By: Kellie Cline, Miraval Equine Facilitator
At the Equine Experience, we often say that it’s not about the horse. But when it comes to caring for them, it is all about the horse. At Miraval, we hold their hooves close to our hearts. Their safety, wellbeing, and welfare, are our highest priority. We uphold a mindful and respectful practice for every single one of our equine offerings.
We believe that working ethically with animals includes honoring each animal’s right to choose if they want to participate in an activity. If we have a horse that is visibly upset with the prospect of being painted, sat upon, or guided to partake in any of the classes we offer, we tend to the horse’s needs by removing them from the activity and offering guests alternative options for connecting. Horses are not shy about expressing how they feel!
We know that horses respond to intention. Unforgettable Canvas is an activity designed specifically with the intention of kindness, compassion, and connection. Guests use their hands to apply carefully selected, non-toxic paint with the touch of light massage. The paint is water-based Crayola, the same kind our human children use to finger paint. We monitor where the guests put the paint, restricting any paint from going near the horses’ faces or sensitive areas. We fully and gently rinse the horses off afterwards to remove any paint residue. Furthermore, the horses do not need special training to participate in this activity. Horses are very social creatures and practice mutual grooming with one another; it is a very natural part of their life. The motion of applying the paint mimics this mutual grooming and relaxes the horse.
Many guests don’t realize that the horses we use for Unforgettable Canvas are horses that have been retired from riding. Some are very old and have age-related issues like arthritis that keep them from participating in higher impact activities. Unfortunately, a large segment of the equestrian world only values horses for their ride-ability. By including these horses in this class, we are honoring their true beauty and their innate ability to connect with other living beings, regardless of their physical disabilities or perceived imperfections. It’s a lovely tribute to our capacity for empathy. Perhaps our guests can see their own hidden talents emerge as they discover the mutual joy and comfort that comes from an activity that encourages us to be more understanding and less judgmental – of ourselves and others alike.
The horses at the Purple Sage Ranch are valued members of our Miraval family. They are beloved, and every activity we ask them to participate in is designed with love, extensive knowledge, and consideration for their wellbeing.