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Stepping into 2012

Ushering in 2012

Ushering in 2012


That year is finally upon us, the year that has been targeted by an array of humans’ eschatological predictions. Will it be the year of cataclysm or transformation? Of annihilation or creation? Of disaster or enlightenment? Will it be a decisive year for you, for me, for us, for our horses? Does it matter?



Decisive year for the world

2012 seems set to be a decisive year for the world, if the media is to be believed. For some time now humans have been trotting out forecasts for 2012 which range from the sublime to the ridiculous and from computed to coincidence. Many have centred on the heralded end of the Mesoamerican long count calendar used by the ancient Maya culture, which is supposedly set to terminate on 21 December. New Age prophets of doom and paradise alike have seized the opportunity to proclaim the end of the world as we know it or the beginning of a new one as we do not. The Indian guru, Bhagavan, is said to have promoted the year, 2012, as the ‘deadline’ for enlightenment, while the American philosopher, Terence McKenna, is reported to have interpreted the King Wen sequence of the I Ching to develop a computerised time-wave predicting an end date in December.

You can find out more about these forecasts through Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon) and the external links which are cited in the relevant article.


Decisive year for our guide

2012 also seems set to be a decisive year for at least one of the guides whom I regularly turn to for assistance in my relationship with our horses. On 27 December 2011 Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling published a new video on his two YouTube channels featuring, Habanero, a coal-black PRE stallion acquired several months ago by his only senior body awareness coach, Jo Ross, who is currently attending Hempfling’s one-year course. The first part of the video shows Hempfling playing dominance games with the stallion, preventing him from moving into the part of the manége closest to what must be a mare in a stall adjacent to it. This is billed as the first encounter and must therefore have occurred during Compact Schooling II in October. The second part contains some beautifully edited sequences of the beginnings of self-collection as Hempfling lunges Habanero at liberty.


Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling working with Habanero, Jo Ross’ new PRE stallion


This video is at once an expression of Hempfling’s abilities as a trainer and an exposure of his Achilles heel. Many of his critics dispense with him by claiming that he is only able to demonstrate self-collection in Iberian stallions, because their conformation predisposes them to it. Given that Hempfling has so many different horses (belonging to his students) at his disposal during the current one-year course and that Habanero is reportedly the only Iberian stallion amongst them, this video has the potential to reinforce their claims in the absence of videos featuring Hempfling working with any of the other non-Iberian horses currently stabled at his Akedah school for the one-year course.


Decisive year for his students

The one-year course itself is also set to turn 2012 into a decisive year for Hempfling’s prowess as a trainer and mentor. In his most recent book, The Horse Seeks Me, Hempfling rejects the conventional approach to horsemanship with its reliance on bits, referring to it as ‘external violence’ and stating that, ‘Genuine dominance through inner strength and trust, through an inner relationship, can naturally never be achieved in this way’ (p. 58). Similarly, he also rejects natural horsemanship, which he refers to as ‘complete spiritual/mental submission’ (p. 58) and whose effects he sums up as follows: ‘Unimaginable damage has occurred, the full extent of which is not completely known’ (p. 61). The answer, Hempfling argues, is ‘the way of the knight: being and trust’, what ‘I consider to be the only right and worthy thing, to which I have devoted myself’ (p. 61). This way entails that a human ‘works on his own qualities as a helper, mentor and healer, and on his exemplary leadership qualities, his body language and his coming to awareness, until the horse really wants to come to him, not because everything else has been spoiled for him and he simply gives up and gives in. No, simply because he really wants to build closeness to this person. The horse wants to follow this person, because he believes and genuinely trusts him’ (pp. 61-63).

After more than 20 years of teaching, the world is still waiting for Hempfling to produce the first student who is capable of replicating his prowess as a horse-cum-human trainer pursuing the ‘way of the knight’ without resorting to force or the threat of force, let alone one who is also able to teach the very same thing to others. It is precisely just such students that Hempfling is seeking to develop through his current one-year course, the very first of its kind. Will he succeed in doing so? I certainly hope so, as the world desperately needs more trainers who rely on their inner strength and presence to become trustworthy leaders of horses as opposed to those who confuse leadership with bossiness reliant on instruments of force, such as bits, spurs and the like, or the spiritual and mental submission of horses. The price of failure is potentially high. Not only would it amount to a failure to produce such trustworthy leaders of horses, it could also seriously undermine Hempfling’s status as a reliable teacher and give his critics more ammunition to use against him and what he stands for. It is the latter that especially concerns me, because what he stands for is far more than just Hempfling. What he stands for is an approach which offers happiness to both horse and human. I talk from experience, not of Hempfling but of this approach.


Decisive year for us

2012 also seems set to be a decisive year in my own life and that of Vicki, although after last year’s experience I shall not presume to forecast what it will bring. Yet there appears to be a distinct difference between this year and last. Whereas at its outset 2011 pointed in the direction of transformation through the abdication of personal initiative in a highly controlled environment (Hempfling’s Akedah school), the beginnings of 2012 seem to presage an ongoing similar type of transformation but this time through the assumption of personal responsibility within the framework of an increasingly intuitive approach.

It seems to me that this is more in keeping with the being that all of us need to become if we are to be authentic masters of our own lives capable of satisfying the litmus test that horses offer us: show yourself to be a trustworthy leader of horses and you will have demonstrated your ability to be present in the moment of your choosing bringing to it an intuitive awareness of its possibilities and your responses rather than to live in accordance with the precepts of an admired guide.


Does it matter?

I can postulate that 2012 seems set to be decisive in various respects. Vicki and I are likely to decide where we will settle. The new course that we have enrolled in is likely to help us acquire skills for the direction in which we are heading. And so I can go on. And yes, all may transpire but then again it may not. So does the future matter?

If the past is anything to go by, my perception of the future is only important to the extent that I allow it to influence the present: my awareness of being. If I am dead set on living the future that I have plotted, I am likely to close my eyes to the possibilities of the now and the full array of my potential responses to them. Is it possible to live like that, truly live?


The past

Vicki and I have just returned from a week in Málaga, Spain, where we saw in the New Year with her twin sister, Agathe, and her partner, Ron, along with the sisters’ niece, Caroline. It was a most enjoyable, relaxing affair involving various friends and acquaintances interacting in the sun-drenched precincts of the city, the surrounding mountains and shorelines, and Andalucía’s typical pueblos blancos (white towns).

Vicki, Carolien and Agathe in Málaga

Vicki, Caroline and Agathe in Málaga

The fun and celebrations helped put a seal on the traumas of 2011 but simultaneously resurrected concerns for the creatures that are increasingly preoccupying our waking hours: horses.

Prison block X in a Spanish livery stable

Prison block in a Spanish livery stable


We visited a number of public livery stables and I was reminded of what I had seen during my visit to Catalonia in August. With few exceptions the Spanish seem to prefer to keep horses stabled all of the time. Most of the livery establishments that I have visited in Spain do not have space available for anything else. The stables themselves are small if not downright poky. And the conditions in which the horses are kept are often appalling.

Punishment: solitary confinement; Crime: being a horse

Punishment: imprisonment; Crime: being a horse






The lives to which we humans sometimes condemn our horses we would not even want our dogs to endure.



Leaping into the light

Eckhart Tolle claims that you can find joy in life at any time by living in the moment. He is right. How do I know? I do it whenever I have the presence of mind to do so and everything other than life at that moment no longer exists, leaving me with the calm joy of simply being. It is sometimes said that structure and discipline are required to do this on an ongoing basis. Those who say this may be right. It certainly takes a bit of self-discipline to start tapping yourself on the shoulder whenever you can, so as to focus on the here and now. It is a type of meditation and to the extent that it occurs with growing regularity starting from first thing in the morning, it entails structure.

I have a plan for 2012 and like any plan it seems to be a contradiction of the spontaneity that living in the moment implies. Then again, it is just a plan and, like any plan, it can be changed or simply abandoned. The future, it seems to me, is just like this. It is an idea that may or may not materialise. As such, it is ultimately as relevant to me as a mousepad is to a horse.

It is in the here and now that I have stepped into 2012 and, as I step further into the year with growing consciousness of the moment, there is a calming, reassuring joy to it all. There is a quote attributed to John Lennon which I wish to share with you, although in the absence of a reliable source I am listing it as anonymous:

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.


The concept may be trite but, ask yourself, if you are not happy, what really do you have to share with anyone? Still not convinced? Apply the litmus test: go to your horse when you are happy and see how your horse responds. If you do not have a horse, try your dog, your partner, anyone.

If being involves living in the moment and the future is consequently irrelevant, than it must surely be akin to leaping into the unknown. Being the pessimists that we often are, we humans often refer to this in English as leaping into the dark. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have come to view this as leaping into the light. Susan van Wagoner has commented that ‘There is joyous intention in that’, and she is right!

As you step further into 2012, whatever it brings…

May you leap into the light!



Here are some pretty pics of Málaga and surroundings. Enjoy!



A pueblo blanco 1

A pueblo blanco 1

A pueblo blanco 2

A pueblo blanco 2






Sunset in Nerja

Sunset in Nerja


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