Walking Away

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Amoura. “Walking Away”

Amoura was the third to open her classroom door to me. I had learned non-resistance from Shaman, and sensitivity rather than anger from Kaheka. Since non-resistance was so amazing, I was prepared to experience that with Amoura, but I wasn’t quite sure how to apply it to her, and did not want to do it as a technique, and especially if not appropriate.

I wanted to check her hooves and to clean them from impacted debris. I don’t usually put a halter on to pick up hooves. When I leaned over to lift her front hoof, she walked away.  For some reason that makes me feel a little awkward and silly when that happens, as if someone is watching and I feel embarrassed that the horse had her way with me.  I must admit that I become more determined and forceful. Today I had an overflow of peaceful energy from Shaman so I stepped back and relaxed into the process. I let her walk away (as if I had a choice!). I was feeling a kind of non-resistance but we weren’t making any progress toward solving the hoof issue, though I could have let that go.

Of course I continued to try again, and again unsuccessfully. Each time I peacefully watched her walk away. I noticed, though, that she actually wanted me to clean her hooves and would circle around, and come up to me, but then walk away just as I reached out for her hoof. This is something Amoura has done since she first joined the herd. She wants to cooperate but because of her abusive background, she has difficulty trusting.

“Fear,” she whispered. Aah. Professor Amoura gave me a “classroom” tip. It was fear! As I had learned with Kaheka, I started to reassure her in a soft, gentle, voice. She immediately stopped in perfect synchronicity with my energy shift, and lifted her hoof. Four hooves later, she had clean feet!

Such a subtle shift in recognizing her fear, and a simple reassurance was all that was needed. I could have haltered her and forced the issue, but we would have both missed out on the deeper connection, and on the lesson she wanted me to learn. Does it take time and patience? Sometimes, yes! But the deeper connection with the horse is worth the wait, and sets the stage for going even deeper next time. It is also preparing me personally for working with ordinary problems with other horses in non aggressive ways, and with humans as well.

 

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Amoura. “For the Joy of It”

Non Resistance

Bury Your Head In This. ..And Smell His Horsey Breath

Shaman is a teddy bear disguised as a large horse. People love to bury their heads in his neck, smell his sweet horsey breath, and sink their lips into his soft muzzle.

He recently presented me with a new problem to solve, after Kaheka Boy and I finally resolved a halter issue with him (prior post). It all started when I recently made a commitment to get more serious about working with equine problems other than my own. Since then the horses in my care have lined up to present new lessons to get me ready. As the “professors” in their equine university, they never miss a chance to groom and school me for what is next. Thankfully they always show me where I have already changed but didn’t realize it. One of those times is demonstrated in this story.

Apparently I had to first be shown a technique that I didn’t like. An acquaintance wanted to show me a 1-2-3 step to get Shaman to step forward on “demand.” (her word, not mine) Multiple times he failed steps 1 and 2 and ended with the 3rd step which was jerking on Shaman’s head and using the abrasiveness of the rope halter to get him to step forward. No. That is not to be my relationship with horses! That was clear. So, I was now ready for my own step forward with my equine instructors.

A friend, who is honing her skill of listening carefully to her horse, said to me recently that her desire is to work with her horse in a way that allows her to choose to cooperate without threatening consequences. We both value an authentic, cooperative, and deepening spiritual relationship with our horses. A horse may change its behavior because of uncomfortable or negative consequences, but that change is based on discomfort or fear, and hierarchy, not trust and cooperation which is my goal here at the ranch. While there may be the desired outward change, their connection with their human is not the same.

Daily I move Shaman back and forth between paddock and pasture at supplement time. He tries to sneak away under the rope I use as a corridor to guide him. After multiple attempts, I hoped he would settle into a routine. He didn’t. Finally, I put a lead rope gently over his neck like a bolo tie with my hands as a clasp beneath so I could guide him to our destination. He immediately did an awesome musical figure 8 with his huge neck and head and almost dislodged the rope, pulling his head under and away from any confinement. Clever. And a bit mischievous. I, instead of bracing and holding the rope taut like I normally do, was extremely surprised by my spontaneous and effortless response which was a new experience for me. Without thought, I simultaneously released any tension on the rope. Still holding it, I let it drape loosely in place beneath his neck, and felt that inner place of peacefulness and harmony. He stopped immediately. There was no resistance for him to push against. I waited. At last he took a step to move forward with me.

For 5 days we did this. Each day he whirled his head around to free himself from the rope. Each day I relaxed and released any tension. The 6th day, after putting the rope softly over his neck yet again, there was quiet. There was no figure 8 with his head. None. Instead he immediately stepped softly forward on his own initiative toward our destination. It was a gracefully choreographed movement which I am sure was designed by the gods with me as his dance partner. We then walked side by side with his bulky body light as a feather!!

There was no human jerking his head, and no figure 8 maneuver on his part. Instead he chose to step forward quietly without any waiting…and without any threat. We floated back to the pasture. He gave me these moments of feeling what two Olympic ice skaters must experience during a gold medal performance. Complete synchronicity and pure harmony. We’ve been experiencing that daily since then. The joy of non resistance. Not a technique, nor a rule for all times, but a pure moment when what was right for that time, emerged spontaneously.

 

What My Horse Taught Me Today

Kaheka Boy

Tonight I tangled with Kaheka Boy. Again. Every evening I put the halter on him before turning him out into the interim pasture to eat his supplement. Every night he throws his head at the very last minute just as I am buckling the halter, jerking it right out of my hands and propelling it to the ground. Each night I yell at him, “Every goddamn night you do this!” all the while I’m cringing inside with poisonous shame and guilt. I knew I was being a bitch and not solving the problem even a little bit. Even though I knew there was a better way, taking the easier road, I persisted in my reactionary response.

My goal for the past 20 years has been to work cooperatively with horses. But I still forget. Tonight, I not only yelled but I picked up his halter from the ground and threw it back down. Hard! I don’t think I could ever hit this horse but throwing the halter on the ground like I did felt like the same harsh energy. Even though he is in his 20’s, an older guy by now, he has a youthful innocence. Like a teenager, he can be challenging but endearing at the same time, and extremely sensitive. In this instance, he simply rolled his eyes, turned his head and looked around as if embarrassed, to see if anyone was watching my foolishness, then patronized me with a “guru” type superior nod as he patiently observed my childish tantrum.

A few months ago Kaheka walked away from the new-to-us but old-in-years ferrier as he was trimming Kaheka’s hooves. I mean, he didn’t casually saunter away, he was on the move and ignored my efforts to stop him. In response to this horse’s one time “un-ruly” behavior, the ferrier made a stud shank out of a soft lead rope for Kaheka and put it over his head and muzzle. Then he yanked down on it to discipline him. Seemingly, it worked! Kaheka stood statue still. Exactly the behavior the ferrier wanted! Done. Wrong. Unfortunately, the ferrier wasn’t done. He also wanted to educate me in how to use it, as if I were interested. I wasn’t. My preference is to look behind the scenes at the real message the horse is bringing rather than resorting to harsh physical techniques assuming malicious intent. The ferrier, however, continued to give a periodic yank on the rope which was wrapped around Kaheka’s muzzle attempting to get a point across to me. After about 4 more times, not only was I paralyzed with a feeling of chaotic confusion and not wanting to get into a fighting match with the ferrier, something I must get over, Kaheka too was bewildered as to what the hell he was suppose to do or not do as he stood there absolutely still which was the original intent of the ferrier. By the last yank Kaheka had enough and immediately headed toward the barn door. The ferrier, to his credit, tuned in to his own Native American wisdom quickly laying aside white man authoritative “I-need-to-win” mentality. Realizing his error, he pulled the shank off and Kaheka immediately calmed down. But the impact had not dissipated. Kaheka spent the rest of his hoof trimming session with his lanky thoroughbred legs trembling noticeably.

A few days later I noticed that he, a normally friendly horse, drew away when a man he didn’t know came for a visit. My heart felt like it had been cinched a notch too tight. Kaheka was experiencing the aftermath of a disciplinary action from the “strange” ferrier a few days earlier that did not have to happen. Had the two humans involved stopped to examine what the horse was communicating to us about our own interactions, what a different outcome we would have all experienced. That is why I would never hit this horse. But my throwing a halter harshly to the ground was not a good option.

When the halter hit the ground in a puff of dust, I wondered at how I had regressed. It seems the closer I get to responding to ordinary behavioral issues in nontraditional ways, I backslide more ruthlessly into the very tradition I am hoping to abandon. But all was not lost.

In my efforts to work cooperatively with horses, Kaheka communicated to me now that I was listening with intent to learn from him. He had been throwing his head nightly when I haltered him because he was nervous about the other horses nearby. When I started buckling the halter, he felt constricted and more confined. Instinct for flight overtook him and he threw his head ready to flee. As he explained what was going on with him, I began to feel compassion and understanding. I instinctively lowered my voice, reassuring him that he was safe. “You’re okay, Kaheka, you are okay,” I was reminding him that all was well. And it was! We breezed through haltering him that night.

The next time, he threw his head again! My heart sank after thinking we had found a solution. “Wait,” he said, “This is a process. Don’t give up on me.” He meant don’t give up on yourself! I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then, spoke softly again and reminded him to try to keep his head down, and that he was safe. After more coaching from him, I gave him space to stand in a position that helped him feel more confidant, where he could see the other horses. I whispered reminders to keep his head down, and to reassure him. All has gone smoothly since.

We are now both getting what we want. I get to buckle him without hassle, and he gets to feel confident and safe. I can feel him still on the alert, but putting every effort into keeping his head from flinging upward. He gets buckled more quickly, and then gets to his food sooner. There is a new camaraderie between us instead of antagonism.

In addition Kaheka also has shown me how I do the same thing in my own life. Throwing my head when I’m starting to feel constricted and unsafe, and slowing the process of forward movement by giving into my fears. That is his “guru” lesson for me.

Gratefully, the connection and the cooperation between Kaheka and me has grown deeper and at the same time more transcendent. It is another step forward on our horse and human journey, to work together in cooperation.

 

My Love Affair with Amoura

There is a special bond between us—Amoura and me. I’m not finding words easily to describe the feeling we share. The way she looks at me and watches me, the way she humbly responds after throwing her head violently because an unexpected movement triggered past abuse. She lowers her head and her eyes shamefully for having given into her past. I reassure her and she responds. Her prior owner often slugged her in the head, a memory not easy to overcome.

Lately I have been talking softly to her, “Shhhh, it’s okay, you are safe.” She quiets and looks at me with big dark eyes and seems to melt. We melt together into a new trust that has become a thriving seedling. The inside connection is powerful. An experience of love. Amour. That is who she is and who we are together.

Amoura came to the ranch a few years ago, and the closest she would allow me was about 10 feet if that, any closer she would pin her ears. Seriously. One time she charged me, but I instinctively and instantly threw my arms straight out like wings that looked like a wooden beam to her, and I simultaneously stepped directly toward her, which quickly quelled her aggressive attempt. There was such vulnerability underneath her facade, so much fear.

The evening of her arrival at the ranch, I could hear her tummy from afar making all kinds of gurgling noises, and I knew it was a form of colic from stress. She had been raised alone on one ranch for many years and now in her upper teens had been moved for the first time. I could understand her anxiety. A different location, a new home, other horses, dried grasses instead of year around green, and the unpredictability of a new human.

I hung my body over the old wooden gate and put my hands up with palms softly outward toward her using the reiki my first horse taught me. Amoura and I were both surprised as her gut grew quiet. Right then and there she decided I wasn’t so bad after all and edged over closer to me still on the other side of the gate. Eventually she pushed her rear against the dilapidated fence nearby somehow intuiting that I was a human who loved massaging equine tails and rear ends.

I went to work cautiously and well-armoured with gratitude that there was a fence between us. Those back legs were too fast for my comfort and had a keen and swift edge like a recently sharpened knife that could quickly slice through any obstacle, getting the job done in a moment. This was not a time for me to be reckless.

To be able to touch her from a position of safety was a treat. It was her first step in trusting me. It was definitely not instant calm, but it was a start. I still needed to approach her with caution, with the intention of stopping before she pinned her ears, hoping to ease her out of that reflexive habit.

Her name was Babe when she arrived. There was no way I could call her that. The thought of it hung up in the back of my throat like a fish hook. It must have been a rude cowboy that named her. It was a cheap name for this horse who is flavored with elegance in her sturdy quarter horse body and certainly in spirit. Even though she’s a challenge because of human violations, I sensed a spiritual depth still being uncovered.

Amoura brought me her new name. It was night time again; seems to be when the magic kicks in with the horses and me. Daily chores done, horses all fed, and time to relax under the stars. I was standing near another mare who was in the final stages of her life. A friend I respected had mentioned to me that this mare, Carob, had a deep love for me. The words sounded alien to me. At that time in my life I didn’t expect the horses to love me, nor did it occur to me that they might. I did my job with feeding and caring for them and assumed any affection was related to what I gave to them. That was it. Neat and tidy with no expectations. And of course, no disappointments nor vulnerabilities. And besides, Carob really belonged to my friend who was my partner with the horses. The two of them had a very deep connection. A love relationship for Carob and me was not even a consideration at that time, as if love is rationed.

I learned differently from Carob. She genuinely loved me even in her awkward and often aloof way of letting me know. She was not an overly affectionate horse, preferring not to be touched because of her extreme sensitivity to the carelessness of human energy. She would offer me a quick affirming nudge with her head then just as quickly return to her personal space. She would stand near but not touching while I did an oil painting, hang her head over me while I sat and wrote, and like a housemaid wiping her dishwater hands on her apron, then placing her hands on her hips she marched across the pasture to scold the new and contentious horses to get with it on my behalf. They were all cues I had missed because she was a tough broad. No cuddling with Carob.

With stars blinking their own rhythms above, I stood with Carob near the fence separating us from the adjacent pasture. I was deeply engaged in conversation with her, acknowledging her love and telling her that I received it even though I wasn’t sure how, nor how it might feel. As we stood side by side not touching, I felt something nibble on my outside elbow. I turned to look and there was Amoura with her head stretched well across the fence, just barely able to touch my elbow. There was a definite purpose in her action; no coincidence here. I was intrigued by her gesture and her timing, though slightly confused by the distraction during such an intimate moment with Carob. But Amoura’s message came through immediately. Her name was Amoura and she and Carob were sandwiching me in love. This moment was bursting forth from the heart of the Divine. There was not just one, but now two offering me love in the language of horses.

When Carob died the following week, I understood there had been an important exchange between Amoura and Carob that magical night. Amoura had accepted the torch of love from Carob to carry on with me and the lessons of love.

Over the years I lost the consciousness of that divine encounter; but Amoura had not forgotten. From time to time I would wonder how a horse embodying love was so challenging that I didn’t trust her. But, through the years she has moved in close to me like an unseen angel when I was going through an emotional or spiritual transition or crisis. Even today, she will silently slip in behind me without my knowing. When I’m not aware and think I am alone, there is a very gentle nibbling on my hair out of nowhere. I smile knowingly when I discover it is Amoura. Her quiet touch brushes my soul with tenderness.

Her lameness has come and gone since a trailer incident 5 or 6 years ago, but in the past few months, it has become more obvious and acts like it has burrowed in for good. I cannot find the source of her discomfort, but once I let go of the conventional approach with questions and treatments which I usually pursue unsuccessfully, I am reminded of what I have learned from the horses over the 25 years together. They have taught me that equine issues that they present to me are solved only by approaching it spiritually so it is best to get on with it. That is what the two of us are doing. Her lameness has lured me back into her spiritual world after months of personal distractions.

We are back on the journey into love. Almost a year ago I began wondering about love. I’d always believed I was easy to love (right!), and that I loved easily having been raised in a loving home. But, at that moment a new thought rushed in. I suspect Amoura was whispering a divine message through the trees nearby. What if my perceptions were amiss? What if what I think is love, isn’t? What if the majority of us don’t know but think we do? If we haven’t experienced the truth of love, we have no standard by which to compare what we think is love. We toss the word around so loosely, sometimes so carelessly. What new and expansive sacred world awaits our discovery? These thoughts were more than I could deal with at the time. I set them on the back burner to percolate until the right time. In hobbles Amoura. Her lameness is a love lure. I am curious what she, a damaged and a most unlikely candidate as a carrier for love, will bring and where she will lead. She, the one horse I don’t fully trust, is the chosen one to bring me the most important experience of life, authentic love. When I receive from her, she too will heal. Please join us on this journey into love.

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In the Midst of the Mess

IMG_7188                                           Dollar’s Sign

(This one is for you, Patricia, patriciajgrace.wordpress.com, whose comments on my last post inspired me to venture out and write about myself in the midst of my mess, instead of waiting until it is all cleaned up. And also thanks to In Other’s Words, inotherswords.com, Paper Dolls who speaks of the smiling facade some of us carry when we are dying inside. I’m trying it out. Exposing it, I mean. We’ll see.)

I am overdrawn at the bank. I have 5 cents in my pocket and a partly buried penny on the ground near where my car is parked. My gas tank has a whisper of fuel left, my muddy pasture clothes need to be washed at the laundramat or by hand. I just gathered some food from a local charity. When my social security check is deposited soon, my hungry bank account will gobble it right up. Gone. I have 5 horses, one big dog, and myself to provide for.

So how has it come to this? I’m a middle class, college educated, multi-talented and supposedly wise older woman. How could this be happening to me when I have been so diligent on my spiritual journey with the horses? There are those that know me that will smugly smile that I have failed, at least in their way of thinking, and in so doing I have proven them right. “I told ya so!” are those voices that taunt and haunt.  “Get rid of the horses.” has been their mantra. There are others who have issues with me that will feel a sense of pride or pleasure at my demise. I cringe, but I toss my head and keep on going.

I live in Northern California where we’ve been having a drought that has recently mutated into continuous rain. “Enough!” I scream, “Eeee nufff! “We need it,” those around me say. “We don’t need it all it once,” I snarl. It turns into run off and causes mudslides in the next county already tormented by a catastrophic fire where they lost many homes. “Balance! Moderation!” But the earth is groaning and the sky above is weeping, and I’m going ballastic

Closer to home, my horses’ pasture is a lake with bits of mud surfacing like bullfrog heads but without the humor. Not good for their hooves. And there is no shelter except trees which they don’t seem to use. They do their horsey thing…stand together, turn their butts to the storm, and drop their heads all looking very woeful. It wrenches my heart. When I come they greet me like hungry children and eat like crazy when the dry food arrives. They always have plenty of hay (I free feed 24/7), but the wet and mud waste it. The compost pile in their gut helps keep them warm a vet once told me.

When the sun occasionally bolts its way through the clouds, they lie down and catch up on rest.

IMG_7187                                                        Mariah’s Nap in the Sun

Perhaps it is a metaphor for my life…being in the midst of an endless storm, or maybe the metaphor is prophetic and that my financial drought will turn into an “abundance” storm! Wouldn’t that be nice!  In the meantime, I’ve been angry. Quite angry but it seems not to help. I am allowing it for the time being. Almost exactly a year ago to the day, I lost a lucrative job that I loved and that had easily come my way along with a place to live.  For some reason I have not been able to recover financially, nor find a proper place for myself and the horses. I am baffled.

But underneath all of this, there is a steady and determined drum beat just like the pounding of the rain. Step by step I am finding my way to my calling with the horses which I started 5 or 6 years ago when my landlady forced my horses and me to leave her land because she didn’t want me to do a business there…and she thought I was. I wandered in the wilderness for awhile in search of the promised land.  When I step back and look at my life today I’m watching a movie reminiscent of a Star Wars battle. I’m at the climax where the movie gets good if you are only a viewer and it is not your life. The suspense and the tension is immense. The adrenaline rushes, knuckles turn white, breathing quickens or stops altogether. I will either sink or swim, crash, or avert it at the last minute.

I have been taking huge leaps with practical and productive help from very talented people. They are guiding me in what I don’t do well.  They are teaching me how to market myself and what the horses and I can offer those that want to find respite from the chaos and pain of the world, or to do some deeper work finding purpose and uncovering gifts, healing abuse or addictions, or awakening to the mystical path led by the horses.

However, yesterday I awakened in despair. Even though I am engaged in very tangible and bold movements toward my goal of offering the healing the horses bring, in my fear and financial lack I decided that it was too late to bridge the gap through the transition. I needed to re-home my 5 horses immediately. All of them are horses I’ve rescued, and horses I’ve been traveling with and growing with for years. I cried all the way to the pasture and feared that I, a very determined survivor, was about to have a break down as I did years ago when tears seemed to flow like a leaky faucet because of a worn out washer. This time though, it is just when my life has been getting on track with a facebook page, business cards, and brochures all heading me toward my heart’s desire; and now it was coming to an abrupt halt. My mind was made up. I’ve had a year of hell, and that is enough. I drove the 3 miles to the pasture with no embarrassment that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

Nearing my destination, I started blinking my eyes to clear away the tears as I turned my car onto the lane heading toward the horse pasture. Ahead, I saw a vehicle parked in my driveway to the pasture. Unusual. I didn’t recognize the older and pale yellow Mercedes with seashells glued as a circular emblem on the driver’s side door. As I pulled up, two women happily greeted me showing no shame or guilt for being in the driveway. Not that I thought they should feel that but often people do. It was refreshing that they didn’t. Instead they were absorbed in excitement to have found the horses and were having such childlike delight in feeding them apples and carrots. One was a physically challenged young woman with a brace on one leg, and the other was her companion caregiver. Their radiance encircled and captured me bringing me into their joy. My tears changed to sweet honey from deep within me. I was being touched by magic…as were they. For me, they were God-given angels who had come to remind me of who the horses are and what my calling is with them. This was one of those mystical moments that is difficult to describe. A remembrance, a gentle humbling, a knowing, a transformational moment. I won’t be the same. I cannot be the same.

I knew then what I must do. Without question the horses are not to go, but we are to move forward. Together. Where the money will come from during my transition, I have no idea, but the horses and I are not to separate again.

My financial circumstances have not changed, but the rest of my life has. I seem to be split equally into two parts as the metamorphosis is taking place, the new and the old at the same time, the hope and the fear, the joy and the despair, the confident and the victim. I seem to be dwelling in both. Right now anyway, I’m like a ship changing its coarse in the dark waters. A new direction. I’m rooting for the new, the hope, the joy, the confidence. I want to dance and freely flutter like the butterfly freed from it’s cocoon!

 

The Bully

Chaos. The new and the old. Storming wildly, each claiming its ownership in battle. The bully now stands naked. Weakening but still standing. Still able to stun and paralyze. But after a lifetime of not seeing, my vision is beginning to clear.The internal bully has been asked to get off the couch, dump out its beer and leave.

In desperation it called in its buddies. Suddenly they were appearing from everywhere, the external bullies in full force in new and in familiar human faces. But still the same facade. Whether shaming, scolding, falsely blaming, scapegoating, acting superior, or retaliating, it is called by the same name. The bully.

My voice has been silent and weak. But as the morning light appears, it stretches, and makes small murmurings. It is awakening to this bully that has held me hostage since infancy. Power words are starting to form, speaking the truth, standing tall in the truth even when body is trembling. The ‘nice person’ image that has been my cowering place, is crumbling away. The new, the genuine, the spontaneous rebel is emerging.

Conversations: Mucking Break

charcoal drawing by bev
I was mucking manure near Apolinaire. I accidentally hooked his big nostril with my little pinkie as I was whirling around too quickly with a fork full of manure for the cart. He seemed a bit offended, or maybe just startled out of his sleep. I apologized profusely and tried to kiss his soft muzzle. He pulled away. Such a typical response from him. He told me he didn’t like me making over him like that. I asked why. He said because there are more important things to be taking care of… I understood that to mean in the spiritual realm. I was patronizing him. That was wasting time being inauthentic. We have other work to be doing, he said. I got his point. Time is of the essence.