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.
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.
Dollar: a view that caught my eye one day. I love the flowing lines around muscle, and the warmth of his coat in the sunshine.
As I returned home after a Thanksgiving trip to join my son and his family for the holiday, I was feeling depressed that I hadn’t found a place to move the horses yet. As I entered the pasture area, Dollar, the head guy here, came up to me and quietly pressed his warm and soft muzzle into the back of my hand and held it there. It was the most alive, and soothing kiss I’ve ever received and brought me quickly out of my depression. He reminded me of the world of love beyond the material.
He’s so human sometimes. That’s not necessarily a compliment for him except for the fact that he knows how to speak my language.
Tonight, I had another brief moment with him. I’d had a troublesome human to human conversation and had lost my spiritual connection. Dollar sauntered by and gently nudged me on my leg, and as he continued moving past me, turned his head back to look at me and check my response. His equine gesture felt like a reassuring human squeeze that said , “Stay cool. You’re okay.”
The acknowledgments from this sentient being are remarkable. They often come as a surprise to me when I’m too consumed by my own “stuff” to even acknowledge him. Walking past him with my eyes glazed over, he snaps me back to awareness in such a gentle way with his nudges. He draws me deep into the heart of love, and turns my day around.
The whole herd is on the move. Literally. We are relocating in a few days to a small ranch with a lovely homestead feeling. And it’s for sale! I’ve always envisioned an opportunity like this. Depending on how things evolve this is either a temporary stay on our way to a more permanent place or this will become our permanent place as the magic kicks in. That is my desire. And the magic is working lately even in finding this place.
Revision: Since writing the above post, the magic has taken us on a detour at the last minute. We have not moved to our dream place after all, but maybe there is something better, or maybe something will change and we can buy it or find a buyer that would lease to us. In the meantime we are still on the move, and need a place now. Time is of the essence.
I am including in this post a link to our Gofundme site that a young and supportive friend set up on behalf of the horses all of whom have been rescued; and myself, and not to exclude Henii, the rescued Airedale mix). We are in transition and would welcome support for feed and care of the horses for a few months until the vision becomes self sustaining. This would be a “bridge” like entrepreneurs use during a start up.
We also need funds for trailering the 5 equine beauties, as a friend calls them. If you are inspired to be a part of our journey by contributing or by prayers in whatever way you do that, we would be grateful.
As he drove by the scene of a recent automobile accident, my husband at that time caught the bewildered face of a child peering through the backseat window of one of the damaged cars. He seemed so tiny, so alone and vulnerable in the aftermath of the collision even though it was minor. Adults were outside busily attending to the details and deciding what was next, a bit rattled and too busy to think about this little guy who in their minds was tucked safely away in the car. In truth he was drenched in anxiety, his own and theirs.
My husband had felt helpless, he told me, as he gestured with his hand on his heart. There were enough adults nervously scurrying around so it seemed one more wouldn’t solve anything, especially a stranger and the social constraints when interacting with a child. He drove on by, continuing on home. For the next 20 minutes, he kept replaying the child’s anxious face in his mind.
At times like these when for valid reasons I feel helpless, there is an action I’ve learned to take if I am not able to do something physically to help. I identify that helpless feeling as compassion confined and restrained, swirling around internally seeking an outlet or some gateway out of its prison so it can accomplish its goal. To do its work. To help in some way. I experience it as a feeling of unrest and often as a painful ache as it squeezes against my heart.
The action we can take with or without a physical expression is to recognize that the feeling itself carries healing and once released it has the power to bring change in the circumstance that aroused it. For me it is like opening a gate for a horse and allowing it to run freely toward its destination. I have learned that as I open my heart to the feeling of wanting to do something but not knowing what or simply not being able, I literally send the feeling of compassion to the person or circumstance in need. I allow the compassion to do its work mystically. I find that it leaves me with an inner calm and an assurance that my compassion contributed to the needs of the situation perhaps in ways I may never know.
When famous race driver, Ayrton Senna, from Brazil had his fatal crash in front of the world, I looked on as the TV cameras played and replayed the accident. Since it was the same tape, obviously nothing changed though we kept hoping for it. Moments would go by and because of race track safety rules no one could go to him immediately. Seeing that over and over, his sitting in his demolished car and not one human being going to him, I felt agony deep in my soul that he, whether or not still alive, was alone. My compassion caused my heart to ache with excruciating unrest over the next few days. I was perplexed. There was nothing I could do. I didn’t even know him, but had learned that he was well loved and known by his country as a caring person. Finally, even though by then the event had happened days before, I released my compassion to fly freely and to join countless others to accompany him into eternal time. My soul was filled with quiet. The work had been accomplished. Peacefulness blanketed me.
Having grown up Christian, I was well aware of the work of Jesus. One day as an adult, I became aware that in almost every account of Jesus’ healing, he first felt compassion. It was then that I began to understand it as an active healing energy that is sourced in the divine. It has made a significant difference in transforming my own feelings of helplessness caused by trapped compassion, to releasing it into its power. In doing so we become channels for divine healing and our souls can find their restfulness knowing all is well. We have been a divine channel.