Waterhole Rituals Student Zoe: Acceptance

It is my third week here in RVA, which means that I am already half through my time here. I have learned so much during the past weeks. I learned about herd behavior, leadership, body language, the waterhole rituals and many more things.  In my last blog entries, I wrote about the lessons I had. but this time I am going to write about a lesson, which started when I entered the gate to the horse pasture for the first time and will probably last even longer than my time here. This lesson has been about acceptance.

Of course, I do have bad days here too, even though I am in paradise. Days when I just don’t feel good. Days when I am caught inside my head, somewhere between complicated and negative thoughts. Days when I would love nothing better than hiding under my bed sheet so that I do not have to meet any people and confront them with my bad charisma. But I can’t hide. I need to go out, feed the horses, water them, walk them and everything else which needs to be done. I need to eat and thus meet people and have conversations with them. So, I thought the only thing I could do was trying to overcome my bad mood. But it turned out that I needed to do the complete opposite. I needed to accept my feelings and allow myself just to have a bad day.

I was just afraid. Afraid that the horses might not accept me then, or that people would not like to be around me. But trying to hide my feeling by pretending to be in a good mood as I thought could help me, made my mood even worse. I putted myself under a huge pressure as I really wanted to get rid of those “wrong” feelings. I was feeling bad that I felt bad. And when I saw that trying to get rid of it doesn’t make it any better, I started to feel bad about me feeling bad that I felt bad. As you can see, I really fell in a never-ending spiral of feeling bad and most of the time this feeling would not leave me until the next morning.

By watching the horses and following them in their daily routines, I realized that horses have bad days too. But there is a huge different in how they operate with those feelings. Of course, the horses did not tell me that they have bad days as well. I experienced it as I could seeit in how they look, what they do and how they interact. I point the “see” out as this really seems to be the key for me. I could seetheir feelings and that shows that horses don’t hide them or drown them in confusing thought spirals. As always, they just accept what is and show themselves as they are in the very moment. And no horse would avoid a horse which shows his bad mood. But they would avoid me when I try to hide my mood and to overcome it.

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I started to understand what I was doing. By hiding my feelings, I lost my authenticity. The horses could see that I was behaving different to the energy I was sending. And this caused them to stop trusting me as for horses as prey animals it is important that they can see trough us as humans and our intentions. They need to make sure that we are calculable. By hiding my feelings, I prove the opposite.  How can they trust me in the future, when I was “lying” before? Horses can see through us and the masks we wear. What I did maybe works with other people but not with horses.

So, I tried to act like horses do which means I started to accept my feelings and I can tell you, this was and still is a big challenge for me. But I am getting better in letting the bad mood just be a bad mood and allowing myself to take small steps. I learned that the more authentic I am the more the horses would integrate me, no matter if I show a bad mood, low energy or a great mood and high energy. All I need to do is being present, taking the moment as it is and to staying connected to nature.

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There is another lesson about acceptance which I would like to share with you.
I usually start my day with a plan. I plan when to do my tasks, what I will do with the horses and when. The other day It took me a while until I had figured out my perfect plan. After feeding and watering and manuring I thought of inviting Magic to share territory, look for some fruits and take her on a walk through the forest garden. After that I wanted to do the “treasure hunt with Elena”, share territory with her and practice the leading from behind through the ritual of appreciation and connection. For me this plan sounded perfect but it turned out that my perfect plan did not was perfect for the horses in the slightest.  When I called Magic, I could already see that she was definitely not in the mood for interacting with me. She lifted her head but when she saw me, she immediately turned around and went away. I guess there wasn’t any way to tell me more directly that she wanted to be left alone.

Even though I was enthusiastic and full of energy that day, there was still a little tension inside of me as I wanted to follow my agenda. It felt like I had a watch in my head which forced me to look at it to not forget something of my perfect plan. I was not really in the flow, not really connected and rather in the next moment than in the current one. Now when I am looking back and consider this situation again out of another point of view, I am really grateful that Magic did not want to connect with me that day. If she would have then I would have stuck in my inner ticking watch and would have been working off my plan rather than really enjoying the moments. It was like Magic was saying “Sorry Zoe, if your mind is full and you are not mindful, I don’t want to be with you.”

To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed. I had this wonderful picture in my head that day, showing Magic and me walking through the forest garden, enjoying the wind in the trees, the view on the mountains and the ocean and looking for guavas and other fruits. I just love the forest garden. Being there is like entering a gate to paradise.

But I did not want to break the rule of the second waterhole ritual which says that you should not enter the horse’s space if she/he doesn’t give you the allowance to do so by looking at you with both eyes. If you break this rule, the horse would stop trusting you. So said goodbye to my imagination.

My head was already creating a new plan while I absent- mindedly started to collect some branches. I was so caught in my thoughts that I nearly bumped into Elena who suddenly appeared out of nothing. I said hello to her and continued my way to the pile of branches. I thought she would walk off and keep on grazing, but a feeling told me that her eyes were still on my back. When I turned around to look for new branches, I saw that I was right. Elena’s eyes and ears were pointed at me. Acting on a sudden impulse I approached her and invited her to follow me.

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Sharing Territory with The Herd – Waterhole Ritual #1

Somehow, I just knew that she would follow, and she did. It was my first companion walking with one of the horses here and this feeling of companionship completely overwhelmed me, so that I forgot my perfect plan and my agenda. A voice in my head told me that I should look for guavas and where I would find them. After eating a few guavas, that voice told me to invite her to rest under a tree. Again, Elena agreed on my suggestion and followed my lead. Resting there under the guava tree, feeling the connection, the calmness and peacefulness made the flow taking back its place in my mind. Just watching the softness in Elena’s face, her closed eyes, her relaxed mouth and her peaceful facial features let arose a feeling of deep contentedness inside of me.

Elena and Magic taught me to accept what is, to drop my agenda and to be open for what will come and happen. I learned that it is nearly impossible to stick to an agenda if your plan involves other beings. Of course, it is good to plot out a plan and to know what to do in order to create harmony and a feeling of safety. But now I realize more than ever before how important spontaneity and flexibility is. Already accepting that it will probably come differently to what I think it will come and doing this in
advance helps me to stay in my flow. And only when I am open and willing to change my plan at any time, then I will be open for the horses to surprise me and give me unforgettable moments. Again, I learned that it’s not about always going in the front and deciding what to do, but rather about listening and making decisions on a mutual base. For me exactly that is what friendship is about when I think of my human friends.

Knowing when to listen and when to speak, when to make decisions and when to follow our friend’s suggestions. It is about keeping the balance. And most important is to never forget to have fun! So, tell me why should we treat a horse differently when we try to develop a bond of deep friendship?


  1. thankyou Zoe for giving in this way. There is a freshness, an openness in the way you have written, that lifts the deep message clear from any ‘preaching’ tone. By telling your own story, I found it was possible for me to ‘see’ more than I have seen before about congruence, The point you make about why horses (and prey animals) need to be able to accurately read, was as if I had never heard it before. I am very moved by that. I do not think it ‘is’ true that masking is successful in humans.. I think we all suffer when we feel obliged to mask, or when we are in the company of humans who are masking. Nothing feels real, at those times, for me at least. I wonder how it will be when you are as unmasked with humans (predators?) as with horses. I wonder if we mask because we do not want to be come Prey. Maybe we need to mask when we are in the company of those who may be behaving in a predatory manner? Hmmmm. Worth exploring, I can’t wait to hear your experiences on this topic.

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