The horse on the corner lot down the road from us lives alone. I tried to befriend her but found no response so passed her by on my daily walk with my dog. Weeks later, I found out that her name was Cinnamon and would then call to her as we continued walking. She still gave me little response beyond lifting her head and briefly looking my direction, then turned away to continue whatever she was doing, eating. This went on for a few months.
The other day when I yelled, “Hi, Cinnamon,” as usual, I was surprised by words that flew back to me so fast I almost ducked. “You are patronizing me,” were the words that came. I did a double take thinking I had misheard. A bit shocked by this accusation assuming I would never do something like that, I stopped in the middle of the road and did some remote viewing of my relationship with this horse to prove it wasn’t true. But, sure enough, it was. There was definitely a cocky attitude. I’d come on the scene months before, thinking I was to fix this horse who was most likely lonely (but actually, in truth, appears very content), and then develop a deep and secret connection with her because of my skills.
Picking up on my attitude from the start that she needed fixing, Cinnamon would have nothing to do with me. From then on, when I called to her with a phony lilt in my voice, I realized in retrospect that I was being superior and goading her with my high pitched musical voice as if to say, “Even if you won’t talk to me-e, I’m talking to you-ou,” followed by a sweet chuckle that I now saw as belittling. It all seemed to indicate that I am evolved and you aren’t yet. OMG. I didn’t realize. It was such a subtle poison, and this horse had picked up on it!
One of the first things I learned from the horses when embarking on my journey with them years ago was to focus on receiving with gratitude their special nuggets of wisdom, rather than trying to fix them because something was wrong or inferior. By the way, this can also be applied to our relationships with one another.
I was always frustrated when visitors especially horse people would find something wrong with a horse’s physical body and totally miss the presence of the magnificent being and the personal spiritual gift that had just been offered. With Cinnamon, I had entered her life with a similar intention of fixing her supposed loneliness, and her supposed inability to relate to me, judging her as tuned out and unaware. In retrospect, as I spurt out a quick embarrassed laugh, the exact opposite was actually true of this horse. With this new awareness and view of myself and what I had caused, I felt a sudden bittersweet humility wash over me, and was reassured that Cinnamon had finally given me another chance by offering her forthright message.
I walked on down the road with my dog, and when I came back by the small pasture, there was Cinnamon munching grass in the corner closest to where we walk. My heart responded knowingly that she was welcoming me. Enjoying her gentle invitation to connect, I whispered a thank you from the burgeoning gratitude filling my chest, then feeling that was enough for this time, walked on home.
The next day on my routine dog walk, I stopped and chatted with a neighbor nearby. When I finally got to Cinnamon, she was at the fence with her body pressed against it. I could not resist, and humbly walked over to her. She presented her soft nostrils to me and let me touch them for the first time! The next day, the same response. We stood together briefly then she would walk away.
Yesterday, when she saw us, she left her stall and walked quickly to greet us. What I had wanted with this horse in the beginning has finally happened, connection. Isn’t that what we all want, even with each other? She brought me out of my ego and reminded me to receive rather than to be her saviour or hero which can often times be condescending. Being humbled by this beautiful being who spoke the truth to me, “you are patronizing me,” I am tasting the sweet nectar of life in connection with her. We are “home.” Together.
Dollar, my elderly quarter horse, developed a series of colic episodes within a month or so, each time with a different known cause. To you who are unfamiliar with the horse world, “colic” is a potentially life threatening tummy ache having multiple causes but is usually, but not always, indicated by a blockage in the digestive tract. In most cases, it is treatable by a vet. Usually the horse will turn and bite at his or her side, and will want to lie down and roll which can be dangerous in some cases causing a twisting of the gut which is alleviated either by death or a $10,000 surgery, or in some cases, thankfully, a miracle. In any case, it is not something to take lightly.
The first occasion with Dollar I saw coming early in the afternoon. My horses do not colic often but after purchasing my first horse years ago I was trained in the different acupressure points for use when a horse colics. I have used it successfully over the years I have worked with horses, even with horses that were not my own. I have never needed a vet for colic with my own horses.
But this time nothing worked. And the vet was hours away. I tried various things with Dollar but he continued to worsen until it was extremely unsafe to be in the corral with him. He was flailing, throwing himself to the ground or against the fence, pulling himself up to a standing position just in time to crumple to the earth again and again. He is in human years 90-100 years old and I could see his energy waning. I surrendered to the inevitable. My guy was leaving us. We just needed to wait it out as I sent him as much love and compassion as I possibly could, and thanked him for all that he had given to me and taught me, and all that he had suffered on my behalf. There seemed to be no connection with him.
I have learned over the 30 years of being taught by my horses, that when I am presented a challenge by them, there is something for me to learn from a spiritual perspective. I spent far too much time trying the conventional or even alternative approach which in the past had always been effective, but as I entered a new phase on my journey, those methods no longer brought the needed results. I was being nudged to move beyond even alternative ways. One of the things the horses have taught me is that when I touch in at the spiritual or mystical place, the horses move through their discomfort quickly. But this night, it seemed not even that was working.
To get some space for myself and my spirit, I went inside the barn for awhile. When I checked a little while later, I found Dollar lying quietly asleep. Although I was happy, I considered that it was pure exhaustion that had quieted him.
There was a slight drizzle and I wanted to throw a cover over him while he slept, but did not want to risk awakening him to his driving pain again. I tip toed to my car parked nearby and I too slept. When I woke before the sun crested the hill, with somber resignation I looked for Dollar’s silent carcass. What I found instead was Dollar standing calmly nibbling at food as if nothing had happened the night before, and a small pile of poop nearby, that magical sign we all await when a horse colics. It is an indicator that that things are moving again in the gut and, in most cases, all is well.
A week later, tummy ache again, this time it was mild. I spent the day with him expecting things to work out. By late afternoon, there was no change, neither better nor worse. Easy enough just to keep waiting and hoping until approaching nightfall joggled me into action. Because of my history with the horses, I knew that often when I sketched the horses, they got better. The thought kept nagging at me and I kept putting it off feeling I had no energy for it. That skeptic voice wanted me to believe that it was just wishful thinking anyway. Even after the many years of experience to the contrary, the skeptic continued to win. Since there had been no improvement with Dollar, I finally overrode its voice, and reluctantly got my sketch pad and charcoals. As an uninspired effort, I made a couple of sketches of Dollar, then put the pad away and went on to other chores. About 15 minutes later, I happened to notice that Dollar was eating and then, since I was paying attention, he pooped in front of me. Hmmm. Okay. Great! He was okay again!
Over the next couple of weeks, Dollar showed signs of colic 2 more times. The first of the two, I was still being stalked by the persistent and convincing skeptic. Again, I reluctantly got my sketch pad, sighed, then haphazardly sketched Dollar as if by rote. I was sure the statute of limitations had kicked in and I would be left with disappointment and Dollar still in discomfort. However, to my amazement, his colic symptoms reversed within minutes. He was eating and he pooped.
With his final colic, there was no hesitation on my part. Sidestepping the skeptic , I immediately grabbed my charcoals, sketching pad, a bucket to turn upside down for a stool, and headed out to the nearby pasture where Dollar was lying down restlessly and pointing to his side. I had settled in with a good start on a very pleasing sketch of him when he abruptly got up and walked away. Simultaneously, I received an important phone call and completely forgot to observe him. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I found him at his food bucket and was feeling satisfied with that manifestation when he stepped away from his food, lifted his tail and pooped. With that exclamation point, I could only laugh heartily that he had not only recovered from his colic once again, but he had waited until I was watching to do his final pooping magic. Such is the language of horses! I was finally getting the amazing lesson.
It wasn’t until then that I remembered that the night of his first colic when he was in such violent pain, and just before I’d found him quiet and asleep, I had sat on the steps inside the barn and sketched him. I had not put that together at that time. I had finally realized the connection between my sketching him and the reversal of his colic.
It took 30 years of pieces, parts, and inklings but the whispering equines finally got it across to me, the equine art of healing: There is more to our physical talents and gifts than we realize. They have gathered me up, challenged me, taught me, healed me and taken me with them on an amazing mystical journey.
And well done, Dollar! He has been stronger than ever, and no colic has occurred since.
-personal transformation through interaction with the horses
-seeing and feeling in fresh new ways
-discovering new artistic styles
-unraveling mysteries in your art and self
DATES: TBD( If it rains we will reschedule or cozy up in the barn on hay bales, with hot apple cider, treats, and the delicious smell of horsey breath! Dress warmly.
LOCATION: Manchester (directions will be given with your registration) We will be meeting with the horses at a one-of-a-kind beautiful ranch with a menagerie of birds, horses, cows, goats, dogs, and cats)
FEE: $167 (4 classes 3-4 hours each),
EXPERIENCE: Non-artist to accomplished artist
WHAT TO BRING: Wear layered clothing, protective shoes or boots. Bring lunch, water, a journal, any size sketch pad (large is good if you need to stretch your boundaries, inexpensive pads okay, we’ll be doing lots of sketching), and pencils, pens, crayons, or charcoal whatever you prefer (I personally love charcoal), as well as additional materials such as watercolors or your own preferred medium. Beginners, talk to me.
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Wednesday, October 24, 2018** This is not a drop-in class. Please pay in full for all 4 classes. For payment arrangements please contact me. Cash or check okay. No Refunds once classes start.
Like climbing Mt. Everest, horses are challenging to sketch, but the rewards are intrinsic. In this class we will rely on different skills to capture the magnificence of the equine form and spirit,…as well as our own. We will use an irreverent approach to our art, stepping outside the box of our own artistic style and needs.
This is not a class about conventional or mechanical technique. The goal will be to let the horses take us deeper into ourselves in a spiritual sense and discover our own purpose and intuitive styles both in our lives and our art. As we follow their guidance, our equine guides will uncover delights we didn’t know we had hidden under our predetermined self perceptions.
The class is meant to be lighthearted and fun, but deep acting. We will use sketching and movement exercises to explore different ways of looking, seeing, and feeling the freedom of the moving equine forms, to engage our intuitive, to capture the equine spirit merged with our own, and to observe what the horses are reflecting to us about our soul and our own unique artistic style. There will be a strong thread of self discovery through our art, through the interaction with other artists, and through the inspiration of 5 horses. For more information, please call or email me.
Equine Guides: Dollar, Shaman, Mariah, Amoura, and Kaheka
Interpreter/Facilitator: Beverly Smith
About: Beverly and The Herd:
Beverly, a 76 year old retired classroom instructor, artist, and writer, works with horses in non-traditional ways. After her first horse, Apolinaire, refused the traditional approach, she embarked on a path to learn directly from him and from each additional horse she rescued. Over the next 25 years she observed the spiritual connection between horse and human. The horses were the whisperers, and she became the interpreter of their language. Today Dollar, Shaman, Mariah, Amoura, and Kaheka still work with her and with other humans who choose to experience the transformational wisdom and healing these animals offer.
“ When I put the thick glistening gold paint on and watch the fine red thread of color migrate from the canvas back to an outstretched bristle of the brush and then see it collide with a tiny mound of blue violet edging the white lily of the painting, I know and feel why I paint. It’s the squealing in my soul, the physical flood of endorphins and the slow motion visual magic of mistakes turning towards magnificence…” Carole Watanabe, artist/business woman from The Ecstatic Marriage of Life and Art
As I am embarking on my journey as a professional artist, I soon had to learn that the painting above had a life of its own beyond the canvas, the paint, and the brush…and my own ideas. It all started with the quote above, and has evolved into a true story that is almost unbelievable.
After reading Carole Watanabe’s quote above, I decided I wanted to experience the sensuous feeling of brush and paints on the canvas that she described. Up until that moment, my experience with painting had been limited to the thrill of reproducing something with some degree of precision. There would be a lot of labor and frustration, then the joy of accomplishment. In contrast, for the above painting, I threw all to the wind like my free spirited mare, Mariah, has taught me to do, and decided to paint from a card sent to me many years ago. Jumping right in, I slapped paint on the canvas using a palette knife which I’d always wanted to do, and never had tried (Why not, I wonder?). I loved the effect of the purple underpainting peeking through where the next layer of paint didn’t quite cover, and the texture of the thick paint as I smoothed it on learning quickly not to overwork it. I painted faster than I’d ever done before finishing it up in less than 2 hours as opposed to days and weeks. I loved the painting, but more than that, I loved the experience of painting! I felt lighthearted, happy, and joyful!
In my exuberance, I took it to my landlord who loves my more precision-oriented horse paintings. When I showed him this work which was different than anything I had produced, he became quiet, squinted, and then said, emphatically, “That’s not very good.” At first, shocked at his bluntness, I rode the wave of recovery with first a laugh at his daring, and then an appreciation for his lack of pretense. I was carried along on the wave because I was in the joy of my experience. I’d had a lot of fun painting with wet paint on wet not knowing with each stroke how it would look. I experienced what Carole was writing about, the awesome merging of colors.
Not being daunted I sent photos off to my artist friends and told them what had happened. I did a disclaimer saying that my landlord might be right. I hadn’t had time to process, and the day may come when I would feel chagrin that I had shared it with anyone. But for now, I was exhilarated and wanted to do more paintings in that style.
I put the painting in the car to share with a friend at the ranch where my 5 rescue horses are pastured. We don’t often cross paths, but when we do, we have crazy and wonderful interactions around our horses. Today she just happened to be there. I showed her the painting that was oozing with thick paint that was still very wet from a few hours before.
She looked at it and she too grew silent as my landlord had done. Uh oh. She is also a very forthright person. When she spoke, my guarded mind had a hard time catching up with her words as they spilled out. She wanted to buy it! She was serious and offered me a good and fair price. How could this happen so easily and so fast!? Yes. Of course I will sell it. I hadn’t yet signed it nor varnished it, and I wanted to show it at a possible venue for selling my other paintings. We decided I would take it home to complete my agenda.
I carefully placed it in the car feeling a new sense of protective responsibility for what was now “her” painting even though we hadn’t yet finalized the sale. Feeling a little uneasy, I made sure the painting was placed where it couldn’t hit the floor with sudden braking nor be crushed by something falling. The painting made it home safely. Since the landlord’s large puppy that chews on everything within and beyond reach was gone for the night, I put the painting safely on the table away from a fresh bouquet of flowers that might drop pollen on it.
The next morning, after giving my memory time to reboot, I shuffled off in my slippers to look at my painting with fresh eyes. Of course it was still there, Silly. No gremlin intruder had carried it away during the night, so why had I been so nervous about it? I did, however, notice a lot more pollen on the table than expected. Cringing, I hastily moved the painting further away from the flowers, then instinctively swiped my finger through the pollen. A cold awareness crawled over me in slow motion. The “pollen” was fresh paint. The colors of my painting! Then, I noticed it over the whole table. My focus went immediately back to my painting! I ran for my glasses. A mystery was developing. Sure enough there were tiny footprints on the table—and on my painting! During the night, little feet had walked all over my wet painting! The absurdity of it all! It was surreal! I wiped up the table and found one identifying animal deposit left discreetly behind a basket on the table. There had been a silent intruder after all. Le rat! Who would have thought!? Was he a mischievous and fun loving teenage rat who sneaked out of the his parents’ nest in the darkness to create a little havoc in the world? And just happened upon some fresh paint perfect for painting graffiti over the surface of the table? Harmless fun?! Or was it a wannabe artist taking the liberty to add multiple touches to my painting?
No matter the story that night. Le rat left foot tracks on my fresh work of art that I had joyfully painted, and was poised to sell; a painting that I had been diligent to protect from harm. It was no longer the same painting. The story is too unbelievable, and too hilarious for me to be really upset, even with the potential loss of a sale. But I could have used that money!
There is more. When I checked the book Animal-Speak, The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, by Ted Andrews, I discovered that one of the keynotes for rats is “success.” In Ted’s words, “…though rats don’t have a very elegant reputation, they are tremendously adaptable. …People born in the Chinese year of the rat are said to be success-oriented…This drive for success may be what the rat has come to speak of with you….” Perhaps this 4-legged graffiti artist has brought me opportunity for success in ways not yet known. I will thank Le Rat, and send him on his way to do the rest of his work somewhere else far away!
The rest of the adventure still lies ahead. Once I had finished the painting, it packed its bag and took me on its own journey as I scrambled to keep up. We traveled through the rejection by my landlord, the offer to buy it by a friend, the protective efforts on my part, the visit by le rat during the night, footprints on fresh paint, the altered painting, and now the story. I am fascinated. What is next? There is a delightful “squealing in my soul,” and a children’s story percolating in my mind.
The horses are in heaven in their new pasture. I am too when I go there to care for them. I sketch. I feel. I grumble that I’m not good enough. The horses remind me that my sketching is not about that. It is to connect with the horses, and with life, at levels unaware as well as aware. It is about healing.
Mariah, my mystical mare, today, faster than I can grasp, took off across the new and open pasture. Freedom. Space. Comfort. Solid ground. No more deep mud. Pure pleasure. Release. Free of restriction. She throws her head to the sky and her tail juts out from her rear like a fancy tent before cascading below and away into the wind. So light on her feet, a buck, a kick out, so effortlessly, a beautiful prance, then off again flinging her head, loving the feeling of her body.
Kaheka, thoroughbred off the race track, wasn’t a winner, but a beauty for sure. “Masculine Beauty,” a friend endearingly calls him. Today he sprinted across the pasture. Body low, front legs and back legs stretched out, in my mind’s memory from hoof to hoof to the max, parallel to the ground. He flies. He flies like a jet. No! Jets fly like him. His kind came first. He effortlessly flies. I feel the power of his rear engines, and his determination to conquer with his body.
Mariah dances. She rises up into the sky in perpendicular fullness; Kaheka is compressed low, stretched from head to toe. Speed, both of them. He, racing straightaway across the distance; she pirouettes, and spirals in the clouds. He, an arrow from a bow. She, a graceful deer catching the currents both wild and tamed.