At the top of my “to do” list was a unique Miraval experience – they have a few, but I was interested in the Equine Experience. The sign up sheet process was a bit complicated. As I arrived on Sunday, the session was full on Monday. So i had only Tuesday to attend the experience. I was up to the board before 7 am and since it is limited to ten people, I was number eleven (how did I miss that many people up this early to get to the sheet?) and deemed on the waiting list. I was shattered and annoyed at this type of sign up, its not quite a snooze you lose but if your group sent a scout ahead (as a few did) they could sign everyone up and essentially leave no space for others. I signed up for a few other sessions as backup and would need to meet the group and hope for a no-show (my understanding is that the sign up sheet process has changed since my visit, giving priority to club members who have visited at least four times prior).
I met the group outside and started counting – the limit was ten and there were nine people. Fingers crossed I would go and then someone showed up to make the group eleven. Shattered at the thought of missing this, my disappointment turned to glee when the woman came to tell us her friend wasn’t coming so we could take her off the list. With the group complete, the trainers (not the famous Wyatt Webb who created the experience) drove us to the stables to meet the horses. There was an introduction to explain what our time here would look like, why it was created and what we could learn from it.
We would be paired up (my partner actually owned horses, this was helpful) and our first assignment was to walk up to the horse and make him give us his leg to clean his hoof out with a small rake like tool. This might sound easy, but it wasn’t. It was to test your confidence and was fascinating – I have to say, that watching how everyone approached this and accomplished the task really was interesting. Just like life, everyone approaches situations in their own way. On my first approach (you need to walk on an angle so that the horse sees you), I put my hand on his leg and pressed it – he did not move, nothing, he knew i was hesitant. The trainer said i wasn’t forceful enough, and the horse knew it. I said i was afraid by digging my nails into his leg it would hurt him. She said no, I couldn’t hurt the horse. On my second attempt, I succeeded in having the horse give me his leg so i could clean the dirt from his one foot and then the other. I was happy that I did well. My partner also needed two attempts and she owns horses, so I felt good. Seeing others struggle with the task with some crying out of frustration, it was clear that this was so much more than the horse’s foot – no one succeeded on the first attempt and we were all cheering for the others to succeed.
Our next task was to brush the horse, my partner and I took our turns doing this and we couldn’t stop laughing as we had a very amorous horse that really enjoyed the brushing – this helped break the stress the others were experiencing. With our tasks done quickly, we were able to walk the horse around before returning him to the trainer.
The group would then move to the ring. We were to take a long pole, strap like apparatus and make the horse follow us by dragging the pole around. Again, sounds easy right – move stick forward, horse follows, right? Wrong! This task would really affect the folks – the horse wouldn’t follow a few people at all, they were getting upset by this and the trainer would explain what they needed to do and ask what they felt held them back – it was a bit of group therapy and again, I was impressed by this approach and how we could all learn from each other.
As i normally do, i sat back to watch the others to figure out what was needed on the task. My turn came and I entered the ring, picked up the pole and hit it twice on the ground to tell the horse which way we would be walking – with the stick in front of me on an angle dragging it on the ground, the horse walked in the direction i was going – i was behind the horse during the exercise. All was good until i faltered, the horse stopped as he wasn’t sure what i wanted him to do. I started up again and completed the task with the horse. The trainer said it was all about confidence, the horse sensed the authority and direction. For me, I’ve been traveling solo for years entering many situations that require me to project an air of confidence or at least a brave face. The horse could see through the brave face and that’s when it stopped or would not give me it’s foot – so intuitive, it knew when I was faking it.
For others, it wasn’t so simple, people were working through so many emotions and situations. Life affects everyone differently, we were all at Miraval to learn more about ourselves and answer the many open questions in our lives. For the most part, the people i met were taking full advantage of their stays, mixing sessions with spa treatments. A little luxury reward after a long day of reflection.
The Equine Experience was definitely a unique learning experience that should be at the top of your list for your visit. The session I attended was free, if you want to go to the session led by Wyatt Webb, the founder, there is an additional cost of $150.