"Put some Chi in that lead rope!" I said to one of the members in our weekend intensive workshop. Later the young lady told me she thought I was talking about chia seeds, which was very confusing for her.
"No, I said. Chi!"
My husband is an acupuncturist and so we talk about Chi a fair amount. We mostly use it in the context of, "that person has some serious Chi" but I am also happy to say mojo, energy, chutzpah, really just some presence. To demonstrate what I meant to the members of the workshop, I asked one member to close her eyes, feel into her intuition, and stand in the arena holding a lead rope. I then instructed the other members of the group to, one by one, go over to the closed eyed member and pick up the lead rope. I asked the close eyed member to describe what she felt. It was almost uncanny how her response to these "riders" was basically the same responses the horses had to each "rider."
" I don't feel safe with you."
"I don't feel like you could lead me if I became lost."
"I feel relaxed, like it is going to be ok"
"I feel like you are faking confidence when you are scared too."
Almost every member gave me a look afterwards like, "Oh man. My horse has been saying this to me all along!"
Reality can be a little hard sometimes, especially when we don't want to face it.
I asked every group member to lead my horse, Apollo, who happens to be a wonderful BS detector. He senses right away if you are arrogant, emotionally blocked, not listening to him, or picking a fight and either plants all four feet in the ground staring in your general direction or tries to nibble your feet or neck depending on what is going on for you. He will do this until you address what you need to address. What I have found is that it is not faking good Chi, it is about being honest, and finding your power in that authentic honesty. I tell folks, if you don't feel safe, embrace that. If you don't feel relaxed, embrace that. If you don't feel clear, embrace that. Chi comes from embracing the power of your experience, not trying to change it. The horse isn't looking for the perfect person on the other end of their lead rope, they want to simply feel who you are.
So I ask this, next time you pick up your horse's lead rope, who is on the other end of it?
Kaia Livingstone is a psychotherapist who runs a private practice outside of Boulder, CO. She specializes in helping horses and humans bond in order to help them relate and connect on a deeper level.