THE GREAT DUNG PILE RITUAL
Note: this is a slightly edited version of the text originally published on the author’s blog
The Great Dung Pile Ritual* is as follows: A ritual in which two stallions meet and proceed to compete in making the largest display (pile) of poo. Whichever horse decides to stop loses. This process takes place instead of the stallions fighting. Which means that after this ritual the losing horse can decide to just back off.
So far my job here at La Donaira has been to work with the horses. That means that at 7:30 each morning I start my day by cleaning the paddocks from thirty horses’ piles of poo. This takes about two to three hours. While this sounds awful it has sort of become my own dung pile ritual, in the sense that this is how I make peace in difficult situations. Though it is of a different kind of peace.
Back home with some help of what you would call a therapist, we worked out that when one is feeling upset one shouldn't clean. One should let it lay there. Let the dust pile up. Let the leaning tower of clothes stand tall on that chair in the corner of the room. Make the room your head. Your very own private space. So when you´re ready to start to pick up the pieces you do so but you make each cleaning step a part of the healing process in your head. Imagine each thing is something that is bothering you and let go of it. Clean it. Fix it and rid yourself of all of the bad things that you can think of.
Here at La Donaira the dung pile ritual has taken that place. Instead of my room or flat I clean the paddocks. Through this, I perform my own dung pile ritual.
*Editor’s note: the dung pile ritual is discussed in the book The Horse’s Mind, by Lucy Rees — a seminal text of natural horsemanship and central to the animal-centred volunteer programme at La Donaira.