Sunday, November 16, 2008

Camel and Horse Dressage

One day we will see something like this being done completely without bridle and reins on both camel and horse. But as it is this is still impressive to watch.

Nevzorov Haute Ecamel !

In Canada recently, under the instruction of Michael Bevilacqua, I had the good fortune of participating in a seminar about "interactivity with horses beyond training". This approach, developed by Alexander Nevzorov, unites horse and human through deepening trust, intimacy, respect and understanding -- and no force (no bits, bridles, reins, whips or spurs, and no punishment, ever)... a wonderful approach we are now blending with our own organically developing approach at Fear-No-More for working with horses and camels.

To learn more about the Nevzorov Haute Ecole approach to horses click the following links:

1. Equiforme
2. Alexander Nevzorov


(photos used with kind permission of Michael Bevilacqua and Catherine Scott)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Camel-Horse Retreats

Last weekend (Oct 17-19) saw the happy completion of the second Sacred Camel-Horse Retreat here at the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary. This month's and last month's retreats were attended by some great people, each of whom went home feeling softened, stilled and strengthened in spiritual contemplation and connection . (See testimonials below.)

Prolonged time in the contemplative culture of these large, gentle, animals reveals a new way of looking at and relating to the world. The camels loved the retreat, too. By the end of the weekend they had clearly become more intimate and connected with the group of humans who had come into their home.

During the October retreat Craig Love introduced us to "Contact Care" - for humans and animals. Visiting for two weeks from NZ, Craig worked a lot with the camels and the two horses, Bright and Holy, both of whom are healing and regenerating from years of eventing and competition. The black gelding, Bright, was Craig's partner for the Contact Care demo which was very interesting and useful.

Toward the end of Craig's presentation Carmen May (also a bodyworker) was approached by the white mare, Holy. The horse stood in front of Carmen, gazing into her face... it seemed obvious she wanted some bodywork so Carmen stood up, put her hands on the horse and began... Holy went into a deep meditative trance, and at one point virtually performed a simple piaffe (prancing on the spot) releasing whatever stuck energies began shifting... both horses stood in a daze of pleasure afterwards.

Ongoing Camel-Horse Retreats

These first two Fear-No-More weekend retreats served our planning and preparation for running ongoing monthly retreats starting next April or May.

In the meantime we will continue through the fall and winter months with very simple two or three hour retreats with the camels, where people can just come and drop out into the Contemplative herd culture for a while. Details on these free afternoon retreats are forthcoming. Write us if you're interested.

As these retreats evolve it's conceivable that they'll be variously designed to cater to: weekend group retreats (max 10); personalized weekend retreats (max 3); retreats for young adults; for children and parents; for people interested in our "training" approach; possibly even for corporate or business groups. Some retreats might also be focussed around other non-humans living here, such as the birds, reptiles and trees. And some retreats will host well known guest presenters working in the various areas of positive human-animal relations.

Since arriving here, Bright and Holy have undergone a transformation of their hooves, and have received hours of body work from several body-workers (from Lake County, New Zealand and Santa Rosa). They have also had their teeth realigned and "floated" by an equine dentist from Santa Rosa. As a result they are walking and running better, eating and digesting better, and feeling healthier in body and temperament. And they have come to experience and enjoy humans in a way they had probably given up hoping for a long time ago... They are now enjoying, in body, mind and psyche, increasing relief from years of ignorance by previous owners...

The schedule for 2009's Camel-Horse Retreats will be forthcoming. Check back for dates.

Fear-No-More Zoo

Sacred Camel-Horse Retreat Testimonials:

Fiona Syme: It is strange to try to find the words that best describe the gifts of spending time amongst the integrity of camels and horses because "words" are exactly what you are relieved of experiencing in their company. And yet, one feels surprisingly full and happy... and wordless... and that is the gift -- the gift of being truly content without words....aaaaah!

Susunka Christmann: This was the most delightful and happy thing I have done in a very long time. Being with these extraordinary wide eyed and gentle beings made me remember how to be released into harmony with my environment without the slightest agenda. Doing "nothing" for many hours is doing "something" very important. All of this has a lot to do with egolessness and prior unity of all that arises.

Thanks to Stuart's unobtrusive guidance we entered slowly and more and more deeply into the "Sacred Camel Gardens". These retreats are for those who know Adi Da already and for those who don't yet -- a great opportunity to "meet" Him.

The breath wide, expanded and as effortless as can be - something that seemed to be helped by the camels - all restlessness gone - everything - nature, humans and non-humans were full with life and contemplation was naturally all around and stayed around for the longest time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barack at Four Months

As often as possible I spend long hours sitting with the camels; in their spacious paddock they come and go as they wish. Sometimes I'll sit completely alone for hours. At other times they all surround me, each politely hoping for a carrot piece. Sometimes I put my chair right in the middle of their circle of hay and sit among them as up to nine camels feed and move about. Even when they argue over hay piles they respect my space, making sure not to bump me as they move around. It's a little dangerous but I'm careful. It's also useful for getting to know them.

This morning, after coming and going a few times, young Barack (4 months old), plodded over to
me, sitting there in my plastic chair, and draped her long, lazy, neck over my shoulder. She lifted her front left leg and rested her knee on my lap, sort of perching there. She was, and is, extremely respectful of my space, usually not pushy at all, so I let her do what she wanted.
Unable to get into my chair with me she circled around and sat at my feet where she spent the next twenty minutes pulling on my shoe laces until they were completely undone. Then we sat quietly together for about an hour, meditating and randomly touching and acknowledging one another. The herd went about its usual random routine of wandering the pasture, coming and going as we sat...

This afternoon I found Barack again and went over and sat with her on the ground. Wrapping my arm around her neck, we sat together, side by side, as the sun softened behind tall trees.

When Barack was born it wasn't clear whether she was really coming to stay so a few of us (Ron, Andrea, Shawnee and I) remained with her and her mother for most of the calf's first 48 hours, until she was steady on her feet and suckling confidently. For the first two weeks Barack slept a lot, often with her head on my chest or belly. So we know each other well now and the trust is deep. Working and interacting with her as she matures should be very rewarding and interesting.

As Google Mama (Barack's mother) observes my care and relationship with Barack, her trust and respect of me deepens also. To a lesser degree the same process is occurring with the whole herd. I interact closely with everyone in the herd, including the other calves, and Barack's interactions with me communicate deeply to the others.
When I'm sitting in the paddock, whether the camels interact with me directly or are far away doing their own thing, the same process of bonding and trust-building is taking place. I'm always surprised at how much goes on between us when we're at opposite ends of the pasture. I can still leave at day's end, feeling deeply connected, and part of the herd, even if they never visited with me, though they usually visit a lot!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Camel Herding & Horses

Recently, with support from friends, Carmen and Victor, I've essentially made the transition from other duties to being more-or-less full time with the camels and horses. Though still connected to and overall responsible for the rest of things at Fear-No-More Zoo, I'm now much more concentrated in the camel-horse areas.

This move is essential for the developments we are effecting here. We wish to develop a form of interaction with the camels and horses that is rooted in an understanding of their culture and who they are as individuals... rather than imposing our otherwise uninformed "human" points of view on them. Spending a lot of time among them is necessary for this to truly occur.

Already, with the increased time I'm spending among them, I'm noticing a change, or deepening, in their acceptance of me. Some have also begun testing me in various ways. We already know each other pretty well but are now getting to know each other better. Moving back and forth between camels and horses is interesting too as they are very similar but different.

A couple of nights ago, just on dusk, I was standing around with nine of the camels as they ate. Young Barack approached, wanting me to pet her. So I rubbed her all over, firmly and softly. She reached her head back to nuzzle me briefly a few times until I found a spot on her tummy that I began circling gently with my open hand... her lips quivered, her neck stretched, her back gently relaxed and she shuffled her hind legs out behind her until she was almost balancing on toe-tips, and she couldn't get enough of this tummy tickling.

After I finished and moved away she was glued to me, following me around everywhere. As I approached her little sister, "No-Two", Barack immediately got between us and sent her sibling away. I like this kind of confidence. She's still young and there is plenty of time to gently shape her as she grows so that this same confidence doesn't become dangerous for me later on.

This month, and in October, we're running our first Sacred Camel and Horse retreats. These are practice runs to get us up to speed for running monthly retreats next year, starting in April.

Now that I'm out with camel and horse people much more I'll be adding new posts more frequently so please check back from time to time to keep up with developments.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Becoming Friends

This morning I was in a funk. I fed the horses a little sweet-mix with supplements and trudged across the field to fill their water trough. On my way back to the gate the pair approached.

I was surrounded. They asked me to pet them. There was little talk. I concentrated first on the black gelding, "Bright", then the white mare, "Holy". They kept putting my face between their two big heads... stroking cheeks and necks, warm breath blowing in my ears.

Together they were softening, returning me to feeling, re-energized, relaxed. I still had to check on the camels. Walking down the paddock, grateful that the horses bothered to connect and make their point... which is simply to feel, relax, release and feel... I was very happy we were able to rescue at least these two feeling, intelligent, beings from slaughter by horse industry "cleaners"...


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bathing the Girls

In hot weather the girls piss down the inside of their hind legs a lot. It may serve to cool them as the urine evaporates. In the dry hot weather a few days of pissing can start to get a bit hard on the nose, at least for some.

So every few days I halter the girls one at a time and lead them to a tie post near the hose. I make it fun and pleasant and throughout the bathing they get random carrot bits. After washing we go together for a short, happy, walk then the halter comes off, and in goes another carrot. Then it's the next girl's turn.

I don't force anyone, just going with those who are willing. Luckily they are also the ones who need it most! The other girls watch, and one by one they are getting interested. Observing how much fun it is, how many carrots get served and how fresh and relaxed the washed ones feel... I think its starting to look like not such a bad idea to the older girls, and the guys too.

HiHo, our resident "monkey", a young bull with enough personality for two camels, often comes over and sits by the "camel wash"... sitting to the side, hoping a carrot will come his way just for looking cute and, occasionally, low and behold, a carrot does somehow end up in his mouth...!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fear-No-More World WALKS

For the "Vision of Fear-No-More", "Fear-No-More Zoo" & the "Sacred Camel-Horse Gardens"... World Walk BLOG

Friday, July 4, 2008

Two Horses Join Us

For half a dozen months now I've been considering bringing some horses into our developing camelid "program". I want to begin working the camels and horses together eventually. We also love horses, just as much as camels...

Somehow, recently, we ended up helping in the rescue of two handsome thoroughbreds, Holy and Bright. Holy was on her way to a slaughter house in Mexico I believe, and Bright was going to be euthanized by her teenage rider's parents with the intent of teaching their daughter a lesson!! Both horses gracefully emerged from those situations to arrive, last week, at our sanctuary, never to be hit or forced or threatened again... now to live their lives here happy as horses, only to be ridden at their pleasure, not ours.

They haven't met the camels yet. That should be interesting. The camels will most likely just stand and stare back. The horses will probably explode at their first camel sighting. Its quite a site. But they quickly work things out.

Our program here will eventually have half a dozen horses and 20 or so camels.

Our training of both will draw predominantly from Carolyn Resnick's "Seven Waterhole Rituals", from the animals themselves and from Adi Da Samraj's spiritual wisdom with regard to animals.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Herd Moments...

After a leisurely breakfast of fresh hay, and cool shade under tall oaks, the camels meander off to graze and browse in small groups, or sometimes alone, coming and going as inclined and attracted.

Peaceful Baba heads off along the fence-line to where the watering hose runs under the wire and out into the lower paddock. Sitting down, he uses his mouth to retrieve the entire length of hose, foot by foot, dragging all of it back up onto his "lap", hoping the open end will be running with cool, fresh, bubbling water. Sometimes it is, this time not. And he sits there quietly, on the grass under the sun.

HiHo, eyes flickering with mischief and anticipation, bumbles over to the ranch truck to test the air pressure on all four tires!

The older Google Mama, herd matriarch, draws her calf away to a nearby tree where they sit together quietly. One of the other calves bounces over to Google and Barack, wanting to join their repose or to draw Barack into a game. The often accommodating Google Mama doesn't care for this distraction and deftly sends the young calf away, clearly wanting to spend some quiet time with her baby, apart from the herd. A few more times the frisky young calf, Green Smoothy, bounds back to the tree, pestering Barack and her mother, each time finding herself sent away.

Eventually alone Google Mama and her two month old calf, Barack, sit side-by-side, silent and motionless, gazing out across the pasture, immersed deeply in the "feeling of being". Both mother and daughter are intensely steady, deep and serious camels.


"Nothing" is close...

Gradually as I find my way in the training of these camels, I'm realizing that the best way forward with them is, largely, to do "nothing" -- just being with them. More and more when asked, "What do you do with these camels?" I find myself replying, "Nothing."

"Nothing" is not quite true, but it's close.

As old points of view, ideas, agendas and techniques erode, simply from being around the camels, my approach to them becomes more one of trust, respect, mystery, feeling and patience. This is them teaching me, showing me... And with this I find the camels entering into relationship with me much more readily. Interactions take on more of a flowing quality, where each camel in turn comes and goes within the herd to visit with me, and me with them. The more I manage to let go of wanting to control this process the more I find myself drawn in by them. When they are given the space to choose to do something with me, if they choose it happily, willingly, rather than feeling "trained", or conjured, into it, then the thing they just learned, or chose to do, be it wearing a halter, lifting a leg, sitting, lead walking, need never be learned again. Because they trusted my invitation, and because they chose it, they don't forget it, and it seems not to need further re-enforcement.

The less goal oriented and intentional my approach, the more the "results", if I want to call them that, become better and surer...

I see little signs of this every day, and we never go backwards -- unless I revert to what my teachers taught me back in school.


Becoming Untrained

When the now two month old calf, Barack, was in her first week or so she did a lot of sleeping, as new babies love to do. And in those moments I took to napping or lying with her. Sometimes I fell fast asleep too. Through sleeping together Barack and I formed a bond of trust that has made everything else we do together a secondary matter. If I stay true to this bond there may be very little she will be unwilling to do with me in the future -- and also, I think, requiring very minimal "training".

The lesson of Barack so far has been one of my "untraining"... becoming untrained through the force of relationship -- a great relief !


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Galloping in the Moonlight

Peaceful Baba
Tonight I went out to check on the camels around midnight. The bright moon was high and the wind was brisk and blowing about.

I found all the camels eventually and started heading out across the pasture. Running across the moonlit fields I was suddenly surrounded by nine camels of different sizes and colors, all cantering, trotting and galloping along with me, weaving in and out of the trees, kicking out, snorting and bucking at shadows, swaying branches and rustling trees.

Big Peaceful Baba kept appearing beside me from out of the night just in time to block one of the other camels from getting in too close around me. A few times I thought Peaceful might bump me but he didn't. Its spontaneous moments like these that I like to capitalize on to deepen the bond. The camels enjoy and feel this as much as I do, I think.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Carolyn Resnick

Her method is the 7 waterhole rituals that she learned as a member of a wild horse herd when she was in her pre-teens. Her method comes down to a family of rituals that comprises a healthy herd culture... being present, "hello", taking space, leading from behind, eye contact, table manners, companion walking, forming the bond at liberty...

It's foundation is love, trust, respect and no separative or manipulative, agenda -- being in the moment, being a leader who listens, yields, follows through, is firm yet bends... Carolyn isn't a conventional horse trainer... she's really actually a horse! a herd member, and a consummate herd leader.


HiHo on the Highway

After several months of intensive, firm, but gentle interaction with HiHo, he is now relating with the other camels and with people in a much happier and more respectful manner. Thanks to Carolyn Resnick's method of herd acculturation even a classical "pirate and joker" such has HiHo is now well on the road to herd integration and participation, with no loss of his spark for life.

HiHo needs still more time and maturation, and appropriate guidance, but he is doing so much better, and is also much more content and happy within himself. And the other camels are finally accepting him to participate with them.

Purnimama's New Calf

On Friday May 16 at about 8am Purnimama gave birth to our third baby camel of the year. Mother and baby are doing well. The baby, named "Not-Two Mama", is a female, of cream-gray coloration. This is Purni's first baby. She is proving to be a good mother.

The three mothers move about and camp down together in a loosely-knit pod. The babies follow closely, playing and cavorting with one another and with their much larger aunts and uncles. The mothers share the child-rearing responsibilities, spelling each other from time to time, suckling one another's babies. Two of them are first time mothers, and clearly having to adjust to their new responsibilities. They can no longer be as carefree as before. Purnimama has undergone a remarkable change in her relational capacity. Once very shy and timid she is now steady, forceful, grounded and personable.

Google Mama, the matriarchal herd leader, while introducing herself to the other two calves, clearly impressed the two new mothers that both their new babies are also hers, that she is ultimately in charge of all the young ones. Purnimama accepted this without difficulty. Muffin argued a little before yielding to the herd matriarch. Google Mama has her attention on all three babies, frequently connecting with them and guiding them.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Camels' Favorite Vet

Dr. Lisa Takesue DVM has been looking out for our camels for about five years now, helping us through some tough issues at times.

Dr. Takesue's office manager, Isa, getting to know Peaceful Baba on a recent visit.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bidding Farewell.....

We’re bidding farewell soon to Andrea Schwab. Andrea has been involved with Fear-No-More Zoo since about 1992.

She has been integral to the last few years and more of steady growth and improvement, helping in all aspects of the existing zoo and the new camel developments.

Andrea, we couldn't have come this far without your creativity, drive, patience and inspiring commitment. We and the animals will all miss you, and wish you the best as you step out into new things. Send postcards!

I, personally, will miss you very much.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Muffin (4 years) gave birth to a strong, healthy, baby girl today.... Muffin's first calf.

The birth process took just over an hour. As soon as the baby was out, Muffin turned and connected with her... another very good mama camel...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Camels & Babies - some pics

Ginger meets Barack

Ginger meets Google

Riley meets Peaceful

Bringing Up Barack

Our new baby camel was recently named, "Barack", which means "blessing".

Google Mama, her mother, is raising her within the herd and both are doing well.

As she grows, each day the baby is full of new surprises. Taking my cues from her mother I'm letting the calf be fully expressive, emotionally and physically, while letting her learn the consequences and rewards for everything she does. In another month or two I'll start becoming more direct with her about what she can and can't do around me... jumping on me will have to stop, kicking out at me exuberantly will have to stop, pushing on me will need to stop. But for now I'll let her do those things. She's at a size where I can handle it, and I think it's important to let her be expressive and participant in ways that she's naturally moved to do. And at the same time I can get to know her character, her infant strengths and weaknesses, and help to guide her growth as she develops.

We also spend periods lying together in the grass, napping on each other, forming a deep trust and understanding through this. She already wears a halter easily and I'm starting to teach her to sit (kush) by inviting her to sit with me and connecting a word with the action of sitting each time. Today I began introducing a cue for every time she rears up on her hind legs.

As we go along in this way she'll be able to learn, in the natural course of things, close to everything she needs to know in relationship to people with very little formal training having to be done. Just as she grows up with her mother and within the herd, learning everything as she goes, she can also learn things from me in the same natural kind of way.

It's good that Barack is living in the herd culture, with her mother. This will ensure a well rounded individual, interested in people but not dependant upon them. With the contact she is having with humans each day, her inter-cultural up-bringing will allow her to know herself as a camel while at the same time learning how to relate to humans happily and respectfully.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Baby at 6 Days

Video filmed 6 days after birth

Also view earlier post of baby at 2 days old...

Google Mama's New Baby

Around midday on March 25, 2008 Google Mama easefully delivered a silvery gray female calf.

Enjoy the video, taken 2 days after birth

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Update on HiHo

Little HiHo is a bit bigger but still pretty small for a camel over 18 months of age. He's most likely going to stay on the short side. He's about the height of a medium sized horse at this point.

I guess this entry is basically a further acknowledgment of the excellence of Carolyn Resnick's method with horses, which we employ with our camels. For whatever reasons (size, breeding, born character, karmas) HiHo is an unusual mix of traits from sweet and loveable to mean, cranky, incredibly stubborn and willful, mischievous, even sly.

Now at 18 months or so he's of an age where we are now concentrating on bringing him through all this, but still retaining his special spark for life.

The basic method we are employing is what Carolyn Resnick calls "leading from behind". We walk him without lead rope or halter, walking behind him, moving him forward. And we walk quietly and gently for half an hour or more. All the camels love this "herding activity". It calms and balances them and serves the creation of a bond of respect and affection like few other things can.

As expected HiHo requires more "leading from behind" than the others but the results are really encouraging. He's becoming calmer, more receptive to contact, more respectful of boundaries and better at listening and responding.


Appreciation for Ron Bartlett

Its been 4 months since the last entry here.... But before I get back into more on the camels I want to briefly express my appreciation for a man named Ron Bartlett.

Now retired (he used to be some big-shot back in Ohio), Ron has been invaluable to the Camel Gardens, willing and available to help out in all kinds of areas -- feeding, cleaning, building, carrying water, sleeping overnight with baby camels, running errands, putting up with my nonsense and more...

Ron, thank you! And take good care of yourself because we want you around and involved for years to come.