Updated: Nov 6
She startled me! She’d zipped right in through the big north window of the arena, stopped right in front of my eyes underneath the brim of my hat and hovered there for a few moments, looking right at me, intently it seemed. It took a second for my eyes to focus on her, she was so close. Her colors were of the rainbow, but more intense, her tiny beak an inch from my nose. I considered reaching out to touch her in wonder, maybe to see if she was real, and in a flash she flew away, out the window again.
This happened in the afternoon of the first day of our three-day clinic with Robert and Janet Phinney. Their place is way up high in the forest of the Blue Mountains above Dayton, Washington, about an hour drive from Walla Walla. “Develop Collection, Trust, and Increase your Joy” was how their clinic was presented. I’d found myself with a few challenges lately with Arizona, so this sounded like just what we needed. I hoped to figure out a few pieces of the never-ending puzzle that is horsemanship. The first thing I will say about these two, is that besides being superb horsemen, the Phinneys don’t have much room up there between the tall evergreens and pines for many horse trailers to park. And, even better, they prefer to keep it intimate, so they limit their clinics to six riders. .
The first day we worked mostly on groundwork, which is truly where you can mind meld with your horse, where you can tuck in tight and find out really what makes each other tick. With each exercise, Arizona learned that he could rely on me more than worry about whatever else was going on in his world. Little by little, our exercises expanded out to achieving more precision, and in a magical way, having more control and allowing more freedom at the same time. Robert and Janet were gentle, knowledgeable, and supportive.
The second day, after reviewing day one, we rode out from the beautiful covered arena, into the wild woods. We traveled up and down along roads and trails and through thick grasses, knee deep, the birds in the trees chirping over our heads in the trees. At one point, all the horses spun and spooked together. As I turned my head back toward the sound of rustling in the bushes, I could see the flagging white tails of two huge deer bounding away, disappearing into the woods. Toward the end of our ride, we found a log to walk or jump over. We were like kids, all of us out there on our horses, going again and again over the log and splashing through puddles.
In the evenings, (after nice hot showers in the outdoor shower), we gathered together and communally ate our dinner, reviewing our day and telling stories of our lives. By about 8:30 we were all in our beds.
You may be required to adapt to a situation that is a bit more demanding than usual. The wisdom carried by this spirit animal emphasizes flexibility and lightness in your approach to the unexpected.
“We have a great day planned for you guys today!” Janet said enthusiastically to me with her sweet smile as I came through the gate after feeding Arizona his breakfast. She was just back from walking her young dog, Maggie. In the arena, she and Robert had set up an obstacle course, which we were instructed to take our horses through first from the ground, not in the saddle. Here is where we found where our holes were, which we then we could work on, getting to the point where our horses were so in tune with us, they would wait, one foot hanging in the air, waiting for instruction from us on exactly where we wanted him to place it. When you get your communication that precise on the ground, it directly translates into your communication when you’re riding. After lunch we did the course again under saddle. At the very end of the day, as Janet and Robert were working with the others, Arizona and I worked on transitions, on leg yields, on backing, on leg and seat cues. From a lope, I sank into the saddle and softly said “whoa” and he stopped, on a loose rein, as soft and easy as silk. He felt so connected with me, we were in our own intimate little bubble, like there was no one else in the world. I tell you, it was absolute bliss. I figured we couldn’t top that, this was a good place to finish. I got off and petted his shoulder, “good boy!” (I still say that trying to sound like Jaime, with a soft Mexican accent). Arizona seemed as content as I was.
I took off his hackamore, slipped on the halter, loosened his cinch and turned to Robert. Tears began to pool in my eyes, (which was a little embarrassing) “I’m NOT going to cry… but Thank you guys so much!” I turned and said goodbye to Janet, my hug a feeble expression of the joy in my heart.
As Arizona stepped up into the trailer, a soft rain began, even though the sun was shining bright. Driving across the high country on my way home, the radio played John Prine, Gillian Welch, Roy Clark. I was silly happy, drunk with joy. Ebullient, that’s the word. Something caught my eye… and then my breath, in the side mirror. I stopped and got out of the truck. Stretched across in front of the towering gray and white clouds, was a complete rainbow, arcing high above the bright green rolling hills and pines from one side of the horizon to the other. To feel such bliss with my horse, to laugh and learn so much, and to finish it with a gift of nature’s beauty, I truly had discovered a pot of gold.
When I got home, I thought again about that funny little hummingbird. It was such a mystical moment, as if time stopped for a few seconds when she looked at me that way. I typed in “hummingbird” into the search bar, and began reading. This is what I came across:
The hummingbird and the power of swiftness and flexibility
The hummingbird is one of the most fascinating birds because of its ability to move its body swiftly, change direction quickly and smoothly, seemingly gliding from one place to another.
When the hummingbird shows up in your life, it may be an invitation to flex your path, perhaps even bending backward or forward, in order to accommodate life’s circumstances. You may be required to adapt to a situation that is a bit more demanding than usual. The wisdom carried by this spirit animal emphasizes flexibility and lightness in your approach to the unexpected.