaningful and pause to invite presence into the meeting places where we write. This is in internal state that exist regardless of where we land. We can feel the warm skin of our writing against our palm if we stop to allow the sacred space to seep in.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes to list a few places or experiences you have had where you have felt truly alive. Give voice to this feeling and write yourself a short travel guide of how to get there.
One of the things that defines a herd of horses from humans is the herd’s ability to get on with it. They will only turn back out of instinct, a necessary self-preservation. The herd gathers all its resources and moves forward as one. There is a natural confidence that all will be well and life moves forward for each member. There is no ‘what if’ rumination, there is forward momentum and encouragement in the simple act of taking a step, even while grazing. Quite simply a horse will always be moving, somewhere. The horse believes in their own sovereignty.
We can read every latest book about manifesting our writing dreams, we can spend our time with friends or therapists listing our strengths and our aims and these are all necessary and lovely things to do. But nothing means anything if we don’t also understand the moment in which we leap off the edge and actually do something. It doesn’t have to be grand, just a step (and always balanced with rest) but this is often the singlemost hardest point that we arrive at. We stand on the edge, ready to launch and then something else intervenes. Mostly that ‘intervention’ is fear masquerading as a lack of confidence. And we need to discover in our own truths how to find ways to override the inertia of lacking confidence.
We have to do something. We need to actually pick up the pen, or open the laptop and write, no matter what. Because that is how we build confidence, in the doing, the simple and loving act of doing.
This is not something we can learn in a book, but we can observe this natural and confident momentum in nature. Horses are teachers of many things, and confidence is perhaps one of their greatest gifts to us – just try being relevant to a 600 kilogram horse and you will see how deeply confidence affects our lives. As women, our personal relationship with confidence is often conflicted within the cultural norms we are born into, but horses teach us how to redefine our sense of self. Most people are surprised to learn the herd leader is not the stallion but the mare. The true leader, the one that steps up and shows the way with confidence and harmony is the feminine.
So as writers we can also be that leader. We need to lead ourselves forward, step by step, installed in the brilliance of the doing just as that mare does.
In the writing life, there is never a real reason why you can’t write today, or tomorrow, or the next. Writing is ever present.
TO WRITE: Spend a few minutes listing what you let get in the way of writing. What are the typical excuses? Have fun with this, some of your reasons will be ridiculous! Reflect on the absurd and what isn’t serving you.
This is a moment to dig deep. Can you articulate why it is you want to write? It’s often the most difficult question we have to answer. Maybe we are a writer in the same way a horse is a horse, but it is worth jotting down your reasons for writing and feeling into what drives this passion in you. When you understand this you can frame disappointment and frustration in a bigger picture. Your ‘why’ is the key.
This program isn’t perfect – if I waited for perfection, it may never have happened. Instead here is a human version – what is here now.
And it hasn’t been about ‘how to write’ as much as its been about what in us is served by our writing life.
So make this the day you write your ‘Writer’s Manifesto’ – your own unique artist’s statement about you, your reason to write, your unique writing being and what is valuable about what you write. Tell somebody.
And celebrate this moment. All of nature is conspiring with you to greatness.
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