Slightly skeptical… and absolutely terrified. That’s how I felt as I stood anxiously in the middle of Cain Quam’s horse-riding arena.
Sure, I was happy that the horse-training guru and his wife Roberta had invited me out to their brand new equine centre for a ground-breaking workshop that they developed with counsellors Judy Wright and Dave Beriault.
And sure, I was pleased that this transformative weekend, entitled “Unbridled — set yourself free” would come complete with professional counselling, yoga instruction by Roberta and horse wisdom imparted by Cain.
But as I stood in the middle of that arena, I couldn’t help but think that a better title for the personal-growth workshop might have been, “Unbridled — run for your life.”
Now, it’s not like I wasn’t expecting to have horses racing around me. Roberta had explained how the horses are set free in the arena so that they can choose their own human, based on the needs of that person.
Skeptical? Well, yes, I’d have to say I was. How could a horse possibly “choose” a human in five minutes, and how could that horse possibly know what that human needs?
As three horses galloped around three of us, my skepticism was quickly replaced by fear. But as they circled us, I knew I had to somehow get the halter in my hand onto the head of the baycoloured mare. She looked just like my lifelong horse Beauty, who I put down three years ago due to old age and injury.
But as I went for the “Beauty look-alike,” another horse got in the way. A powerful grey mare had been eyeing me since she entered the arena, but I had no interest in a horse of that colour, or of that size.
As fate would have it, that grey just insisted on “being there” wherever I went. A rather timid fellow participant — Bill — got his halter on the bay, and I was stuck with the grey named Katie.
I followed Cain’s lead in moving Katie through two days of groundwork that included taking her over a giant teeter-totter and having her stand serenely on a raised wooden platform that initially scared her.
With my fear having left me completely due to Katie’s gentleness and eagerness to help me out, I scanned the arena to see how the eight other participants were doing. Bill’s bay was a handful (more than I could have ever dealt with), but Bill was uncharacteristically forceful, being able to get her over a jump that she was absolutely terrified of at the beginning of the workshop.
The 54-year-old playschool teacher and experienced horse owner, Ute, had been paired up with Mustang. This true mustang, complete with wild-horse bloodlines, was a challenge in every sense of the word. The first time Ute tried to get him over the wooden platform, he wouldn’t even smell it, never mind step on it. He bolted in fear many times, but Ute stuck with him. On day two, Mustang followed her onto the platform like there was nothing to it, and stood there proudly.
The introspective Brent, who was frustrated with life, was paired up with a no-nonsense horse that challenged him. By the end of the workshop, Brent got that horse to jump a huge obstacle.
Thinking it over, I realized that all of the horses had chosen each one of us for a reason. Katie chose me to lift my fear. The bay chose Bill to challenge his perceptions of the world and himself. Mustang chose Ute because he knew no one else had the will, the joy and the experience to give him the confidence boost he needed. And the no-nonsense horse chose Brent to clearly display to him that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to.
Here’s to Cain, Roberta, Judy and Dave who have come up with a concept so powerful and so life changing that I’m not a skeptic anymore.
For the next workshop, visit www.quamperformancehorses.com.