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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What to Write

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[Editing issues: I apologize for the lack of paragraph separation in this published post. The edited page shows it correctly but I can’t get it to transfer to the published page.]

What to write. So much going on, so much not going on. “Put on business mind, not art mind,” he said. I try and it doesn’t work. My Guidance says again and again, “Do your art. Write.” When I do, good things happen, but it is scarey, and I’m easily distracted doing other things that seem equally important. Then I forget until things go bad again.

The horses are in heaven in their new pasture. I am too when I go there to care for them. This place has made the difference between heaven and hell. Sometimes I still linger in hell, but when I am with the horses on a day like today and yesterday, I could stay forever. FOREVER!
I sketch. I feel. I tell myself I’m not good at it. The horses remind me that is not what it is about. It is about connecting with the horses, and with life, at levels unaware as well as levels aware. It is about healing.
Mariah 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.
They are both in me. Awakening. Flying. Dancing.
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“On the Run” quick charcoal sketch

Kaheka on the Move

20160819_103631                         Kaheka

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.

https://www.gofundme.com/kaheka2016

Beverly

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.

There is a Reason

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There is a reason so many people are drawn to horses even with varying degrees of fear and trembling.  Both the fear and the draw are in part due to their sheer size; but I also think their pure magnificence and spiritual presence is something quite mighty to experience at the soul level and also touches something quite mighty in the unconscious parts of the human being. And that can be a very awesome and a fearful thing.

Even without our knowing, horses may plant a healing that we might not be aware of that will manifest days, weeks, or perhaps years later. I am learning that we can accelerate the process by developing our awareness in their presence.

They are powerful beings wrapped in beauty and grace; gentle enough to walk beside us on a simple lead rope. Their spiritual strength and eternal flow of wisdom can crumble any resistances in our soul by our surrender to it in their presence.

This morning, I am on the cusp of being financially forced to re-home my 5 spiritual healing horses, just as we are coming into our power as a herd after 25 years. As I was pondering my surrender to, and acceptance of that very real possibility, I noticed that my least affectionate horse, and the most mystical, was lingering at the water trough with her head pressed as close as she could get to me near the fence. She was standing quietly, looking softly, but intensely at me with her deep brown eyes. There was a peaceful quality about her.

My memory turned my head back to the day my mom died years ago. She was many miles away when she departed, before I had a chance to go home to be with her. Mariah stepped up to me in the pasture, and presented herself as a physical and spiritual surrogate for my mom. This normally stand off-ish mare allowed me to hug her and caress her for as long as I needed. I knew I was touching my mom while tears of grief intermingled with joy and gratitude for these parting moments through Mariah.

Was it mom visiting a second time today through Mariah? I wonder that as I write.

As I moved to a different location along the fence, there was Mariah again this time with her head lifted high on the fence hovering her peacefulness and flow of wisdom over me like a shower of radiated spiritual light. “I receive,” I whispered to her not yet knowing the full impact of what is coming. “I receive.” Thank you.

No matter the outcome of the next two weeks, I felt a sense of quiet. I sat in an herb garden and watched the honey bees busy with their food gathering from a borage plant, the sweet purple flowers backlit by the sun. Coastal breezes were playing with my hair and keeping me comfortable from the heat of the day. “This is living,”I thought to myself, “It is not for sale.” I’ll always carry that surrender to it deep in my soul. This is the reason so many people are drawn to horses.

Horses and Alzheimer’s

Horses are good therapy for the body, soul, and spirit.

Something new is stirring for me. In addition to working with those wanting to go more deeply into their spiritual nature, with those in the arts, and those suffering from childhood traumas, I’m beginning to explore bringing together the horses with those with severe memory loss. The following anecdote has further stimulated my interest:

When I picked up my Alzheimer’s client at her home, she was agitated. Not necessarily angry as she has been at other times, but restless and overly talkative about something that was upsetting to her. I was not able to interpret as I often do.

She was in another world. “Out of it” were the words that kept coming to me.

When we arrived at the pasture with the horses, she was not able to relate to them. She literally could not see them from afar or close up, nor did she want to help feed them. I began to doubt whether horses were the best venue for her as I had believed.

We had lunch together, and as I listened to her talk, it became clear that she was in a different story. I was one of the players in that story as sometimes I am if she is trying to let me know she’s upset with me. but this time I seemed to be a surrogate.  So I went into the story with her and became that person she was trying to convince.  I let her talk in words that sounded somewhat like gibberish at times, which I’ve been learning to interpret.

As she talked, I noticed that Dollar, our head horse, moved in behind her right on cue. I had become aware earlier that he was staying near her. Wherever she was, there was Dollar. I was curious and tried to make her aware of him but to no avail. Once again I began to doubt, and inwardly questioned whether I’d been fooling myself all these months about the benefit of horses in her life. We’d had some special moments together, she had sung, danced, and conversed with them. Her communication would seem clearer when we were with the horses. Today, however, nothing seemed to calm her. It seemed pointless.

So the 3 of us, Sarah (not her real name), Dollar, and myself were together in what I call the outdoor reception room for clients. She was sitting on a wooden bench with a bouquet of wildflowers in front of her which was sitting on my grandmother’s old laundry room bench now a “coffee” table. The coastal sun warmed us as Sarah continued to talk and Dollar munched on hay directly behind her back. She was referring to some encounter we’d had, nothing that was familiar to me, but with someone, real or imagined. I was the surrogate. She was being very mature, careful, and polite as she explained in broken words and sentences that she would never purposely offend me, but she needed to defend herself from some sort of accusation, a false accusation of something she hadn’t done, nor would ever do. She went to great lengths to explain it all, but there was always some piece missing.

Suddenly, Dollar whispered to me and I knew exactly what to say. I looked her straight in the eye and said with conviction, “Sarah, I believe you.”  That was all she needed. To be heard, and to be acknowledged. The change in her was amazing. The story stopped, she became her normal Alzheimer’s self again, and even helped put pellets in a bucket for the horses’ evening feed. We were back to our normal interactions, with a little less baggage for Sarah to carry.

Whether her story was something recent, or from years of struggle from what I know to be a childhood trauma she mentions occasionally, I don’t know. But with Alzheimer’s becoming epidemic, I have concerns but also inklings that there may be inroads we can make outside of medical solutions. Anything we can do that helps those with severe memory loss find some respite for their souls, is worth pursuing. I am speculating that childhood traumas that are suppressed might possibly contribute to a propensity to Alzheimer’s. At least in this case, knowing some of her history, I suspect it has.

What I am beginning to experience is that the horses can bridge that communication gap. They themselves communicate with a different language which some of us can understand. I credit Dollar with communicating to me, as the horses have done many times before, the very words I needed to say to her that brought her solace. I now have no more doubt about the benefits for Sarah of being in the presence of the horses without having physical interaction. I love heartwarming surprises like this one.

There is so much more I want to explore with Alzheimer’s clients. There are so many possible avenues to bring degrees of healing, and I am one to believe that anything is possible even when something is called incurable. There may not be a panacea nor ever be, but who knows what might be accomplished on an individual basis, and in this case in the presence of horses.

I can only imagine the torment they must feel when they are unable to communicate with even loved ones. We take for granted, I’m afraid, our abilities to speak out about a troubling experience or even a joyful one, or our ability to stand up for ourselves in normal family frictions. Some of us may not, but the option exists. It must feel like some kind of hell to them when they can’t and no wonder some would wander away looking for “home.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I am not an expert, but a pilgrim on a journey to understand more. Ohio State University has done preliminary studies and found significant evidence that the interaction of Alzheimer’s with horses caused improvement in behavior. There is more for us to know. We do not need to wait for science which often follows anecdotal records. Horses are an important avenue to bridge the gap in communication and bring healing to trouble in the soul.

Stepping Out of the Mess

The two human angels [In the Midst of the Mess] came back with apples, carrots, and a grater, and a pan to hold the treats for the horses. It was well thought out. On the trunk of the aging Mercedes, they went to work shredding the food for the aging herd. Most of the horses were gone to another part of the pasture. Only one was nearby. I always pay attention to which one. It is usually and probably always significant. Today it was Dollar. I call him the “money man” because of his name and the dollar sign imprinted above his left front leg. He was rewarded with the whole treat without any competition from the others. I think it surprised him. There was no flack and he was the center of attention. I could feel him retreat inwardly as he did this thing alone. Maybe a little shy about it. All reflections of my own shyness about receiving and having all of the good stuff focused on me.

The two angels had their fun, washed up the utensils, and found some mustard leaves in their stash. By then, the herd had returned, and Mariah came to the fence. Mariah is my symbol of the mystical. She seems to dwell in that world. Her interaction with a human is a mix of the playful, humorous, and the mystical. She has a handle on the earth being God’s playground for us. After eating the mustard leaves, she found her way to a very large feeding bin. It was empty. She began pawing at it until she tipped it over on its side. She has a dry sense of humor doing her stunts as if she is oblivious, our very own comedienne.  The two angels got a good laugh.  Mariah’s way of saying thank you (and probably that she wouldn’t turn down another handful of mustard!)

As the angels were preparing to leave, our conversation took an unexpected turn. In the State of California, I hold a teaching credential. It appears there may be financial opportunity as a credentialed educator, to provide “job” training for developmentally disabled as they help by preparing feed, delivering hay, grooming, etc.

Did Dollar have something to do with that?