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.
Cole’s black coat glistened in the moonlight. Well defined contours beckoned me to run my hands along his firm body, but there was a sacredness about this moment that caused me to refrain. Unbeknownst to me, he had been waiting quietly by his gate for a rendezvous with me.
A few minutes earlier on the other side of the barn, I had been speaking a goodnight blessing to the other horses who were moving out into the pasture for the night. I suddenly became melancholic. Tears of sadness came pouring forth without restraint. I wasn’t sure what had triggered them, but there was an overwhelming desire to connect with a partner, someone who would understand and share the depth of what I was feeling. I stood alone at the fence watching the horses move slowly away in the dim light.
I didn’t realize during these moments that the partner for whom I longed would be a horse. Although having lived with horses for years, such arrangements were not new to me. Cole was calling to me in the other-worldly way that came to me as a sudden remembrance of him, an awareness that sparked hope in my heart.
I walked around the barn to seek him out, not realizing yet that he was the one drawing me. As I approached, I could see a hint of his dark form through the gate and an aura of magnificence around him. I felt a sense of awe as he stood in stillness. With my heart still full of fresh sadness, I spoke through sobbing tears while he listened. Cole had been one of the horses on the ranch that I’d felt sorry for because of hoof issues and needing to be isolated. Tonight, even though he was still separated from the herd, it was different. I began to recognize him as a powerful spiritual being who had only been in the disguise as a victim. Instead, as a sentient being, he was well aware that his challenging path was his own personal language of healing.
After Cole had given me full attention free of interruptions, or demands that I scratch here, or rub there, I grew calm. We stood in full communion in the light of the moon as he shared his own story with me both from his history at the ranch and from the mystical perspective which is the gift horses have offered through the ages. He opened up a new understanding for me of the healing that was transpiring there on the land behind the scenes through the herd of 10 horses here.
I became aware of Cole’s role as leader in that capacity, and the unique gifts my herd of 5 were bringing in participation of the spiritual mission. He revealed the mystical whisperings that brought us here 6 months ago. We too had come in our victim disguise but there was a more honorable purpose emerging. The horses knew all along. They live in that mystical dimension if we allow it. Only now was I invited into the understanding, or perhaps only now was I capable of receiving it.
Cole had initiated conversation those months ago within the first week or so of our arrival. It was clear and concise. I had a message to deliver to his owner. But now the fullness of it was being revealed months later under the moonlit sky.
In those sacred moments of rendezvous, Cole as my spiritual mentor, pulled apart the mystical curtains and let me see behind the veil. I understood his sadness. I understood my tears. I was sharing in the sadness he was intercepting for others. The longing I had felt for a partner with whom to share the sadness, was his longing for a partner with whom to share. That night, I was that partner, and he was mine.
He made it clear that my role was not to pity him nor to try to fix him, but to acknowledge who he was as a spiritual being and to walk beside him as a spiritual, emotional and physical support. He explained that I can be the hands to loosen a tight muscle, or to bring pleasure and relief as I stretch his nostrils, masssage his gums, and roll the tissue around his mouth all of which he loves. I can share in his emotional load as I did this night, and be his spiritual mouthpiece when needed. He reaffirmed that I was to be the the equine spokesperson translating their language for human understanding.
My rendezvous with Cole expanded my vision into the unseen world. The plants and animals and the earth itself are constantly speaking their language to us. We have only to listen, allow them to teach us how to interpret, and discover our own purpose as one with the universe.
The time is now.
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.
[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 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.
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.