A friend who sends me surprises in the mail (snail mail) from time to time, did it again just yesterday. It was a double surprise because she had just sent me something a week ago and I didn’t expect another so soon. It was done on purpose because she’s a bit of a trickster from the fairy realm, a beautiful one at that, and the wings you can make out just barely if you squint a little, but there’s no mistaking that mischievous gleam in her eye.

She often tucks in some money for hay for the horses. This time her gift included a book, a children’s book,… or maybe not? Frederick, by Leo Lionni. Do you remember it? It’s about a mouse, an unproductive mouse. I’m not going to tell you the story, it’s for you to discover. It’s a quick read and you can seek it out at your local bookstore. Pick it up and read it while still in the store, then buy it to send to a friend.

It’s written for those in this world who are dreamers, artists or otherwise, who aren’t behaving in the expected way. In the words of Bruno Bettelheim, “…A story about the glory of the human spirit.”

Off you go on a treasure hunt. I will be curious to know what you think of it.

On the Smell of Horses

photo by chandra smith

Tonight I was giving Tal a rub down before he left for the far pasture to graze. I noticed his body fragrance. I told him he smelled like a flower, like perfume in a horsey sort of way. Maybe he’d been using an aftershave, I teased. I pressed my nose into his coat and took a long breath and began thinking about what smells tell us, and how they make us feel. Sometimes when one of my horses is not feeling his best, I detect a metallic odor, or sometimes sour.

In one of my favorite books, What Horses Say, by Anna Clemence Mew and Julie Dicker ….it is mentioned that different breeds and even different colored coats smell differently. Tal is black and white and sure enough his black coat has a different scent than his white. Apparently some horses on occasion won’t like the smell of another horse. And it makes me wonder about those highly fragrant fly repellents we humans insist on using. I learned early on that some of my more sensitive horses didn’t like the fragrance. They would run away when I started to apply it, until I finally found one with a more natural fragrance.

My favorite aroma on the ranch is the seasoned horsey smell mixed with crushed apple breath. I inhale deeply and hold, savoring the feeling it evokes. I’m transported through time to memories and places like old homestead ranches and abandoned apple orchards where the nature spirits run freely. The familiar home feeling emerges, that which was interwoven through my childhood years and is now a tie to my past. It makes me want to ride the top of a wave until the sun sets in the western sky.

What Horses Say: Book Recommendation

 charcoal drawing by bev

The post I’ve been working on for Journey Into Surrender, Part 7, has been causing me some sweat and is taking me, heaven forbid, in a different direction than I had intended. After weeks of spinning wheels in my mind, I surrendered. While I’m working on it, I thought I’d re-enter blog posting by presenting a recommendation of a book I’ve been reading during this time: What Horses Say, How to Hear, Help and Heal Them by Anna Clemence Mews and Julie Dicker.

This is one of the best books I’ve read on animal communication. Though specifically for horses, it can be applied to any animal. It is professionally and yet humbly written as anecdotal, for the most part, in contrast to a step by step approach on how to communicate. That is what I found so appealing. I came away being much more aware and in tune with my own intuitive process unencumbered by someone else’s instructions in how to communicate with animals. I have read those and learned, but this was a refreshing change. One chapter offers guidelines but always with a sense of honoring one’s own process.

There is a lovely quality about this book that I’m finding hard to express in words. When I finished the book, I felt I’d literally been in the gentle presence of Julie Dicker, an intuitive and healer, and the horses she interviewed as she went on various ranch calls. They taught me by the way they interacted with each other and perhaps through some unseen essence. Something changed in me as a result in the way I now listen to my animals.

Julie Dicker was a professional and gained a reputation of being reliable, and was respected even among people who were skeptical of her gift. More so, she was respected and trusted by the horses with whom she communicated. In Julie’s words, “Healing, in my view, is essentially creating a space where unconditional love can flow.”

It is a well organized book, and Anna Mews has written gracefully as she presents well researched and inspiring communications Julie had with individual horses that result in solutions to behavioral or health problems, or just plain frustrations. Each chapter closes with questions addressed to 62 different horses, and their collective and sometimes individual responses on the particular topic covered in that chapter. Many of their responses were quite surprising to me, some amusing. I found it to stretch my own boundaries with topics I’d never even considered discussing with any animal.

Addressing the area of animal communication and the obvious skepticism that is aroused in our culture, Anna is non-judgmental, politely and intelligently informative, yet not defensive. And, the stories themselves speak quietly without a need to prove with superfluous descriptions.

One topic was in reference to the effects of smells on numerous horses. Individual horses expressed strong negative feelings about certain smells such as perfumes, alcohol, tobacco, etc. One horse that was being interviewed walked away when his owner came near his stall. He told Julie that “Sandy stinks.” As it turned out a bit humorously, she had recently changed perfumes.

Having recently read this chapter, I was able to interpret my dog’s behavior last week and avoid an unnecessary altercation that could have undone weeks of progress in riding in the car. After adopting her a few months ago, we discovered that she got very car sick. Over the past months, I have been working with her a step at a time going short distances until now we are able to go miles without stopping.  In conjunction with our ritual, I’ve used homeopathy that has been very helpful in settling her anxiety.

One day, instead of using the homeopathic remedy, I decided to use lavender oil instead as aromatherapy in the car to relax her. Feeling quite smug about the whole thing, I sprinkled it on her special rug that laid across the back seat. Quick and easy, I thought to myself. Couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Usually when I bring her to the open car door she will crawl in the back seat willingly, even though not so excited about the prospect of a ride. This time she planted all 4’s and refused to get in the car. She is a big dog, and lifting her in was not my preference. After a brief war with my authoritarian ego that considered forcing her, I remembered what I’d read in What Horses Say. I realized she did not like the strong lavender fragrance one bit. I took a deep breath rolled up the rug with my ego in it, and threw it in the front seat and replaced it with a non-lavender-ized rug, and was quite pleased with myself for doing so, for letting go of my excellent idea! However, she still would not get in the car. I had taken a step but not good enough; the front seat wasn’t far enough away for the lavender scented rug. Of course it wasn’t, the whole car reeked. According to my dog, it needed to be buried preferably, or thrown in the trunk. The latter made the best sense to me and that is where it went. Without further hesitation, she got into the car and we drove off happily down the road to a long walk in the redwoods, a trip that had been saved by What Horses Say (and dogs too).

Thank you, Anna Clemence Mews and Julie Dicker.