“It was a challenge for me to get onto the back of Ollie, this six foot Clydesdale. I could sense his strength and stability even standing next to him, but the thought of lying on top of him made me anxious, scared to try this unknown. I had been riding growing up with our horses, but never bareback, and never in this kind of situation before. Yet I felt it was something I had to do, not just for research, but for myself. I can't explain exactly why but if i walked away from that field without seeing what it was like then I knew i would regret it.
After I got up, stepping onto a half barrel then a whole one, with the help of Jenny and Lisa, my hips cramped up. They instructed me to lie onto my back to stretch them out and I managed to find my breath and take a moment for it to subside, which it did thankfully.
There, looking up at the sky and also horizontally across the field if i tilted my head back, my view was inverted upside down, the sky becoming the ground and the grass becoming the sky. This instantly removed me from the perspective I had when I was on the ground looking at the timeline I had constructed. It made me laugh. Then I was helped to spin around so that I could stretch forward with my chest against Ollie's backside effectively. My arms lying limply down the sides of his body, and hands relaxed against his stomach. My cheek pressed against Ollie's warm body, I closed my eyes.
To any observer, here I am hanging over a horse backwards trying to stay calm and still and balance and breathe. I could feel him breathing with my hands, in and out.
It was fascinating because I was transported from my cognitive analytic mind, my safe space, where I am used to constantly thinking about things, the world, me, it's what I know. And now, I had to just feel. Physically I was supported by Ollie, literally, and emotionally, psychologically, I was experiencing this transition from being cognitively aware to just being in that very moment, to feeling.
They wanted to walk through each phase of the timeline with me like this. The idea is that when you look upon it normally, feet on the ground, you are cognitively processing everything. But up there, you are experiencing only a physical oneness with the horse, every moment of their body you can feel and you have to give in or you can't balance.
The whole experience becomes much more enjoyable if you choose to live in the moment.
Also, that feeling of vulnerability became cocooned, comforted in my arms as they hugged Ollie. It was okay. Thinking back on it, even writing it causes me to become tearful. I was went from being fearful, to being fearless as I allowed that hug to envelop that inner self so that I could look upon my own timeline, with all of the pain and challenges that is too much for any child to go through, and have true empathy for myself for the first time in my life.
So yeah, to an observer I was lying backwards on the back of this horse, and yet what was actually occurring, as subtle as it may seem, became mindful and limitless.”
Social Anthropologist, Aotearoa