LEVEKUNST art of life had the opportunity to ask two questions to Hamid Sardar-afkhami, the documentary film maker and photographer. After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, Hamid Sardar-afkhami decided he would travel to Mongolia to document the nomadic tribes and their unique way of life. Here Hamid created, what he calls the Thunderhoof Experience.
What is the background that leads to a deep love for horses and horsemanship? And from your point of view, what are the connections between horse training and the training of ones mind on a spiritual path?
Harmony and friendship with horses is an ancient ideal present in many myths and legends around the world. This notion undoubtedly rose out of early man’s dependence on the horse in the nomadic life-style. The horse-human relationship is seen by nomadic peoples as a guiding principle for life and realization. It can also be used as a skillful means on the path of spiritual development.
In my horse camp in Mongolia, I run summer retreats and workshops called the Thunderhoof Experience, at its core this is a five-day immersion in the world of Mongol horses, and a chance to connect people back to a long line of equestrian pilgrims dating back to antiquity. During this experience participants are paired with a horse corresponding to their level of aptitude and skill, from beginner to advanced.
The riders are introduced to a deeper level of horse-human interplay, the silences and nuances of horse communication and importance of reaching beyond human intellect in order to intuit what the horse is trying to say. To do so, individuals learn to reach gain awareness, mindfulness, self-control and sensitivity, which in turn leads to a sense of heightened inner and outer balance.
Photos by Hamid Sardar-afkhami.
Besides mastering basic riding skills, we use simple techniques such as singing, moving and breathing in union with the horse’s rhythm. The goal is to empty ourselves of fear and ego in order to become one with a powerful and noble animal. As we become progressively more ‘empty’ on the saddle, we start to experience the horse in a new and deeper way. The horse, on the other hand, also begins to behave and move differently, slowly a bond forms and horse becomes an extension of our senses and intuition becoming a conduit to another way of seeing and feeling the world around us.
To experience this unity on the open steppe is what I call the Thunderhoof Experience. It can be likened to a state of prayerful being.
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