Horses and Indigenous people have been interacting with each other for millennia. For people of European descent, the ancient nature of this relationship is visible in art such as the 30,000 year old Vogelherd horse statue from a Paleolithic site in a German cave. It’s clear that horses have been an integral part of our lives for a very long time. Somewhere along the way, several thousand years ago, the dominant culture changed that relationship though. Instead of recognizing the horse as a partner, friend, family member, even Elder, humans began to see horses as “other,” as tools to use instead of fellow creatures to relate to. Tapestry’s Horse Ibachakali Program explores this ancient relationship, one still practiced today by Indigenous people but lost to the dominant culture, and teaches people how to reclaim this way of relating with horses and the Land.
The most gifted leaders in many of our programs have been Mustangs and Indian Ponies who have come to us to do this work. Part of the reason our programs are so powerful is due to the way we at Tapestry view and treat horses. To begin with, horses are proud members of their own Nation. They are not human beings, and they are not mimics or imitators or mirrors of human beings. That is to say horses are not human sidekicks or tools. They are our peers, in every sense of that word. Horses have their own wisdom, their own gifts of healing and teaching, and they share these with humans as much as we permit them to do so.
In the past 25 years, we have been able to study the impact of trail riding on the group meeting process, conduct a research survey within the horse community about the horse-human relationship, explore how working with horses within Indigenous worldview using mindfulness benefits sexual assault survivors, hold the first horse-human relationship webinar of its kind, give a home to wild Mustangs, and provide an experience with gentled and wild Mustangs during women’s empowerment workshops.
Mustangs and Indian ponies will continue their important work in Tapestry’s work in Northwestern Nebraska, . They will help the pan-Indigenous group of people working together to serve, empower, and facilitate Indigenous Knowledge, and people of the dominant culture who are trying to find and reconnect with own indigenous roots that have been buried for millennia. As a Tapestry program, the horses’ work is done from within Indigenous worldview. If you’re a horse rider, here’s the secret you may not have known: connecting this way is how a rider develops feel. Because feel isn’t elusive; it’s Indigenous.
*Yakoke (thanks) to Dora Wickson of the Choctaw Language Program, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, for helping us with the word we use to mean “connection.” In a detailed conversation with Dora and other Choctaw language speakers in the program, the word Ibachakali was suggested as closest to the specific sense of “connection” to which we wish to refer. The type of connection described by Ibachakali is one of unity: the way that the trees of an aspen grove, for example, are connected because they all grow from a single source underground. It is a fundamental and deep-seated connection that manifests an underlying unity. You can hear a sound file of how the word Ibachakali is pronounced here.