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  • Gita Matlock

Our Origin Story

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Pandemonium

We began in a pandemic. As I write this, the world around us remains unsafe. We both, me and Ezra, found ourselves reevaluating our lives on every level and preparing (unconsciously at first) to embrace radical change. The changes we are making look quite different, but we share many threads between us. Threads of hope, love of family, gratitude, kinship with horses, intuitive perception, and a deep desire to shine our inner light.

We first met several years ago. Ezra and his wife Briana were neighbors and began to frequent family social gatherings at Ananda Village, the spiritual community where I live, with their magical twin daughters. My husband and I have two young children too. The Marrow twins were the same age as our son and we soon found ourselves in a small cohort of families with shared parenting values. A few playdates here and there, birthday parties, school drop off and pick up, this was the accumulated experience between us. Always there was a kindness, a knowing of kinship, but life is busy with young children, so never did we explore the depth of our friendship farther. At least, not until the pandemic.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, both of our families locked down completely, as did most of the world. Those early months were a time of great disruption. All that was known was now gone, all routines routed, all certainty untethered. For me, those first months were a time for family. We circled the wagons, counted our blessings, and waited for the storm to pass. It did not relent.

As the months dragged on and the isolation took it's toll, we began seeking friendship among the animals around us. Daily visits to the local goat dairy led to longer bike rides to the horses in neighboring pastures. I suspect this experience was running parallel all over the world; people were unsafe, so animals became friends.

By summer, I was let go from my job as a fundraiser for March of Dimes and, for the first time in my adult life, felt fully content to be home. In the two years prior, I had moved through a crisis of purpose. I longed for a career change and checked under every rock and tree for what to do next. The drive for deriving meaning and worth from my career, regardless of how noble the endeavor, had been insatiable. And then suddenly, it was gone.

I cannot speak for Ezra's experience of those early pandemic months. What I can do is piece together my observations. By the time our families emerged from quarantine in late May and risked meeting in nature, 6 feet apart, the Marrow's had decided to uproot to be closer to home. This pandemic was rearranging priorities in short order. Like me, Ezra had dropped his career almost entirely to be with his daughters. Like me, he found the change welcome after a demanding career of service. Ezra was bringing his highly reputable horse training business to a close and the whole county was soon to morn the loss. The Marrow's are gems and much beloved.


Enter the Horse

June arrived and the quiet yearning of my heart for horses became a loud thrumming. The whispers had been present since the day I sold my last pony in 1994, but I had rarely indulged that voice with my attention. Annual guided trail rides would have to suffice, I had myself convinced.

I soon talked my kids into visiting the neighborhood horses with regularity. A little girl who leased one of the them was having difficulty feeling confident to ride, so I decided to help. Soon after, I reached out to Ezra for a refresher; how else could I think to teach someone a skill I hadn't practiced in earnest in 26 years?

The first time I rode again, I was flooded with joy and inspiration. That night I wrote:

"Imagine how empowering it would be for kids and adults healing from trauma to come for equestrian meditation retreats? Imagine if the retreats were designed for the masses who have no access to the transformational power of horses? Like inner city youth...women recovering from violence...men unraveling toxic masculinity...BIPOC stepping into voice and power...recovering addicts...I'm just saying...imagine."

Ezra read it and showed up to our first session ready to talk. What started as "horsemanship 101" turned into a lifechanging conversation about healing with horses. This is Ezra's heart, the true and beautiful purpose of his life. Herd Spirit was not yet a twinkle in our eyes, but I gratefully accepted his invitation to apprentice with him and the journey began in earnest.


A Moment of Truth

The first weeks of apprenticeship were like a fire hose of learning. The tools, the approach, the philosophy, everything about horsemanship felt new. I traveled the county, soaking up all I could from Ezra and crammed more learning in the evenings from a range of horse whisperers of note. The task was endless, but I felt the call to let the new knowledge wash in waves over me. I soaked in all I could.

I was not his first apprentice, many budding young trainers and teachers had benefitted from his guidance. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of that. Was he this generous with his time and knowledge for everyone? What is it that I'm doing here and why? Do I intend to be a horsemanship teacher? Do I think I want to train horses? The resounding answer within was no to these questions, but the practical side of me wondered how else to make a living in the horse world?

I had trained as a meditation and yoga teacher more than a decade ago, but found the work of nonprofit management more reliable. Many times I had considered a career change into therapy or other healing modalities, I love people and have a gift for holding space for vulnerability, but I was risk averse around career. Now, I was experiencing tectonic shifts in perspective.

Clarity of purpose began to emerge in our car rides to and from Ezra's clients. The firehose of horse learning was temporarily shut off in those times and our conversations turned to life. We shared our stories and struggles. We explored God and family, love and loss. What started to emerge was a theme, we are here to help others and horses are the guides to that service.

One day we found ourselves sitting in front of our computers before leaving for another horsemanship session. Ezra pushed a folder full of equine guided learning materials and outlines for personal growth workshops across the table to me. His eyes looked sad somehow, as if passing these papers was just another door of his life closing, like his business, his home, his horses. He shared his uncertainty about why we were here, what was driving him to give so much? We both sat in silence for a moment, giving truth time to make itself known. At last I replied, "Because we are meant to do this together. You're not giving it away, you're helping me catch up."

The words rang in our ears and I could feel their truth pulsing up my spine, I could see it in Ezra's face too. That was the real beginning; the moment I realized that this was a partnership. We did not know yet what that partnership would look like. But from that moment, the seeds of intention were planted in the soil of possibility.


Times of Change

The weeks that followed our clarity of intention continued at the firehose pace. There was simply so much to do and so little time before the Marrow family would close the U-haul doors and head south to their new home. I swallowed buckets of horsemanship, prepared pastures, gathered hay, and spent every moment available in the pursuit of understanding the language of the horse. Ezra closed his business and worked endlessly with Briana to sell their home, pack their belongings, and prepare for the biggest change their family has yet undertaken.

But what of Herd Spirit? The name had been approved by our kids, the website URL secured, the framework talked through. We knew this much: we want to help others transform and grow with guidance from the horse. We want to let our lights shine and empower others to do the same. Mere days before the Marrow's departure, we met to bless Herd Spirit with a humble, but powerful ceremony.

With so much uncertainty, including when it will be safe to host spiritual equine retreats, we sketched out a plan. I was to continue my horsemanship journey with guidance at a distance. Ezra was to focus on supporting his family through this major life transition. We agreed that our partnership will hold space for the radical changes we were making.


The Work Begins

A month after the move, Ezra encouraged me to step forward with equine accelerated coaching. We both wanted to see what would come of combining his work with mine in the round pen. What would my lifelong spiritual practice look like with horses?

So, with a wing and a prayer Herd Spirit sessions were born. In the coming months, I will share the journey of this work in its early phase. These sessions represent the most transformative, meaningful endeavor of my life. God is in the round pen for me now. Not since my travels to India have I felt this alive with light and wonder.

A chapter will come in time, as the pandemic recedes and it is safe to gather, when the full partnership of Herd Spirit will rise. What will come when Ezra and I enter the round pen together at last? What will this spiritual cowboy and yogi manifestor create together? The future is yet unwritten.

This is a moment to relish uncertainty. The pandemic has ravaged the lives of so many. It's hardships and consequence are not to be understated. But for us, in this time and place, the pandemic has brought us together, changed our priorities, and given us the necessary practice to embrace uncertainty.


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