I like to imagine a horse knows her name and will tell you if you ask. Khaleesi was born on March 17 and named Shamrock temporarily until she was renamed Ireland. I knew when she came to live with me however, that she had a real name and would reveal it when she was ready and trusted me. As a nod to her breeding family I run her through AERC records (the only place besides my vet bills she is official) as Ireland’s Khaleesi.
So it was an odd thought recently when I said offhand to Brandea: I think the name of my next horse will be Kairos.
Kairos is timeliness, appropriateness, decorum, symmetry, balance—awareness of the circumstances that open moments of opportunity. Kairos is finding serendipity.
In Greek, both kairos and chronos literally mean “time,” but not in the same sense. In Greek, kairos represents a kind of “qualitative” time, as in “the right time”; chronos represents a different kind of “quantitative” time, as in, “How much time will it take” and “Will we have enough time?”
Kairos means inhabiting the perfect moment.
All horses in their normal and most healthy state live in Kairos. There are few animals that come as naturally adept at symmetry, balance, awareness, decorum, and especially timelessness as a horse. Things take the time they take for a horse, and the phrase “slow is fast” is a deep truth with them.
Humans (look around) almost all live under Chronos. Humans constantly feel like they are losing time or running out of time, have to make the most of their time, are afraid of wasting their time, and even coined the phrase time is money. I imagine horses find we are strange creatures as we try to drag them from the spacious world of kairos they could share with us toward the slave master of Chronos.
Jesus talks about kairos as an appointed time. Being the creator and sustainer of the universe he has a lot of spinning balls to keep up with and not one is ever out of place. Every second he has the constantly moving puzzle of all things weaving perfectly together.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.Ecclesiastes 3
Every time I struggle against the appointed time I exhaust myself. Everything is beautiful in its own time: when I slow down and believe this, then all things become a dance: elegance, balance, awareness, decorum…
Horses try to teach us this dance and most often we shut them down to say: ain’t nobody got time for that.
I want to dance. I found this post from five years ago; that fire in my heart not to have a well trained horse but one who wanted to dance with me. I have come so far and yet am still clumsy and slow. I suppose having eternity in my heart is the only way not to be discouraged at the time it takes to learn to exist in kairos. And to dance.
I don’t want to ride anymore post: December 13, 2015
Faith is the assurance of things unseen
As in anything that requires faith sometimes I doubt. Just look around at the Chronos people. They seem to have so much more success on the surface. I was pondering this on a recent ride. And considering my friend Brandea helped me sort out my mini-faith crisis.
I’ve written about Brandea’s mare Molly. Among the plethora of issues in every system (mental, emotional and physical) were a roadrunner neck (creating an inverted topline, over developed shoulders and no sense of a hind end) and the potential to run away through the bit. The flip side: she’s fast. She’s been run through some endurance rides and one of her previous owners remarked how much fun it is to ride a horse with so much go!
Most people grab a bigger bit and a tie down and win some races. It would take way too much TIME to fix those things and why when you can find a tool that will force it into place for you? Chronos says life is short, this horse will probably finish top 10 at least for a season or two. (… before her body breaks down)
Brandea is the only person I’ve been close enough to watch with these issues that has committed to the Kairos way. She has been willing to live the process, find the real issues and spend each day in the dance. It has taken 18 months to finally get to the bottoms of these issues (building one layer of healing and connection upon another) and I marveled at the patience and setting aside her own hopes and dreams and goals to dance with this horse. She told me she has been tempted to get a bigger bit- especially when early on she felt she could be run away with at any moment. Most riders won’t dance through that. They feel unsafe, and with some reason. Yet when we enter into the horse’s world and put them at that level of importance something magic happens- we become important to them. This becomes the most safe place to be, but it does take some faith over fear to get there.
I watched in the past week from our clinic and Brandea’s follow up work as she learned what she needed to do to effectively shut the front door to the imaginary rectangle we have learned to ride in. The mare’s energy had been a mile away and she followed it full speed ahead.
First the mare had to build body balance and strength because she was so out of balance. If she slowed down she might feel unstable like a bike going too slow. Brandea has to learn better riding skills (even though she had a pretty solid taught foundation) and Molly had to build muscle, she had to learn to trust a human would ask her to dance… without these things and more in place this energy conversation was pointless.
In the beautiful Kairos I watched Brandea learn how to lead the dance and have the conversation to shut that front door. Molly began to stay with Brandea at various speeds. They began to have moments of lightness in the dance. A lovely way of moving and the beginning of self carriage her head and neck experimenting the feel of a lower way of going that allowed those top line muscles that were so hard gained to do their work. This is all new to the little Cinderella horse. She didn’t even realize she could dance anymore.
Speaking of the beauty of Kairos, Brandea spent one of her 60 minute clinic lessons holding the bit in front of Molly’s lips for 35 minutes as we all watched the ‘paint dry’ and more than one person (including me) had to wonder is this a waste of time?
She was paying good money to learn from Emily and standing around waiting to see if Molly would voluntarily pick up the bit when she would accept it normally with a finger in the cheek like most people do and get on with the important riding techniques.
Could Brandea have done this on her own some other time? Yes. However having the support of us and Emily to assure her: you are on track, we are with you and want to see what happens really did help Brandea make the commitment when she may have doubted after 10 minutes… after 20 minutes… 30?? how long have you held a bit for a horse to decide if she wants to pick it up? 35 minutes is past the point most of us (me included) would assume this is not working.
What is wrong with offering the bit and using a finger to encourage the horse to open and accept it especially if it isn’t a fight? Nothing is wrong with that. This is a more advanced conversation. It is asking the horse for more self carriage in a mental and possibly emotional way – she was being given the honor of a choice, and the Kairos gift from her human of time- very valuable time.
We all gasped with astonishment when after 35 minutes of standing still with her eyes vacant and brain ‘gone’ processing… she opened her teeth and took the bit on her own.
The connection between them Brandea assures me shifted that day to a deeper place that made all the riding and work on the front door problems the rest of the week entirely more effective. The investment in that time paid off in ways she will reap for years. (And Molly sometimes picks up the bit before Brandea is even situated with the headstall and reins if she’s not careful now!)
No wonder so few people stick around this small group. Why bother? Why spend so much time and effort when a finger in the cheek, a tie down and bigger bit probably to most would seem to be the more expedient answer? Do we just enjoy wasting time?
Brace. Everything we do under Chronos (which uses some kind of imposed force or pushes into a realm the horse isn’t adequately prepared for) not slowing down to do things the right way in the appointed process and time – creates a brace in horses. Mentally, emotionally and physically. Brace and tension take years off the healthy working lifetime of a horse physically or makes them seem dangerous mentally or emotionally.
As I was considering all this, often frustrated at the tension between the Kairos I want to commit to and my own timeline as a goal-oriented driven-to-succeed Chronos human. I was on a new trail I’d heard was beautiful if not somewhat “wilderness” like. I desperately wanted to add some mileage and increase the fitness of my mare that has been in so much patient rebuilding. So much dancing and groundwork and walking straight to build self carriage and the right muscles to work in strength… what is the point of it all if I never get to use it! Will we ever get back to a ride? Not if I can’t get some miles in.
I do want the dance of Kairos however I have no idea what possessed me on this day, but before loading up for the trail I took the time to enjoy Khaleesi and groom her more than usual even braiding her mane and tail until I felt she was fit for the warrior princess title she claims.
I have time for YOU. You matter to me. You are mine and I treasure you.
I knew the ride could potentially be about 20 miles which should be around 5 hours even at a fairly slow pace and I had the entire afternoon. But if things were slower than anticipated there is an exit half way through to cut back on the dirt road so I had options. I wanted to see this trail and was told first do it alone to see if it was appropriate for anyone else on horseback. Wilderness-like…..
How bad could it be?
It turned out to be the most challenging day I’ve had in a long time. The initial climb was about 2500 feet in just a couple miles on a very hot day. Then some lovely grassy roads I enjoyed but not for long as it descended into the valley below the single track trail cut through a low forest that gave no option for getting around the downed trees between rocks, grapevines and other downed trees which meant sawing us out about 4 times with other detours that I could manage.
I put over an hour in – on foot – clearing trail. It seemed like every time I thought it was safe to get back on the horse I was hopping down to find a way through another obstacle. Then we hit the bottom as I’d been told: the trail follows a wash or creek bed. Here it’s a technical couple of miles that included many chances to slip on large mossy rocks sitting at angles or a washed out deep spot, ravines to navigate both to cross and to ride alongside, narrow trail with steep drop offs and rocks to maneuver while not falling to injury or death- and a few bonus trees here to find a way around or through.
I was tired of fighting the trail. I saw the potential for my 20 mile ride ebbing away with each new obstacle.
Face it: you are never riding 100 miles.
Why cant you just do things the way everyone around you does? You aren’t going to ever make it to this goal this way. You’ll be lucky to get through 50. This path isn’t worth it. What’s the point if you never succeed anyway?
Then the other voice that interrupted.
Not so for you.
That phrase I begin to hear whispered more often. I know who is reminding me that I am not called to follow the crowd no matter how tempting.
Something in me wanted to prove that this dance is worth it, that there is great value in working with a horse that truly puts the horse first. That it brings something greater and does actually work!
Prove to who?
After taking a wrong turn that landed me in an Alice in wonderland of rabbit trails- when I found my way again I finally gave up and accepted that today Kairos says you will average 2mph if you survive at all. I began to simply enjoy the ride with my dance partner and hope to make it home by sunrise. And just then Khaleesi refused to go under a high downed tree I thought I could probably duck under. I paused and assessed the situation noting that she was indeed correct – and I got off the horse once more watching my saddle barely clear the tree.
Thank you. I am truly grateful for such a mare.
As we finally came to the dirt road that had the 4 mile shortcut back to the trailer it was around 7:30pm and the light was changing. But not just dusk. Storm colored. And rumblings had begun.
The lightning storm we rode through full canter at this point was just a bonus test. Now Kairos be damned I am dodging lightning and soaking wet in a pelting downpour and I don’t even care anymore if my horse has the soundness or energy – run or die was all I gave her as the dance choices.
Was this punishment or a test?
I drove the hour back to the barn in silence. I’d like to say reflection or processing but it was more like shellshocked. It seemed to me everything went badly.
If it was a test I failed my own standards. I yelled at my horse in impatience while sawing logs as she got restless, I cursed and almost cried at the biggest log that only fell part way until I made a second cut, I ran her past good sense in the lightning (Lord she’ll probably be lame the whole summer now was my life actually in danger. Probably not) and when she asked a simple question about loading up instead of answering calmly like a good dance leader: did you notice I asked you to load up now? I went immediately to: get on now or die.
Fail. And 16 miles isn’t bad. But over 6 hours it felt like it got me nowhere toward some better fitness. We will never cross a finish line again.
Later that night I recounted the story to a good friend who has ridden the trail on a mountain bike- ironically in a lightning storm too. He asked about some specific difficult to navigate places. Places a misplaced step on narrow trail could mean falling a ways to the beautiful waterfalls below… He listened as I explained that thankfully my horse is connected into me so precisely that I was able to place her feet exactly where I asked so she bend around that rock safely…
And as I thought through what I saw as epic failure he said to me: well I’m proud of you. That was a tough day and you faced a lot of hard things but you finished the ride. That is how you grow. When things are easy you don’t really grow.
Deep in my heart I knew he spoke truth. The next morning I realized that I didn’t cross a finish line but what I wanted was to see that all these things aren’t a waste of time but they do matter. And in Gods wisdom and in the beauty of Kairos, when I looked back I realized that not many people I know would have navigated the difficulties with such precision as we were able to.
How many times it was vital to not falling down a ravine or hanging up in a grapevine around an obstacle I had to ask for her feet to go exactly one at a time where they needed to be. That I was able to stop her on a dime when I came up to a washed out drop-off and reroute around it before falling headlong into it. She bent around that rock on the narrow trail like a ballerina and saved me from being crushed under the too low tree when my brain was too tired to catch it. She stood mostly quiet without being tied for an hour accumulated of sawing work.
We did it together and it was a dance. Even the crazy canter to the trailer where she gave me all she had and more.
Prove to who? To myself.
Maybe we will finish a 100 someday and maybe we won’t. Maybe for the first time what I see as the greatest value in my heart is truly shifting to what I saw in my mind those years ago and I won’t put the finish line ahead of the dance- or get as frustrated living in the Kairos in the meanwhile. I certainly don’t want to do it before our appointed time because even if we are able to- it won’t be beautiful.
And the most telling moment came the next day when I walked the field: she came to me. She nickered and lowered her head into the halter. She still chose me even after all that struggle.
We warrior princesses must stick together.
And continue the dance.