The Equine Art of Healing

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Mariah (left) and Kaheka

Mystic Mariah, one of two mares in the herd, is a vivacious teenage dancer; light on her feet, easy to plop to the ground for a feel-good roll, bounce back to her feet, then off on a run with head flung high to the wind.

She’s also a bit mischievous with a dry sense of humor that I forget sometimes when I get annoyed at her dramatic flair for throwing hay ever so flamboyantly out of her food bin. And not just hers, but everybody elses’ as she goes from bin to bin taking over their spot.

But I couldn’t help feeling endeared by her the day she coyly deposited a tiny bouquet of flowering grasses in the middle of the sketch I was doing of her. Or the day she made me giggle and laugh when I was doing a charcoal sketch of Shaman Tal and she sauntered over with a gleam in her eye to have a look. She proceeded to erase the whole thing with her mouth, bringing me spontaneous laughter that filled the spacious stall with healing. Something about the whole scenario, my sketching and our laughing brought the restless Shaman to a peaceful quiet, and out of discomfort.

Mystic Mariah has been an active healer often through her humor and her presence alone. Recently, however, I discovered something new that came out of a problem. Mystic Mariah has always been a “noisy” breather from the day she arrived here about 10 years ago. Her audible breath would come and go and I never quite found the pattern for certain. Probably it happened most often when she was feeling a little anxious about something, just like we humans.

In the past year her breathing has become more noticeable on a regular basis but she hasn’t shown stress. But most of us have viewed it as a problem which has distracted us.

A few days ago, that all changed. A bright spirited young woman from Nevada was here on the western coast for respite. She came for a visit with the horses. Arriving ahead of me, she had some time to interact with the horses while I quickly finished my breakfast.

When I finally met her at the gate, she greeted me literally beaming with excitement. Unable to contain herself she blurted out that Mariah was teaching her to breathe! This Mariah with the breathing problem, was teaching this young woman how to breathe?!? How could this be?

I was unexpectedly swooped up and away in an invisible tornado, and swirled into a sudden shift in perspective. I was filled with curiosity, and at the same time a dance of delight. The whole pasture suddenly came alive with a song of triumph, and an otherworldly illumination sparked by this young woman, Steph. There was an intriguing sense of celebration of something new that I later discovered was more expansive than I could have imagined at the time!

Surprisingly, I had not noticed, consciously anyway, that though Mariah’s breath was noisy, each was slow and deep. That is what Steph had tapped into…long breath in and slow breath out. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. This is how a horse normally breathes, we just don’t hear it. Mariah’s just happens to be audible. The long slow breath is a challenge for typical human patterns to sustain. But, Steph was trying to master it.

When I quieted from the sudden and involuntary change in my perspective about Mariah’s breath, I began experiencing it as strength instead of weakness. I, too, started letting Mariah teach me, breathing long and slow breaths with her as Steph had done. A powerful new understanding began to emerge and take root.

Here at the ranch, I’ve known for years that the horses are insistent on giving to us. They are determined to offer us deep healing, and don’t take kindly to clients, nor to myself, when we try to fix them. One very friendly horse, Kaheka, abruptly walked away when one guest reached out her hand to energetically fix and heal.

The healing they offer is often wrapped in symbolism and metaphors that require interpretation. Mariah’s breathing appeared as a problem and a weakness to most humans, then Steph instantly decoded what was presented to her and she received it, then passed it along to me and others with a recorded version.

After Mariah literally breathed life and transformation into human beings, it was her turn to receive but not in the way one would expect. A few days after Steph had been here, Mystic Mariah went through a healing crisis. I at first was ready to call a vet but Mariah interrupted swiftly and spoke firmly that what she was experiencing was a good thing, a healing was taking place. I felt it to be true without question.

After Mariah’s message, I felt strongly grounded with a new sense of courage and boldness in embracing her healing. Twenty-five years of equine mentoring, coaching, and hardcore training converged in that moment. Internal arrows darted through my mind in a review of the many lessons from my equine mentors over time, reminding me and connecting me with all they had taught me regarding healing. I was most certainly taking a master exam for my doctorate in mystical living in the trenches, I say laughingly but with some seriousness. For that very day I had been prepared par excellence by the equine teachers.

I had been shown that doubts, and the very act of seeking proof would chase manifestation away. I was able to easily reject my inclination to do so this time, but a remnant of doubt caused me to struggle with trying not to listen to Mariah’s breathing for fear that I would be disappointed. Mariah interrupted again quickly and succinctly informing me that neither audible nor quiet breathing were the proof of whether or not she was healed. The healing took place in another dimension unscathed by whether there was manifestation or not. Freedom rushed over me in refreshment like a clear mountain brook bouncing lightheartedly over rocks. It quenched my thirst for something more. I could listen to her breathe and make no judgment, and stand simply and firmly in her healing.

That being said, after many weeks I have noticed that Mariah’s breath has softened…not always, but mostly. A few days ago when her breath was especially quiet, we put our nostrils together and I breathed in the sweetness of her pure and gentle breath.

She and the herd reminded me that healing comes with our receiving what they offer us. Our healing and theirs. Steph was able to receive from Mariah. Others, myself included, had not seen past her weakness or her problem..noisy breathing.

Steph started the cycle of healing by receiving from Mariah, and then sharing with others. Then healing came back around to Mariah. For years I have been experiencing this cycle of healing with horses once they brought me to the place of simply receiving from them.

This is the equine art of healing.

Introducing the Herd: Amoura

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Amoura.

She named herself. It had come in a flash. I’m terrible with names, but one night I knew what hers was to be and at the same time, learned her primary gift. Amoura. Love. I never questioned where it came from. I just knew. It was she who had told me.

Amoura’s style is no-nonsense, her messages, I’ve come to know, are quick, succinct, and “no further comment”. She had told me shortly after she arrived here that Tal needed his name changed (it’s now Shaman Tal) and Kaheka had a little girl entity on him. The messages had come so fast and with such clarity, I did a double take, still getting use to animals talking. I couldn’t ignore that I had just heard from her. But that was it, no further information, no idle chit chat.

She leaves me with figuring it out. Her message about Kaheka was interesting because it was during this time when numerous people referred to him as her, including myself. Even his given name I found a little feminine. Kaheka later came to me in a dream and gave me more information.

Amoura walks away from me when I don’t quite understand something. She’s not intending rudeness, she just doesn’t have time for my floundering. She gives an impatient shrug and with her head flung high, indicates “Forget it. Another time”.

In contrast, lately she has been hanging out with me more than usual, following me from place to place, not always, and not enough to feel her a nuisance, but enough to enjoy her. Tonight we had a special interaction just outside the barn. I did some energy work on her with my hands, nothing fancy, no certification required, just following the lead of the horse and my hands.

After some exploration I was unsure where to focus. True to her style, she started directing the bodywork. Moving herself around so that I was standing near her neck, Amoura stepped close to me indicating she wanted me to touch her rather than holding my hands at a distance as I frequently do. After a few minutes she curled her neck away from me so that it was beautifully curved and felt wonderful to my hands. This brought back memories of a prior time that I had done energy work around her neck and shoulder.

Amoura had come to me that day showing some lameness. I experimented with the side that seemed to have the problem. As I reached my hands out toward her, I felt lots of buzzing and even heat in her neck. She softly bonked me with her head like Apolinaire does when affirming me and saying “good job”, and then licked and chewed with satisfaction. I did some energetic work and then she walked 10 feet away and stood and looked back at me. I sensed she wanted me to stay at that distance. I used my hands for awhile from afar, but the motivation to continue subsided which I’ve learned to trust. I sensed I should stand in her presence and she in mine at the distance she had determined for whatever her reason.

I felt a sadness come over me and absentmindedly assumed it was mine. It must have been her impatience that jolted me back to the understanding that it was her sadness that she was sharing with me. She had come to the ranch with her buddy, Dollar. They had been best friends, just the two of them at another ranch. Once here, he had abandoned her for new friends and had become almost intolerant of her. It made me sad. I knew it was hers. When I finally got it, she affectionately bonked me.

Tonight as I stood stroking her neck and remembering, she repositioned herself so I would use my hands from a distance. She yawned and yawned indicating a significant release, another healing. I was grateful, and so was she.

Amoura Tonight: A Horse Directing Her Own Bodywork

charcoal sketch by bev

Amoura
She named herself. It had come in a flash. I’m terrible with names but the one she came with made me cringe. One night I heard her new one and her primary gift. Amoura. Love. I never questioned where it came from. I just knew. It was she who had told me, but it took me a couple of years to recognize that.

Messages
Amoura’s style is no-nonsense. Her messages, I’ve come to learn, are quick, succinct, and without further comment. She had told me shortly after she arrived here that Tal needed his name changed and Kaheka had a little girl entity on him. The messages had come so fast and with such clarity, I did a double take still getting use to animals talking. I couldn’t ignore that I had just heard from her. But that was it, no further information, no idle chitchat.

She leaves it with me to figure out. Her message about Kaheka was interesting because it was during this time when numerous people referred to him as her, including myself. Even his given name I found a little feminine. Kaheka later came to me in a dream and gave me more information. That may be another post sometime.

Amoura walks away from me when I don’t quite understand something. She’s not intending rudeness, she just doesn’t have time for my floundering. Uh! With her head flung high, another time, is her attitude.

Hangin’ Out
Lately she has been hanging out with me more than usual, following me from place to place, not always, and not enough to feel her as a nuisance, but enough to enjoy her. Tonight we had a special interaction just outside the barn. I did some energy work on her with my hands, nothing fancy, no certification, just following the lead of the horse and my hands. Questions and feelings become my awareness…where does she want me to work, where do my hands want to work, and how do they want to move?

Following Her Lead
After some exploration not quite knowing, she started directing the bodywork. Moving herself around so that I was standing near her neck, Amoura stepped her warm body close to me indicating she wanted me to touch her rather than holding my hands at a distance as I frequently do. After a few minutes she curled her neck away from me so that it was beautifully curved and felt wonderful to my hands. This brought back memories of a prior time that I had done enegy work around her neck and shoulder.

Remembering
Amoura had come to me that day showing some lameness. I experimented with the side that seemed to have the problem. As I reached my hands out toward her, I felt buzzing as if my hands had landed on a bee hive, and there was heat. She softly bonked me with her head like Apolinaire does when affirming me and saying “good job, you’re getting it”, and then licked and chewed with satisfaction. After awhile she moved forward so I would do her rear end and tail. (I love working their tails.) I did more work and then she walked 10 feet away and stood and looked back at me. I sensed she wanted me to stay at that distance. I used my hands for awhile from afar, but the motivation to continue subsided which I’ve learned to trust. I sensed I should stand in her presence and she in mine at the distance she had determined for whatever her reason. Quietly we stood. No agenda.

Empathy
I felt a sadness come over me and absentmindedly assumed it was mine. It must have been her impatience that jolted me back to the understanding that it was her sadness that she was sharing with me. She had come to the ranch with her buddy, Dollar. They had been best friends, just the two of them at another ranch, but once here, he had abandoned her for new friends. It made me sad. I knew it was hers. She bonked me again when I got it.

Releasing
Tonight as I stood stroking her neck and remembering, she repositioned herself so I would use my hands from a distance. She yawned and yawned, deeply, indicating a significant release. I was grateful, and matter of fact, so was she.

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.

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.

Hoarding Desire

photo by chandra smith

Tonight Tal, our 4-legged shaman, stayed near me while I worked. I knew we still had more to accomplish together. Last night when I was talking to my friend, she mentioned something about finally accepting who she truly is. This immediately resonated with me like a harmonious chord on a harp. Tal told me that was the missing part of the equation between us. I had been focusing completely on knowing who he was as a spiritual being and had shut the door on my role with him…not the one that had wanted to be a fix it lady, but the authentic woman. 

After Tal’s jubilant ending to his prior laminitis episode with joyful play in the pasture, Tal took me to the next step. He told me it was time to work again on hoarding. For him, it was holding on to weight. For me, it had been my holding on and not sharing the horses’ stories.

Tal started to talk. He told me I was still hoarding. I told him I didn’t think so because I was in fact writing the horse stories as had been the issue he’d brought to my attention months ago. I was unprepared for his response. He said I was hoarding myself, my desires.

I had spent my time while driving to the ranch surrendering everything, letting go of everything, every desire I could think of. He said that sounded quite pious, but “You’ve always been good at letting go. You’ve been pushing away the expression of who you are.” Oh m’god. Writing that brought a rush of all kinds of emotions creating a traffic jam as they all were trying to be felt at the same time. Breathe. Let me take that in. Now replay slowly. I’ve been trying to let go of the expression of who I am.

Tal calls that kind of “letting go” working in reverse. It’s trying to let go of something that can’t be. The flip side is suppression or hoarding the expression of my authenticity. He clarified that the letting go was not to be of my divine passions, but of the pain when they have not yet manifested. “Embrace the dream, embrace your deepest heart desire, let go of the pain of not manifesting, let go of anything that says it won’t work, or that ‘I can’t have it’. Let it all flow.”

Then began a step by step process of peeling off the old, and remembering the true. Letting go of it all had seemed so righteous when in fact it was shaking a fist at the true expression of who I am.

When Apolinaire Speaks… I Chuckle!

This evening I arrived at the barn a little later than I wanted. I jumped into my mucking boots, set the beet pulp to soaking, fed the cat after three quick strokes down her back, then raced to get my chores done before the sun pulled the shade on the day. I was on the roll.

I noticed that Apolinaire was nearby instead of in the pasture as usual. He came over to me and this normally laid back horse walked briskly beside me as I hurried through the paddock with the manure cart. I figured he had something to say to me, and I was enjoying the attention. When I stopped briefly for a couple of fork loads of manure, Apolinaire continued walking, then made a sharp turn in front of the cart and stopped with his large body planted broadside. There was no way around him. That stinker was blocking me!

I asked him what was going on. Instead of firing my usual boring-stuff questions at him, such as what did he need from me, or what message was he bringing me. I walked curiously up to him and stood quietly. He’s been teaching me well… to be still.

Without even thinking, I took a deep breath and let it out. That was all he was waiting for. With that breath, and in precision timing like a dancer in pure form and synchronicity, he curled his body around and in one smooth movement, walked away. I suspect he was feeling proud of himself for a mission accomplished. Maybe even a little smug.

In one clever maneuver, he had gotten me to slow down and became more mindful as I continued with the rest of my evening chores. Quiet amusement at what this horse had achieved with me, entertained me as I worked.