I have been very fortunate to experience life at Alchemy Place for nearly 5 months, with my mare Kalindi and my daughter and her horse. During this time Mel has spent many hours coaching and guiding me to understand my own posture, breathing and awareness and how it influences my horse. It has been a transformative process, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

When I teach Yoga and meditation, students also discover the benefits of awareness, breathing and relaxing body and mind in a safe and nurturing environment. Yet for me, transferring this wisdom to my equine relationship and riding with my recently started mare have been quite challenging. I am very grateful for this, because it has created a desire to connect deeper than I have ever done before and to transcend limitations and old patterns and beliefs that horses can bring to our awareness, if we are willing to notice.

When I audited one of Mel’s clinics last year, a big piece of the jigsaw puzzle appeared, that addressed ways to be with horses and connect without force, discomfort and with only very minimal negative reinforcement. In fact, positive reinforcement and slowing everything down to produce quality movement where the horse can stay balanced, has been a major breakthrough in my horsemanship.

Mel has helped me discover the areas of my posture, body awareness, breathing and energy field that have required attention on and off my horse. Throughout this process Mel has encouraged me to notice how I hold a lot of my energy or tension in my shoulders and upper back, which also means I am not in my centre – the place our horse needs us to be all the time when we are with them. Wow, so profound to notice how often I leave my centre! Even though when I do my own yoga practice I am grounded and centred, something shifts me out of this place when I am “out in the world”. I will continue to practice this in all areas of my life.

I have been attending Aikido classes with Mel and this has been the testing ground for the balance between Yin and Yang. The harmony and flow that comes when we are centred, relaxed, expanded and grounded. I am learning how to expand my energy, be assertive and in my own power, all without  tension or aggression. This is taking time to establish after a pattern of shrinking my energy when faced with challenges from my horse, which confuses her about my leadership ability.

When I first arrived here, Kalindi was giving feedback about not being happy when ridden. She would resist going forward, bite at my leg, or her own chest or move with her ears pinned back. A combination of changing from a heavy western saddle to a BALANCE saddle, body work and working on the areas in my body that were blocking her, started to change this  behaviour. For example, I found out that a simple squeeze and tightening of the buttocks to get her to go was blocking her back from moving freely. In fact any tension or strong intention was intolerable for her and some of my body language was like shouting at her. In the past the strategies to get her to go would include more pressure but tension usually accompanies this and I knew this was not the answer for Kalindi who is teaching me to be soft and smooth and find rhythm and flow, one of Mel’s mantras! Doing simulations on the seat builder and getting feel and timing on a more tolerant horse has also been helpful for me to then present this to Kalindi.

I have discovered how important feel and timing are. Subtle things can be a big deal for a horse, such as sloppy and inconsiderate rope handling. I am also finding a way to communicate politely with my mind and visualise what I am asking Kalindi and holding the intention that everything that I ask or do, will be a “good deal” for her.

During my time here I have also explored Feldenkrais, Shiatsu and Watsu (Water shiatsu) which have all helped my body to release tension at physical and energetic levels. I can’t ignore that my body is not as young as it used to be and my short daily yoga practice has been very important to reduce stiffness and maintain and improve flexibility and mobility. Improving our own health and mobility is very important in developing to be a good horse person and rider.

Another valuable experience that has helped my horsemanship journey was a 3 day seminar at “Alchemy Place” with Canadian Sandra Wallin, who taught us how to muscle test for limiting subconscious beliefs and then balance them. This enables a way forward from areas that hold us back, such as conditioning, self doubts, and fear issues

I will be forever grateful for this opportunity at “Alchemy Place” that has allowed me to spend so much time with an inspirational, dedicated, wise and centred teacher. Our horses are patiently waiting for us to find the part within us, which is the Alchemist. In the context of the following quote by Emmanual “An Alchemist is one who transforms everything with love”. This is who our horses want us to be.

I can highly recommend spending extended periods of time learning with Mel. Not everyone can have the opportunity of 5 months as I did, but the immersive 6 week courses, specifically designed to accelerate your horsemanship learning are a wonderful opportunity not to be missed.

Margot Smith & Kalindi