Labyrinths and Horses: A Connection of Spirits
By Robin Bradley Hansel
Cordelia Rose and her white Arabian horse, Blake, discovered the exciting possibilities of their labyrinth quite by accident. While taking a short cut across one of the four, large labyrinths on her property in Glenwood, New Mexico, Cordelia became aware of the many benefits labyrinth walking could have for both horse and rider.
Ms. Rose has had a deep passion for horses since she was very young. She grew up in a family of artists, and it was while working in New York City at a design museum, that Cordelia discovered labyrinths in 2001. Shortly after that, she laid the first of her pathways at Whitewater Mesa Labyrinths.
"The labyrinth initially appealed tome purely as a design, but later, the labyrinth taught me there is much more to it than just its beauty," she explains.
Her labyrinth was originally designed by her brother, Ben Nicholson. The pair presented a workshop entitled "A New Category of Labyrinths for Horses (and Humans)" at The Labyrinth Societyís Annual Gathering in November 2008.
"Syzygy" is a 60-foot diameter dirt pathway trimmed with grasses, weeds and rocks. The center of the labyrinth has been enlarged and is now big enough for a couple of horses to stand in at the same time. It has been further modifed to accommodate up to three horses at a time with a larger entrance and gentler turns.
Cordelia introduces new horses to her labyrinth very gradually by either leading them in or allowing them to follow Blake. Horses that have been very tense relax as their riders learn to refine their aids and guide them in a more easily understood way. Negotiating the many turns of the labyrinth helps promote flexibility in horses before exertion. Walking the labyrinth slowly can also cool and calm the animals after a long, difficult ride.
As a yoga instructor, Cordelia is keenly aware of the importance of achieving a synchronized breath between a horse and his rider. She explains, "I lengthen my breath and then Blake will lengthen his so that there is unison between us. I notice that his ears are pricked while he walks indicating that he is happy. Also, he often licks his lips in the center which is a sign of his contentment."
Cordelia describes further the intimate relationship between rider and horse, especially while riding bareback. "There is the sense of your horse putting his footsteps where yours would normally go in the labyrinth. It is really more of a connection between your horseís spirit and your own while doing this rather spiritual thing together. There is a calmness of both horse and rider standing together in the middle when youíve both found youíve arrived."
Cordelia can be reached at email@example.com and she will have DVDís available soon. Admission to Whitewater Mesa Labyrinths is simply a rock "too big to hold in one hand, but not so bigthat you hurt your back when you lift it." Visitors are encouraged to call ahead before their arrival.
Jan Hornford, a Master Certified Retreat Coach and a Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, has recently formed the "Horses and Labyrinths Special Interest Group"for those individuals passionate about this topic. Anyone may contact Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a member of this exciting forum and enjoy sharing information, practices, thoughts and stories with other people who are working with horses and labyrinths.
Robin is a Certified Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator in South Florida. Her company, Labyrinth Wellness, LLC, unites her professional training as a physical therapist and a Pilates instructor with her creative spiritual pathway as a writer.
Photo Credits: Top - Mike Rose / Bottom - Marge McCarthy
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