The Centaur and the Stag

It’s October and several months since my last meant-to-be-monthly blog. In early summer I had the exciting news that Sandstone Press are publishing my travel memoir ‘Marram’, since then it’s been a busy time getting it ready for publication. As the text finally goes to the proofreader I am reconnecting with horses. I’ve been merely treading water with them over the summer, they are fine with that, happy in their herd and lives, more than happy probably. But I am not sure I am. 

    Writing and riding are two things I love, yet I struggle to do both consistently; I binge, only concentrating my creative energies on one at a time. I want to be able to combine the two, I want a life in which I write and ride, a life in which I ride and write. The obstacle may have been that similar needs are met by both - the need to communicate, to listen, to hear and to feel deeply - and I’ve believed that I only have space for one at a time. I’m now seeing the symbiotic relationship between the two; my writing benefits from my time with horses, and my horses benefit from my time writing. 

    Last month I was fortunate enough to spectate at a clinic run by the French riding master Philippe Karl.  Four days of watching and absorbing exquisite horsemanship left me with a deeper understanding that happy horse-rider relationships are all about language, mostly non-verbal, but language nontheless. What is important is the clarity of expression between two beings, it is listening and understanding, it is being heard and being understood. It is also a gut and heart language thing, in the same way that reading a piece of writing that moves you is. I am heading into winter hoping to embrace my hybrid self, the writer and the horsewoman. Indeed, I want be centauric, to nurture my heart and gut intelligence, as much as my rational mind. The best way I can honour my love of horses is to learn - with liveliness of heart and body and mind - all they have to teach me about communication and empathy, presence and non-verbal language.  

    As the stags are in full rut and roaring all around, here are some lines from Primo Levi’s devastatingly beautiful short story ‘Quaestio de ecntaures’: ‘All centaurs are made this way […] feeling every germination, animal, human or vegetable, as a wave of joy running through their veins. They also perceive, in the precordial region, in the form of anxiety, and tremulous tension, every desire and every sexual encounter that occurs in their vicinity, therefore […] they enter into a state of vivid agitation during the season of love’. In this season of cervine passions I’m not looking for agitation, but I do hope to go to both my desk and to the horses ever more open and willing to learn about empathy and communication. Non-verbal and verbal communication are in essence the same, both requiring deep presence and a lot of practice and patience.