Sunday, March 10, 2013

Creative Leadership Retreat with Horses - June 8, 2013

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm

Radiant wishes from the deep peace of winter, where our heart has been cracked open by the fire, we’re holding all the right cards, and there is no separation between art and life. In the honeyed richness of this human experience ripe with stories of wranglers and warrior-like moments, laughter and merriment ensue on a regular basis. And so goes the hum of business unusual at Auspicious HQ.

My favorite topic du jour is the creative life and what it takes to have an amazing one in which you are living in integrity with your truth, daring greatly to play with the unknown and willing to unblock the flow of joy within you. All the while, being a positive force of good in the world and empowering others in your wake. This requires a connection to life, heartfelt and authentic decisions and courage make it happen.

It reminds me of being a cowgirl - in which empathy, communication, vulnerability and bravery were all skills handier than the leatherman in my back pocket when it came to relating to another species that relied on me for clarity and direction. Turns out, all those lessons my equine teachers nudged into me have circled back into my work-life as an authentic leader. I’m over the moon to have roped the loves of my life – creativity and horses – together this June as I’ve teamed up with Jean-Jaques Joris of Twin Oaks Farm to create a Creative Leadership Retreat with Horses on June 8. Please join us. Details here.

What my four-legged guides showed me was that the greatest journey is the journey inward, for it is there that the best discovery is to be had, and where the golden treasure longs to be found. It’s where, in the words of Mary Oliver, “the stars burned through sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.” And, that is the seat of your creative power.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


From the work of Martin Buber, The Horse:

"When I was eleven years of age, spending the summer on my grandparents' estate, I used, as often as I could do it unobserved, to steal into the stable and gently stroke the neck of my darling, a broad dapple-gray horse. It was not a casual delight but a great, certainly friendly, but also deeply stirring happening. If I am to explain it now, beginning from teh still very fresh memory of my hand, I must say that what I experienced in touch with the animal was the Other, the immense otherness of the Other, which, however, did not remain strange like the otherness of the ox and the ram, but rather let me draw near and touch it. When I stroked the mighty mane, sometimes marvellously smooth-combed, at other times, just as astonishingly wild, and felt the life beneath my hand, it was as though the element of vitality itself bordered on my skin, something that was not I, was not akin to me, palpably the other, not just another, really the Other itself: and yet it let me approach, confided itself to me, placed itself elementally in the relation of Thou and Thou with me. The horse, even when I had not begun pouring oats for him into the manger, very gently raised his massive head, ears flicking, then snorted gently, as a conspirator gives a signal meant to be recognizable only by his fellow-conspirator: and I was approved. But once -- i do not know what came over the child, at any rate it was childlike enough-- it struck me about stroking, what fun it gave me, and suddenly I became conscious of my hand. The game went on as before, but something had changed, it was no longer the same thing. And the next day, after giving him a rich feed, when I stroked my friend's head he did not raise his head. A few years later, when I thought back to the incident, I no longer supposed that the animal had noticed my defection. But at the time I considered myself judged."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lux desiderium universitatis

by Kate DiCamillo

Lux desiderium

light is the desire
of the universe; tonight
the moon
is on its side, partially lit,
and patiently waiting
for more light, while
Lucinda sings
that if wishes
were horses
she'd have a ranch; and
in an old storefront on 38th
the windows are bright
with the people inside
to dance; the
street lamps shine on
November's last
stubborn leaves.

The dancers
are moving their mouths,
counting and wishing,
with each breath for
I don't know
horses, maybe,
or more light,
or something
that will stay.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A R i t u a l S t u d y

The barn was my sanctuary. It was immaculate. I kept it that way. The stalls were raked almost hourly when possible. The tack was clean and orderly. The feeding schedule rarely varied. Not a speck of organic matter spent much time on either the ground or my horses.

Feeding, grooming, cleaning, riding and raking are not chores: they’re rituals. They are rituals revolving around purity and care of the spirit. Being in service to the horse requires this labor of love and the bodily sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears. Some rituals stem from superstition and tradition, like lucky horseshoes. Some rituals stem from experience and witness, like the daily routines around the barn that run like clockwork.

The most meditative rituals take place in the presence of the horse. Grooming and tacking up are carried out with the same precision and attention to detail every time the ritual is re-enacted in preparation for a ride. While grooming the horse, the hands smooth over every hair on the horse’s body in the same ways that a climber’s hands run over entire lengths of his ropes looking for wear before a big climb.

How can we deny that our identity is shaped by what we do? How can we separate body from ritual, and ritual from body?

We can’t.

I didn’t know who I was unless I had my horses. I didn’t think I could be who I was without them, without being with them, without working around them. I was what I was doing in the barn, and I was doing what I loved. I couldn’t separate myself from my rituals.

When looking at the lived rituals of religious practitioners and horse people, it is difficult to separate body and experience from the ceremonial aspect of ritual. There appears to be no separation of self and performance. Ritual shapes us, and we shape our rituals. By looking at the medieval women who experienced their personal mystical experiences, we see how ritual and devotion mesh so closely (inseparably) from emotion and the sensuous body. In Carolyn Walker Bynum’s medieval context and discussion of medieval women mystics, these women mystics have become part of the word made flesh. These women moved body up to the realm of godliness and away from the often dirty image cast up on women’s physicality. Horsewomen too, move the body into positive light, as the body becomes a way of knowledge and communication with their beloved horse.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A new religion that smells like horse

“I think I’ll start a new religion. I’ll call it “Houynnm-ism, ism, ism”
- from The Legend of Flying Horse.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


"Deification is the ultimate distorting mirror that man has held up to the horse in our shared history. While the ancient elevation of the horse to the status of god is hardly a tradition that endures to affect modern-day attitudes toward the horse, it is nonetheless a reflection of the intense emotions that the horse was –and still is—capable of evoking. When the ancients were overwhelmed they found an outlet for their feelings in religious and magical terms; in our more competitive age we are perhaps more likely to impute our motives more crassly, for instance in wishing to believe that our horses love to win ribbons at horse shows. We may not literally worship horses anymore, yet the religious awe that the horse once evoked is testimony to a basic inability to see straight on this subject, which endures."
- Stephen Budiansky, The Nature of Horses

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

at once of nature and transcendent of nature

"It takes a harder heart and a stronger mind than I, for one, possess not to be dazzled by the pure beauty of man and horse working together. The almost magical cooperation of horse and rider is testimony both to the inventiveness of man and to the remarkable learning ability and physical prowess of the horse. It is art as much as science, a product of pure imagination as much as it is any predictable outcome of evolutionary biology. The thrill of watching the performance of a superb racehorse or jumper or cutting horse or polo pony or dressage horse come from the sense that these are creatures at once of nature and transcendent of nature."
- Steven Budiansky, The Nature of Horses