The Equine Art of Healing


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.

Spiritual Acceptance and Physical Healing


Magnificent Shaman Tal came to my attention today with the never-ending saga of sore feet that is often a reflection of what is going on in my life. He made it back slowly to the barn from his position in the pasture a long way away. I walked over to him and softly stroked his leg. As I touched him, a shiver rumbled through his body like gentle thunder. He turned his head toward me and in acknowledgement of what just happened, he wrapped himself around me in a hug. Something had happened. I knew it. A little later he greeted me with a bold and hefty nicker as I brought the hay. I always know he’s feeling better when he does this.

As he walked I did my habitual checking to see if he were really better, but something stopped me and held me in the “knowing” that healing had taken place no matter whether I could see a manifestation. With that spiritual acceptance within me, he suddenly walked a little more smoothly, and over the course of the evening showed significant improvement.

Inspired by this manifestation, I revisited the numerous other powerful moments when I knew a healing had taken place, but my doubts stood in the way of manifestation. I embraced each one as the remembrances washed over me.

The Horse Who Couldn’t Swallow, Part IV


As I lingered in my joy of release, I noticed all six of the horses standing at attention along with my dog, Henii, looking intently up the steep hill above the pasture. I followed their gaze upward. There among the dried blonde grasses was a very large and a very black mama bear with two black cubs playing nearby. Their dark coats and loose jointed bodies created an intriguing mystique that spoke of boldness and carefree freedom. They looked so clumsy it was hard to take them seriously, but in reality, they moved with amazing grace and finesse. That is what greeted my eyes. What greeted my heart were the words, “Coming out of hibernation.”

I thought back to the king snake I had seen earlier in the day. It was lying on the steps of my cabin as the protector from rattlesnakes and from that which would poison my spirit. It offered the promise of a safe and peaceful respite in the warmth of the sun penetrating deeply into my soul. And the star that streaked powerfully across the sky that first night while Dollar simultaneously swallowed initiated the dance that was to unfold. It took 3 days to manifest in my experience, but when it happened, my true self and the joy that empowers me was resurrected.

Since that day, my life has been turning around like a ship in the water, slowly, but majestically as I learn new ways of responding to life. Dollar’s three-day metaphor was the beginning of my journey out of patterns of abuse including self-inflicted abuse that comes with low self esteem, negative thought patterns and self-negligence. Instead of bracing for the worst and settling for less, I’m learning to “expect the best,” and now that I’ve been freed, that is what I am starting to get.

Perhaps, instead of the horse who “couldn’t” swallow, Dollar was the horse who “wouldn’t” swallow, as he mirrored a deeper healing that has transformed my life. He has led me, at age 70, to the realization that it’s never too late to become what you thought was impossible.

The Horse Who Couldn’t Swallow, Part III


Day 2, Dollar was still not swallowing, but still there was no distress on his part…only on mine.

After greeting him in the morning, he walked beside me, escorting me back to the barn from the pasture. He momentarily diverted to the side, lifted his tail and pooped. I knew it was done purposefully in my presence showing me that part was functioning. Or in retrospect I wondered if he were telling me something more. No matter the message, I felt a soothing wave of renewed hope that Dollar would be alright.

By Day 3, there was still no change. Though I’d been in consultations, I decided it was time for the vet to visit. First, I called a friend who has followed me on my journey with the horses over the years and knew of the remarkable healings that have come along the way. As I was picking up the phone to call her, all six horses returned from the far pasture. All were lined up at the water trough for a good long drink. All, I noticed, except Dollar. It was a warm day. I felt sadness and heaviness in my chest.

My friend is good with metaphors. After hearing of Dollar’s inability to swallow and knowing the abusive circumstances that were pressing in on my life, she laughed and flippantly said in a metaphor that was reversed, “You don’t have to swallow Vivian’s stuff anymore!” (a friend in my life who had become very retaliatory). The revelation took my breath away. She continued, “and you don’t have to swallow Larry’s stuff (a relationship I’d left behind that had also become retaliatory), “nor your uncle’s stuff” (the offender). You’re done with that,” she said definitively. We laughed with the idea of it. Done with it! The words felt delicious to my soul. I no longer had to swallow their intrusions, their misperceptions, or the spin they were putting on my life. I was free. Like a helium filled balloon with a string that dangled, mischievously taunting my accusers, I floated upward just out of reach, moving onward and away.

Within minutes of this spontaneous liberation, and with phone still in my hand, Dollar walked casually by me, swinging his tail and whistling a secret tune to himself. Silly guy! Without hesitation, he headed for the water trough and started drinking as if nothing had ever been wrong. He stood so I could see his throat move up and down, up and down with each swallow! I yelled into the phone, “He’s drinking! He’s swallowing!” And before I was finished speaking, he started to chew on the grasses close by, eating—and swallowing. I wanted to fly into the blue sky above. This had all unfolded while we spoke. As the insight blossomed, so did the manifestation.

Then, as final punctuation, Dollar went out into the pasture and stood where I could barely see him under the branches of a lush tree and he peed! The whole cycle was working…or had he been drinking all along behind my back?

It took me many weeks to apply the lesson he had given me, that I was free from my past and I didn’t have to “swallow” unreasonable demands nor hurtful treatment anymore. I did not need to sell my soul for the enticing charm that had been offered along with the abuse! No more swallowing!

The day abounded with celebration of new life as the world of nature responded… (continue to end of story, Part IV)

The Horse Who Couldn’t Swallow, Part II


The next morning, what had seemed like a spontaneous healing the night before offered no manifestation. Questions and fears swirled around in my mind undermining my optimism. I stood in wonder, however, that Dollar’s vital signs remained good.

Forgetting about the synchronicity with the shooting star and Dollar’s simultaneous gulp, I surmised that he’d had an allergic reaction and tried to start him on a homeopathic remedy. Not happy about taking the remedy, he started aggressively resisting. He was so adamant in his refusal, I had to lay aside my authoritarian insistence that I knew better than he and that this was good medicine for him. Since the spirit of the horse is honored here at our sanctuary, I asked him if he were feeling a spiritual violation. He dropped his head and became very still. I knew his answer was yes.

We stood facing each other head to head while I pondered what his inability to swallow was reflecting of myself. Through the years I had learned that horses mirror us in multiple ways. As I stood in openness, the curtain of my mind slowly lifted. I realized that it was related to the sexual molestation I endured as an infant. It had been oral. I couldn’t swallow!

I stood quietly with tears of compassion flowing for myself as a child who had been too young to speak of her experience, and as an adult for the patterns of subtle abuse from relationships and from life itself that had torn at me all these years. So much of it was an intangible and sticky web. I had lived a relatively normal life, but with a little girl crying deep inside of me, stuffed in a crowded closet to muffle her.

Dollar continued to face me standing very still as I allowed my grief to flow through me in my tears. Another horse came quietly behind me. It was Amoura. She nuzzled my hair, then stepped beside me and laid her head tenderly against my arm nibbling softly at my jacket as I cried. I was safely enfolded by these two equine beings, two angels that had stepped in close, standing with me in a timeless silence, rich with love and acceptance as I released a dark part of my past.

There had been a lifetime of frequent replays of emotional pain, and an overall suppression of my spirited spontaneity. All had been reminders that I had unfinished business to resolve. Years of blame, false accusations and intimidations had been directed at me by some with whom I shared my life. I was unable to speak in personal power. My pattern of accommodating others and overriding myself only pushed the pain deeper. My life seemed forever on hold.

This had all started with the violation as an infant and had been rearing its ugly head in intensity during these recent months of my adult life as the potential for healing was surfacing. All came pouring out through my soul and my eyes that night in the presence of these two quarter horse messengers from the divine, one who had also suffered her own form of abuse before she was gathered up and brought to our safe haven.

When the crying subsided, I was filled with awe and love. I felt cleansed. The experience was so deep I knew I had been dramatically changed forever. I had been released! I suspected that Dollar had also been released. Through the years I’ve had numerous spontaneous healings with my horses after a significant spiritual breakthrough in me. This time however, it didn’t happen. How long was this ordeal to continue? (continue to Part III)

The Horse Who Couldn’t Swallow, Part I


This is a day to remember. A miracle with my horse, a black bear with two cubs romping on the hills above the pasture, a king snake lying leisurely on the outdoor steps to my bathroom protecting me from rattlesnakes and rodents, and I, getting on track with living my life!

A few nights ago, Dollar, my dark bay quarter horse, would not eat his supplement. This was completely out of character for him and I soon discovered that he was unable to swallow. Immediate concern poured over me like ice water and that old familiar pattern of fear tempted to grip my chest. Strangely, however, he seemed not too worried.

During the past week I’d been having some fairly profound experiences preparing me for what was to come with Dollar. With my recent recognition that healing is being offered all the time to us through nature even in the ordinary moments, I’d been responding to everything around me with receptivity. Another horse, Apolinaire, had been my teacher when just a few days before he had relaxed into a deep sleep out of extreme agitation the very moment I had become engulfed in an orchestra of sound from the swallows tweeting overhead and swooping into the pasture nearby.
[See Healing in the Ordinary Moments]

Earlier this particular evening, before discovering that Dollar couldn’t swallow, I had been looking into the sky above and wondering what kind of healing that stars might bring. This was fortuitous. It was less than an hour later, that I discovered Dollar’s demise. I stood beside him in a quiet meditation, feeling anxious, yet, hopeful about how his healing was going to take place. My eyes went back to the stars. At that moment, a shooting star darted across the sky precisely where I was looking. I caught my breath, and simultaneously, Dollar gulped. He actually swallowed! If even awkwardly. I thrilled. It was that simple, I thought, but then started checking nervously just to be sure. Had he really been healed?

Doubt came seeping in around the seams of my confidence, and there was no further manifestation that he could swallow. I suspect that healing is so fragile in its beginning stages that doubt chases it away…or at least shrouds its unveiling to the doubting observer.

It was late in the evening, and Dollar’s vital signs were all normal. He showed no signs of distress. After gently massaging him, I let him go out to pasture with the others which he was happy to do. I went off to bed feeling a sense of hope that all was well. [continue to Part II]

Healing in the Ordinary Moments


Apolinaire had been showing some physical discomfort. I paused nearby and asked if there were something I could do. Immediately, a red-tailed hawk called from overhead, and a butterfly fluttered around me. While I recognized these synchronicities, I saw no manifestation of relief for him and felt frustration.

A friend reminded me that these synchronicities were more than just messages. They were actual healing moments. I asked the divine for another chance. The next day, I stood with Apolinaire during his discomfort wishing for another red-tailed hawk and a butterfly, but seldom is there a literal replay for me.

Apolinaire quietly whispered to me that healing was even in the ordinary moments, like the tweet, tweeting of the swallows overhead. My awareness shifted to hearing the music of the birds in the rafters of the barn and in the surrounding pasture. I was immediately lost in a symphony of sound. My heart spontaneously expanded to all of nature, the land, the trees, the horses. All of life became wildly alive and pulsating. Instantly, Apolinaire fell into one of the deepest sleeps I’ve witnessed with any of the horses. His breathing was deep and beautiful. He had been transported into deep comfort and rest by the thriving life of healing that is always there for us with an invitation to simply receive.