I love horses. And I always said, “Freedom and power is present mutually within our arteries. Our relationship is constructed through the force of my infinite and unique love. And they return my adoration totally; as simple as that.”

However, it wasn’t that simple. Not at all. One person’s decision to ‘love’ was merely the beginning of a relationship, and I was thus at a lifelong starting point… So now I’m here, under the vast blue Montana horizon. I’m at a place where relationships begin with a promise and lifetimes are spent dedicated to fulfilling that promise. I’m among people who have come to discover themselves by riding horseback. I’m in a state of confusion and fear, filled overcapacity with the wisdom of cowboys and horses, not knowing how to use this knowledge.

I’m trying to get it together while my state is like a camera set to automatic; sometimes blurry, sometimes focused. The rain comes down incessantly and I’m listless. “I’ve had some good experiences up to now,” I say. “Why should I take on a relationship that will prove to become burdensome?”

Be with me.

“Promise me,” says the horse. “Make this promise before we begin this relationship so that we may dedicate every consecutive moment to one another.” The horse is prepared to give me its entirety: his attention, his time, his identity. “Just be with me,” he says, “Promise me this. When we’re together promise me that you will leave all your other thoughts and actions aside to focus solely upon me. Promise?”

There are cowboys here and ‘wrangles.’ Their eyes watch me from beneath the half shadow of their hats with a stance composed of purposefully tied kerchiefs and matching shirts, leather ‘chaps’ tassels hanging over high-waisted jeans, and colorful boots. They’re reticent, but when they do speak, their sentences are adorned with gratitude: meals on the table, the beauty of past days, and the knowledge acquired from their horses… I’m thinking, “there must be a reason they get so dressed up every morning.” Is it because of the promise? A promise to be at their best during all shared moments? This is not just a dance performed on a wedding night, but one that evolves beautifully with time… A unique and infinite dance performed every day by a cowboy who, like a samurai, pays the utmost attention to his identity and his look, and grooms his horse as carefully as if performing a traditional team ceremony. Or in the words of Zen philosophy, ‘Satori,’ a form of enlightenment.

They choose the right view before they tie their horses to a certain spot. The brushes, scraper, and comb taken out of the toolbox are the body’s extension. The cowboy’s hand is on his heart and he is utterly self aware as he grooms his horse. “Yes,” I say with tears in my eyes, “Yes, I promise too.” My mind, adapted to multi-tasking so vigorously that giving 100% was never an option, revolts against my tears and the slowly burgeoning gesture of my heart. “What do you mean I won’t listen to the relentless voice in my head? Will I not embrace my phone to check on the lives of others? Is it just going to be the horse and I?” Yes. Just like the Zen Buddhists once declared, “if you’re mind is empty, it will always be ready and open for anything.”

Breathe.

A cowboy tells a story: “Horses are hunted while humans hunt. Animals that are hunted have a high sense of awareness because of their self-protective instincts. Because sudden or panic-stricken actions are associated with escape and therefore harbor fear, these animals need peaceful and secure environments. The actions of the hunter, on the other hand, deal with speed. They want things to occur immediately, because faster movement means that they will reach their reward quicker. Slowing down is utterly essential in order to create a relationship with a horse. One must breathe in order to slow down and daydream before going into action. An intention created through breathing, or an energy, is the horse’s main form of communication. He does not need any other language…”

Just exist.

Horses learn in an environment devoid of haste and slowly absorb all information. Their only motivation is to simply “exist,” in peace and security. Every moment that they can be self-possessive is a reward. They don’t need anything else. “It suffices to simply exist!” says the cowboy exuding the kind of leadership expected by his horse. And when the horse fulfills the cowboy’s wishes, he is left alone. The cowboy gives his horse time to understand and absorb his success.

Stay in the moment.

A new exercise I’ve learned. I turn the horse’s neck to the left with my reins. I wait for the right moment when his jaw folds beneath the neck and his body finds an inward balance on all hooves. For this I need the horse to raise his neck and equalize the position of his ears. I wait and I watch. As soon as this happens I need to release the reins and let him be. I have no choice but to stay in the moment. For this to happen I could wait ten seconds or one hour. I don’t know. However, if I don’t let the horse be free as soon as he performs the right action, I will lose this moment and he will never receive his recognition and reward.

Surrender.

Right next to me is a cowboy on his horse and always in the moment. He lets the horse relax by allowing it to bow its head downward. The towering figure of the horse, with its back legs drawn toward its center and head bowed down, is as noble and attractive as one of Leonardo da Vinci’s illustrations. He says, “bow your heard forward and let yourself go.” “Surrender and trust. Quit resisting. You will only begin to learn when you bow your head to the universe.” Watching a cowboy who is keeping peace and security for his horse is like a religious ritual… like feeling relief at the sight of an omnipotent force.

Take small steps.

“Life,” I say, “sometimes scares me.” We’re advancing on a dirt road. Our goal is to collect and take around 20 calves (with red tags in their ears and dispersed all around the immense forest circumference) back to the farm for their general checkups and weigh-ins. “The magnitude and impossibility of my goals seem so large, I falter before I even begin. I’m afraid of the big picture and don’t know how to start. And life is exactly the same… Sometimes living is so intimidating that I want to give it all up.” The cowboy and the horses are listening to me, but I’m unsure who answers: “There’s only one way to overcome your fear and achieve success: take small steps” he says.

Be timeless.

All of time belongs to them somehow. Underneath this wide horizon the concept of time has dissipated. “There is one characteristic that defines the best horse trainer: patience,” it says on the one page I manage to read from my book while I struggle to keep my eyes open. “How would I deal with this issue if I had a 100 years,” it tells me to ask, “with every problem that may arise in my life.” I don’t think anyone here has read this book, but the book has read them somehow, because the best trainers mentioned are right here. I’m sure the horses constantly remind them: “We either spend all our time doing this or we give up right now. However much you rush is exactly how much time you lose. The only solution is to slow down and be timeless.”

Feel it.

The cowboy’s initials aren’t carved into the back of his saddle. There’s another truth much more interesting than his own name, a truth that exists every second he sits on that saddle: “feel it.” The mutual language acquired in the relationship between horse and man is this feeling. Man is able to lead an animal almost a hundred times stronger with his feelings. He’s able to win the horse’s trust by trusting himself first. Leaders guide those around them not with power, but with their feelings because that is the only thing that remains constant. The mind plays with us and physical strength is relative. Feelings, however, are our life compass when we learn to listen and trust them…If a cowboy who leads his horse with his feelings says this, then I wish nothing more from god but to be like him when I grow up. “I hope I haven’t grown up just yet…”

I’m your reflection.

“Yes I’m your reflection,” I answer to the horse who begins to suddenly follow me while I stride around the herd. The things you’ve done are a reflection of the things I’ve done. You’re stern and aggressive when you feel those impatient and hard jabs on your side urging you to move. You’re insusceptible to the insensitive pull of your reins commanding you to stop. You’re angry with me because of my unstable demands. My anger, greed, insensitivity, all of them are me…When I stretch my hand lovingly toward your forehead, you stretch it out lovingly toward me. I breathe peacefully, you breathe peacefully. You’re patient with me when I first learn to dance, and I’m patient with you as you move through the vastness allowed only in a timeless state. My love, peace, patience, and sensitivity are all me.

I walk among the horses. One of them follows me. I’m walking in squares between the trees and he follows me. I run and he’s behind me. I stop and he’s behind me. Suddenly I start crying, bawling. I’ve been longing for the love that overflows from within me. “I am very well,” I say, “when I dance with you.”