The pasture is quiet, not a sound, just long stretches of swampy grasses, clumps of trees in the distance, rolling hills beyond a pasture gate. The herd is no where to be seen. On overcast days it is eery. On days filled with coastal sunshine, there is promise.
One horse lingers. Alone. Day after day. Alone. The herd has gone to the hills, or a ravine, or beyond behind a grove of trees. Yet she stays nearby but not visible from the barn. My wonderings tell me it is her lameness though I’ve seen otherwise. When I call, she comes to greet me. My thoughts tell me it is because she wants food. And of course she does. But these reasons are not why she lingers near. They are not why she comes when she is called. There is a cosmic reason. I can feel it. Sense it. There is a bigger plan still hidden from me.
[Since horses can’t text, they communicate with us in their own language. Besides messaging us with their body language; they, as sentient beings, also speak to us in many other ways. The true story below with my own herd on the Mendocino Coast shares the sweetness of everyday interactions rich with opportunity for personal growth.]
The horses were munching new Spring grasses on a hill a long way from the barn when I arrived. Shaman is easy to see because he is a paint with a white coat. To see the others, I squinted my eyes to determine whether I was seeing a horse or a bush in the distance, counting to make sure all 5 were together and safe. All was well. I had been gone for a few days to recover from the unending back to back storm systems we’d been having in California. Seeing the horses quietly grazing in the distance soothed me with peacefulness.
Donning my new well-insulated coat that had recently been given to me and my new Christmas boots (that leaked!), I set out on a long hike through the swampy lower pasture to join the horses. When I finally arrived up the hill where the grasses were thick and plentiful, the mood was tranquil as the horses continued to eat. I stood motionless feeling the quiet of a library setting where we whisper and almost feel the need to tip toe. I didn’t make a sound for fear of breaking the spell as my eyes caressed each horse, enjoying the lines of their beautiful bodies, noting how good they looked. At last one by one, they silently walked over to me, stretched out their necks, and reached their heads toward me for interaction and kisses, then retreated back to the grasses.
These moments were reassuring. I had worried during my absence. Even though the horses had been under the watchful eyes of both the ranch owner and the caretaker, I had worried. Even though the herd had sent me imageries that they were okay, I had worried.
One image they painted for me was of the 5 of them, heads together grinning from ear to ear, holding signs and waving banners of celebration. At first puzzled, I quickly realized they were applauding me as their spokesperson for finally posting their stories on our blog, a serious assignment given to me years ago as their advocate. During my recuperating time away I was in fact posting their stories. They were happy. It helped me chuckle and relax. For awhile.
Soon after, another picture came that was more literal and less comic. They were all standing in their favorite grove of trees with heads drooped in that goofy way, and all were sound asleep, meaning tummies were full, and it was time to rest. They were content.
During my time away I was learning a lesson in trust taught by the horses with their pictorial tutorials! Now that we were all together again, my somewhat crusty attempt at trust had been validated. None of them panted in my ear, “Where the hell ya been?” Nor had they come gushing over me like I was the wayward one that at last had returned, rolling their eyes behind my back! Perhaps they hadn’t really noticed I’d been gone. They were happily entranced in their own world. I’m thinkin’ a break from the human element was a good thing!
But, there was one more concern
Over the years, Shaman Tal, the “paint” horse that’s so visible in the distance, has been prone to hoof issues. In the past he has given me signs when his hooves are becoming uncomfortable. One of signs among others is isolating, staying away from the herd.
On this particular day, Shaman Tal was not isolating. He was in the center of the herd and had come a long distance to this spot in the pasture, and the few steps he had just taken in my presence were smooth and without trepidation. His countenance exuded contentment, but I wanted to be sure. This, by the way, drives my horses a little crazy. They do not want me to continue looking for something wrong after I have been reassured everything is okay! Time and time again they emphatically walk away from me, a blundering human in training.
Lately, I’ve been re-learning a lesson I had been taught by Shaman years ago. That is to expect the best which actually helps create it; and to trust more deeply my inner messages. But….but…today was different. Well. No it wasn’t. I had already noticed Shaman was okay. Why did I habitually need to prove that maybe my observations were wrong by checking again and again?! Wow. I took a deep breath and walked away choosing to trust instead of insisting he lift his hooves for me to prove or disprove what I already knew to be true in my heart.
As I started back toward the barn, the words came as a reminder, “He will show you if he is not okay,” meaning, of course, I didn’t have to keep looking for it. That resonated with my spirit, and with my experience. I relaxed and was free to enjoy the herd as we walked together back to the barn. I did a quick glance over my shoulder at Shaman to see if he were coming, and simultaneously he took steps showing me again a beautiful stride. Oh ho! Yes! I turned back and kept walking with a better stride myself, and whispered a “thank you” that I had actually been given another confirmation, unsolicited I might add, that he was okay. But there was more.
Half way back to the barn as we were moseying along together, Shaman Tal, this very horse I had been concerned about, suddenly, in a spurt of racehorse energy, took off running across the pasture flinging his head up and about and then dipping it into a figure eight. Running! What can I say?! The joy of it all! This is not the horse I would have expected to take off like that! How much clearer could it be that his hooves were in fact okay. He had gone out of his way to show me! I could only whisper “thank you” again, as my heart joined him in the frolic all the way back to the barn.
A new trust was born.
[As of the writing of this experience, I had not idea that this was only the tip of the iceberg. The horses had plans for teaching me more about trust than I could have imagined at the time. Some day that will be another story. They are digging deeper and I’m still in process!]
Trust, the most intimate thing in life, is the hardest to gain, and the hardest to hold. – John Holt
Who wouldn’t want to touch this body?! I was so ready; I set my basket full of grooming brushes and tools on the ground beside my gentlemanly horse. He stood quietly while I prepared to groom him. He made no movement, not even a flinch for a fly; but underlying the stillness was a subtle and invisible resistance that permeated the air around him. I felt it in my body. He did not want to be touched.
I knew what he was telling me, but everything in me wanted first to ignore it, then to simply override his message. I could do that. I could override his desire with my human agenda. We humans do that all the time, even Supreme Court Justices. We ignore and override not only with our animals but with each other and our children.
This horse would have let me, but it was clearly not what he wanted. He would not have hurt me. I could simply toss away my commitment to listening and honoring the sentient beings under my guardianship. Who would know; who would even care? I could do it. But very clearly he didn’t want to be touched. I vacillated back and forth like a human fighting an addiction. Then, I tried another tact. I slyly told myself that this time I could do it, just this one time, but from then on I would honor the horse. Right.
The reality at that moment was that I was in an internal war zone holding mental and emotional grenades in my hands ready to throw at all beliefs and intentions that honored working cooperatively or even just sensitively with horses, specifically this well-mannered horse. It was seemingly such an insignificant thing, yet one of the most important moments in my life. I was putting myself on the line. Was I serious about my commitment or not? Finally, with all my might and with teeth clenched, I stepped back away from him and took a very deep breath and as I released it, I dropped the grooming brush.
He knew immediately of my surrender, even before the grooming brush hit the ground. He felt it. Simultaneously, he turned his head as if in a well rehearsed dance movement, and reached toward me inviting me to stroke his face in one of the more intimate moments that I had ever experienced with this horse. This mutual touch brought deep connection. We were home.
More about touch…https://themystichorsechronicle.wordpress.com/more-on-to-touch-or-not-to-touch-the-language-of-horses/
Kaheka was running frantically around the pasture. He is a graceful, long-legged thoroughbred with great energy, but this time I knew something was wrong. I started to panic (often my first response) but stopped myself from going there. Mentally I ran through my supportive script that I’d collected over time reminding myself of truths that had been brought to me: Nothing will be given that we can’t handle. Check. We’ve been through this with Kaheka before and experienced a dramatic healing. Check. If this is colic I know what to do. Check. Face it head on, breathe and tune in. Check. Sigh.
A quieting confidence blanketed me. I stood still and observed Kaheka as I tuned in. There is such a comforting surrender in stepping courageously into a situation rather than running away into fear.
I invited him to come near me so we could interact. He went the opposite direction. Having learned that sometimes my horses prefer to take care of an issue on their own, as Kaheka had done a couple of years ago, I accepted it. Furthermore, in his agitated state, my chasing him all over 40 acres of pasture, his youthful 4 legs to my eldering 2, would have been an act of a crazed woman. I prepared to go back to my cabin across the road and decided I’d check on him in awhile.
Before I could leave, Kaheka appeared at the gate close by. He was still hypervigilant. I walked over to him and put my hands out and did 60 seconds or less of energy work. He seemed restless and unreceptive but tried hard to accommodate me when everything in him wanted to run again.
At last, words were brought to my lips. “What energies are you intercepting and for whom?” I heard myself speaking. With that acknowledgement, identifying what was going on with Kaheka, he turned and walked straightaway to a spot some distance away where he stopped on some kind of invisible cue. There he stood as if before the throne of God as the heavens descended and cloaked him with a divine calm. He lowered his head to receive the crown for his work as a divine surrogate messenger ** He then fell into a trance-like sleep while the angels sang a lullaby softly around him. Well done, good and faithful servant. Yes. Well done.
He continued to sleep and awakened later. He peacefully grazed on pasture grasses with the good company of his herd around him as if nothing out of the ordinary had transpired. Such is the mystical life of a horse.
The next day, I learned that my friend had indeed gone through a troubled time the day before. She was not alone. Kaheka had intercepted for her once again. Well done.
Dollar, my elderly quarter horse, developed a series of colic episodes within a month or so, each time with a different known cause. To you who are unfamiliar with the horse world, “colic” is a potentially life threatening tummy ache having multiple causes but is usually, but not always, indicated by a blockage in the digestive tract. In most cases, it is treatable by a vet. Usually the horse will turn and bite at his or her side, and will want to lie down and roll which can be dangerous in some cases causing a twisting of the gut which is alleviated either by death or a $10,000 surgery, or in some cases, thankfully, a miracle. In any case, it is not something to take lightly.
The first occasion with Dollar I saw coming early in the afternoon. My horses do not colic often but after purchasing my first horse years ago I was trained in the different acupressure points for use when a horse colics. I have used it successfully over the years I have worked with horses, even with horses that were not my own. I have never needed a vet for colic with my own horses.
But this time nothing worked. And the vet was hours away. I tried various things with Dollar but he continued to worsen until it was extremely unsafe to be in the corral with him. He was flailing, throwing himself to the ground or against the fence, pulling himself up to a standing position just in time to crumple to the earth again and again. He is in human years 90-100 years old and I could see his energy waning. I surrendered to the inevitable. My guy was leaving us. We just needed to wait it out as I sent him as much love and compassion as I possibly could, and thanked him for all that he had given to me and taught me, and all that he had suffered on my behalf. There seemed to be no connection with him.
I have learned over the 30 years of being taught by my horses, that when I am presented a challenge by them, there is something for me to learn from a spiritual perspective. I spent far too much time trying the conventional or even alternative approach which in the past had always been effective, but as I entered a new phase on my journey, those methods no longer brought the needed results. I was being nudged to move beyond even alternative ways. One of the things the horses have taught me is that when I touch in at the spiritual or mystical place, the horses move through their discomfort quickly. But this night, it seemed not even that was working.
To get some space for myself and my spirit, I went inside the barn for awhile. When I checked a little while later, I found Dollar lying quietly asleep. Although I was happy, I considered that it was pure exhaustion that had quieted him.
There was a slight drizzle and I wanted to throw a cover over him while he slept, but did not want to risk awakening him to his driving pain again. I tip toed to my car parked nearby and I too slept. When I woke before the sun crested the hill, with somber resignation I looked for Dollar’s silent carcass. What I found instead was Dollar standing calmly nibbling at food as if nothing had happened the night before, and a small pile of poop nearby, that magical sign we all await when a horse colics. It is an indicator that that things are moving again in the gut and, in most cases, all is well.
A week later, tummy ache again, this time it was mild. I spent the day with him expecting things to work out. By late afternoon, there was no change, neither better nor worse. Easy enough just to keep waiting and hoping until approaching nightfall joggled me into action. Because of my history with the horses, I knew that often when I sketched the horses, they got better. The thought kept nagging at me and I kept putting it off feeling I had no energy for it. That skeptic voice wanted me to believe that it was just wishful thinking anyway. Even after the many years of experience to the contrary, the skeptic continued to win. Since there had been no improvement with Dollar, I finally overrode its voice, and reluctantly got my sketch pad and charcoals. As an uninspired effort, I made a couple of sketches of Dollar, then put the pad away and went on to other chores. About 15 minutes later, I happened to notice that Dollar was eating and then, since I was paying attention, he pooped in front of me. Hmmm. Okay. Great! He was okay again!
Over the next couple of weeks, Dollar showed signs of colic 2 more times. The first of the two, I was still being stalked by the persistent and convincing skeptic. Again, I reluctantly got my sketch pad, sighed, then haphazardly sketched Dollar as if by rote. I was sure the statute of limitations had kicked in and I would be left with disappointment and Dollar still in discomfort. However, to my amazement, his colic symptoms reversed within minutes. He was eating and he pooped.
With his final colic, there was no hesitation on my part. Sidestepping the skeptic , I immediately grabbed my charcoals, sketching pad, a bucket to turn upside down for a stool, and headed out to the nearby pasture where Dollar was lying down restlessly and pointing to his side. I had settled in with a good start on a very pleasing sketch of him when he abruptly got up and walked away. Simultaneously, I received an important phone call and completely forgot to observe him. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I found him at his food bucket and was feeling satisfied with that manifestation when he stepped away from his food, lifted his tail and pooped. With that exclamation point, I could only laugh heartily that he had not only recovered from his colic once again, but he had waited until I was watching to do his final pooping magic. Such is the language of horses! I was finally getting the amazing lesson.
It wasn’t until then that I remembered that the night of his first colic when he was in such violent pain, and just before I’d found him quiet and asleep, I had sat on the steps inside the barn and sketched him. I had not put that together at that time. I had finally realized the connection between my sketching him and the reversal of his colic.
It took 30 years of pieces, parts, and inklings but the whispering equines finally got it across to me, the equine art of healing: There is more to our physical talents and gifts than we realize. They have gathered me up, challenged me, taught me, healed me and taken me with them on an amazing mystical journey.
And well done, Dollar! He has been stronger than ever, and no colic has occurred since.