In the Round Pen

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on this moment. How do I feel? What am I seeing? What am I hearing? Him. Breathing in. Breathing out. Breathing in. Breathing out. Synchronicity. One. The clarity in his eyes and the grace in his movement. The rhythmic beat of hooves hitting the ground. 1 2 3, 1 2 3. In a circle he lopes, around the round pen’s edge. The red panels surrounding us are closing us in. In here it is safe. The sky is crystal clear; the sun shining brightly, the air is crisp and cleansing. I’m brushing my hair out of my face underneath the brim of my hat, still holding onto my carrot stick. He knows what I want him to do. We are one. Now I’m changing direction and so is he. My movements are reflected in him. I’m focusing now. Slowing down my heart rate. He slows to a trot. 1 2, 1 2, 1 2. Keeping my eyes on his, shoulders facing his front, carrot stick focused on his hind. He is propelled forward in his small circle as I spin with him around. Now for the turn again. Changing leads. Back to the lope again we go. My breathing comes up, my energy changes and in response so does his. We are dancing around in this sacred place. All we have are the energies of one another. His eyes see what I am giving off and in return he reflects that back to me. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m slowing down, lowering my stick and softening my stare. He begins to walk. One ear turned to me and the other facing out. Hearing the world and my voice all at once. Head turned slightly in he is looking back at me. What will I tell him? Licking and chewing, he surely trusts me now. Head lowered now almost to the ground. We are one. All at once, now that I see that he has chosen to trust me, I drop my gaze, unsquare my shoulders, lower my stick to the ground, and slowly turn around. Wait for it. Breathe. Here he comes. He walks right up to me, nuzzling me from behind. Join up. We are now a team. I turn to face him, still looking down and rub him right between the eyes so that he knows that what he has done is right. Now to see how far our bond goes I will walk off in a direction and see if he follows. Breathe in. Breathe out. Here we go. Off I walk with determination, and yes, he is behind me. He chose to follow. I stop at the gate and turn to face him again. My newfound partner and friend. If there is anywhere in the world I want to be, it is right here in this round pen with my horse, my partner, he’s mine finally.


The featured image was used with permission of artist, Terrie Shum. Terrie is a New Zealand-based illustrator currently studying a communication design major at Auckland University of Technology. She specialises in digital art, and has an interest in painting imagery from sci-fi and nature.

2 thoughts on “In the Round Pen

    Sandy says:

    This is a beautiful description of a truly memorable experience. It’s impressive and compelling–alive and in the moment. Thank you, Kristen Spencer. I look forward to reading other articles by you!

    Terea Spencer says:

    This is a wonderful article written with alot of passion and heart felt love of horses and really of life itself. We all want to experience the feeling of connection and love and being one with human beings and with our beloved pets and animals.That is a feeling that we never forget and never want to lose. Loved this article.

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