Equine Kissing Game

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Dollar has been creating a lot of playful fun for me these days. He use to be rather aloof and withdrawn, and seemed simply the “money man,” in reference to his name and the $ brand he came with. I would communicate with him mostly regarding that topic. Lately, however, since he’s become the new leader here when Apolinaire died, he has been actively involved in significant and amazing  therapeutic work with clients and myself. In addition to that, he is also revealing his light hearted side.

I’ve discovered he understands what I’m saying without my teaching him with an action and reward system. It’s been one of his closely held secrets! The playful part is kissing. When I spontaneously asked him for a kiss one day without any expectation, he responded immediately by presssing his muzzle ever so softly against my face. Such a heavenly feeling…the warmth of his gentle muzzle nicely scented with horsey breath fresh from the earth; and the serendipity of the horse and human interaction.

Kissing has now become a common occurrence with Dollar and me. If he doesn’t feel like it, he will stand stoney faced with no acknowledgement. Sometimes though, he’ll look at me with almost human eyes and say, “Naw, I don’t think so.”  I giggle and that’s when I ask if I can kiss him. Instantly like a statue coming alive, he’ll turn his cheek or forehead to me or some other part of his face, or nod his head, “yes.”

Such fun playing his equine kissing game! It brings to me memories of childhood delights and a reminder that the earth is God’s playground. We get to experience the joys of the physical realm while our souls are dancing in unseen worlds.

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.

I Held His Tear in the Palm of My Hand

 

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There is a magical passageway that lies between the pastures. Dollar was standing sleepy-eyed in the heart of it.  The air there is moist and cool from the shade of a small tree that hangs over the path shrouded by bushes lining the opposite side. There is a feeling of seclusion and secrecy.

I joined him there to do some bodywork along his back where he had suffered an injury years ago. By the time I got to him, he was already in a deep, contented sleep with head lowered. I quietly hovered my hands over his mane in reiki fashion, my own rendition that I discovered with my first horse.

Dollar continued to drop his head lower and lower, his bottom lip sagging, mouth softly quivering, and occasionally licking and chewing. These are all signs of relaxation, release, and good feelings in an equine. My playful goal has always been to get his head as close to the ground as possible in a full surrender to peaceful relaxation. I’m still trying.

When Dollar awakened and lifted his head, I noticed something in the corner of his eye that appeared to be a little bit of mucous. Instinctively I wiped it away with my finger, and when I looked, a droplet of water ran down down the tip of my finger. I watched it trickle all the way down until it came to rest in the palm of my hand. It was a tear. I held it there as tears filled my own eyes. There was a purity in this moment. The tear itself was clean and clear. I looked at Dollar, searched his eyes for clues, and wondered. There was no recognition from him, no connection it seemed with the tear.

I stopped my analytical mind from stirring up tohubohu as I started to take a microscopic view of all the possible reasons for this tear. Instead, Dollar and I stayed in the quiet of the moment. I continued to hold one hand over his mane. It was a relief to let go of my need to analyze and the work of trying to understand.

Dollar and I stood close as he pressed his head into my body. Then he nuzzled his way into my cupped hand where he placed his soft, warm muzzle, and held it there for a long time as he dreamed. All the while I was being taken on a Spirit-guided journey into the depths of my soul. It was a magical time together, both of us in a trance-like state.

When he awakened again, our time of interaction was complete. We both stretched and flexed our muscles merging our spirits with earthly consciousness.

With it came a memory.

I was taken back in time to Apolinaire, my first horse and spiritual guide, who was dying. When he took his last breath and relaxed into a peaceful smile, he opened his beautiful eyes for the last time and gentle tears fell from the corner. [In Life, In Beauty, and In Death]

Six months later I stand beside Dollar immersed in the emotion of the memory. I suddenly understood whose tear had been tucked in the corner of Dollar’s eye, the tear that found its way to my palm. I understood that Apolinaire had come to me this day through Dollar.

The three of us had communed in that world-between-the-worlds while standing in the passageway between the pastures. Dollar dreamed, and I listened to secret mysteries being whispered to my heart. Apolinaire had visited, Dollar had allowed, and I was being tranformed. The tear of grief that I held in the palm of my hand became tears of healing and empowerment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Life, In Beauty, and in Death

In Memoriam, Apolinaire
In Memoriam, Apolinaire

My first and forever horse, Apolinaire, long time leader and patriarch of the herd, the wise one, the love of my life and spiritual guide left his body recently. He was not ready to go, but his body gave out. He was 33 years old or somewhere thereabouts. It wasn’t an easy passing. He suffered as I stood near with love and pain in my heart, and squeezed droplets of water into his mouth which soothed him. After bracing against going down to the ground, he fell back on his rear without his permission and the end hovered over him, then moved in quickly. After the determined and departing gallop so common in the dying process, and with my cheering him onward to his new destination, he took his last breath and smiled peacefully. His eyes had closed in a moment of heavenly slumber and then reopened partially as a few tears trickled out of the corner and joined mine in the eternal lament of unfinished business.

We shared our love. We shared our grief of parting. Together. Not alone. I laid my body over his large body and wept, filled up with both the depths of love and sorrow. I loved and wept throughout the day.

I couldn’t get enough of his body, caressing the parts I had so loved…the perfect shape of his beautiful ears, the form from rear to hock, his beefy legs with 2 white socks in the back, his very long black tail, his perfectly formed nostrils, his kind eyes… His spirit lingered with his body for the remainder of the day…and so did I.

I’m heartbroken…lots of tears…not anguish…just deep sadness and missing him terribly yet very connected.

He was (and still is) a powerful guide. At first my life with the rest of herd died with him until he reminded that he had specially chosen each one and drawn them to the herd for the gifts they bring. We will carry on, I told them. We will continue what Apolinaire has started. I said what I was meant to say, but my heart felt lifeless.

He was buried first thing the next morning. The remaining 5 stood in formation in a corner of the pasture, facing where he had just been tucked in to his new bed. I led a memorial service, just the 5 of them and Henii, the dog. There was no singing.

Years ago I use to play the piano and sing at memorial services. I always looked forward to the part when people shared stories about their friend or loved one who had passed on. We use to laugh with tears as we lovingly remembered annoying but endearing idiosyncracies. As I stood in front of the 5 companions Apolinaire left behind, I asked them what they most remembered about Apolinaire. They all looked at me in silence with wide open eyes. Suddenly, Dollar started biting Mariah’s chest and rear end creating all kinds of havoc between the two of them during this sacred meeting. How could he act out this way?! (Said chuckling)

Dollar was speaking to my question about what he most remembered. The horse he was biting, Mariah, was Apolinaire’s lady friend who was lower in the hierarchy than Dollar but nevertheless was allowed to eat with the head guy. Dollar who is the new head guy was always aced out and couldn’t do anything to Mariah when she was being protected by Apolinaire. Mariah got the extra food that Dollar would normally have gotten…and Dollar was amusingly pissed. Their memories are so base! The humor was refreshing.

The service ended on that note. One lone robin stood on the newly formed mound where Apolinaire was laid to rest.

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?

 

 

In the Midst of the Mess

IMG_7188                                           Dollar’s Sign

(This one is for you, Patricia, patriciajgrace.wordpress.com, whose comments on my last post inspired me to venture out and write about myself in the midst of my mess, instead of waiting until it is all cleaned up. And also thanks to In Other’s Words, inotherswords.com, Paper Dolls who speaks of the smiling facade some of us carry when we are dying inside. I’m trying it out. Exposing it, I mean. We’ll see.)

I am overdrawn at the bank. I have 5 cents in my pocket and a partly buried penny on the ground near where my car is parked. My gas tank has a whisper of fuel left, my muddy pasture clothes need to be washed at the laundramat or by hand. I just gathered some food from a local charity. When my social security check is deposited soon, my hungry bank account will gobble it right up. Gone. I have 5 horses, one big dog, and myself to provide for.

So how has it come to this? I’m a middle class, college educated, multi-talented and supposedly wise older woman. How could this be happening to me when I have been so diligent on my spiritual journey with the horses? There are those that know me that will smugly smile that I have failed, at least in their way of thinking, and in so doing I have proven them right. “I told ya so!” are those voices that taunt and haunt.  “Get rid of the horses.” has been their mantra. There are others who have issues with me that will feel a sense of pride or pleasure at my demise. I cringe, but I toss my head and keep on going.

I live in Northern California where we’ve been having a drought that has recently mutated into continuous rain. “Enough!” I scream, “Eeee nufff! “We need it,” those around me say. “We don’t need it all it once,” I snarl. It turns into run off and causes mudslides in the next county already tormented by a catastrophic fire where they lost many homes. “Balance! Moderation!” But the earth is groaning and the sky above is weeping, and I’m going ballastic

Closer to home, my horses’ pasture is a lake with bits of mud surfacing like bullfrog heads but without the humor. Not good for their hooves. And there is no shelter except trees which they don’t seem to use. They do their horsey thing…stand together, turn their butts to the storm, and drop their heads all looking very woeful. It wrenches my heart. When I come they greet me like hungry children and eat like crazy when the dry food arrives. They always have plenty of hay (I free feed 24/7), but the wet and mud waste it. The compost pile in their gut helps keep them warm a vet once told me.

When the sun occasionally bolts its way through the clouds, they lie down and catch up on rest.

IMG_7187                                                        Mariah’s Nap in the Sun

Perhaps it is a metaphor for my life…being in the midst of an endless storm, or maybe the metaphor is prophetic and that my financial drought will turn into an “abundance” storm! Wouldn’t that be nice!  In the meantime, I’ve been angry. Quite angry but it seems not to help. I am allowing it for the time being. Almost exactly a year ago to the day, I lost a lucrative job that I loved and that had easily come my way along with a place to live.  For some reason I have not been able to recover financially, nor find a proper place for myself and the horses. I am baffled.

But underneath all of this, there is a steady and determined drum beat just like the pounding of the rain. Step by step I am finding my way to my calling with the horses which I started 5 or 6 years ago when my landlady forced my horses and me to leave her land because she didn’t want me to do a business there…and she thought I was. I wandered in the wilderness for awhile in search of the promised land.  When I step back and look at my life today I’m watching a movie reminiscent of a Star Wars battle. I’m at the climax where the movie gets good if you are only a viewer and it is not your life. The suspense and the tension is immense. The adrenaline rushes, knuckles turn white, breathing quickens or stops altogether. I will either sink or swim, crash, or avert it at the last minute.

I have been taking huge leaps with practical and productive help from very talented people. They are guiding me in what I don’t do well.  They are teaching me how to market myself and what the horses and I can offer those that want to find respite from the chaos and pain of the world, or to do some deeper work finding purpose and uncovering gifts, healing abuse or addictions, or awakening to the mystical path led by the horses.

However, yesterday I awakened in despair. Even though I am engaged in very tangible and bold movements toward my goal of offering the healing the horses bring, in my fear and financial lack I decided that it was too late to bridge the gap through the transition. I needed to re-home my 5 horses immediately. All of them are horses I’ve rescued, and horses I’ve been traveling with and growing with for years. I cried all the way to the pasture and feared that I, a very determined survivor, was about to have a break down as I did years ago when tears seemed to flow like a leaky faucet because of a worn out washer. This time though, it is just when my life has been getting on track with a facebook page, business cards, and brochures all heading me toward my heart’s desire; and now it was coming to an abrupt halt. My mind was made up. I’ve had a year of hell, and that is enough. I drove the 3 miles to the pasture with no embarrassment that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

Nearing my destination, I started blinking my eyes to clear away the tears as I turned my car onto the lane heading toward the horse pasture. Ahead, I saw a vehicle parked in my driveway to the pasture. Unusual. I didn’t recognize the older and pale yellow Mercedes with seashells glued as a circular emblem on the driver’s side door. As I pulled up, two women happily greeted me showing no shame or guilt for being in the driveway. Not that I thought they should feel that but often people do. It was refreshing that they didn’t. Instead they were absorbed in excitement to have found the horses and were having such childlike delight in feeding them apples and carrots. One was a physically challenged young woman with a brace on one leg, and the other was her companion caregiver. Their radiance encircled and captured me bringing me into their joy. My tears changed to sweet honey from deep within me. I was being touched by magic…as were they. For me, they were God-given angels who had come to remind me of who the horses are and what my calling is with them. This was one of those mystical moments that is difficult to describe. A remembrance, a gentle humbling, a knowing, a transformational moment. I won’t be the same. I cannot be the same.

I knew then what I must do. Without question the horses are not to go, but we are to move forward. Together. Where the money will come from during my transition, I have no idea, but the horses and I are not to separate again.

My financial circumstances have not changed, but the rest of my life has. I seem to be split equally into two parts as the metamorphosis is taking place, the new and the old at the same time, the hope and the fear, the joy and the despair, the confident and the victim. I seem to be dwelling in both. Right now anyway, I’m like a ship changing its coarse in the dark waters. A new direction. I’m rooting for the new, the hope, the joy, the confidence. I want to dance and freely flutter like the butterfly freed from it’s cocoon!

 

A Candle is Burning

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Tonight I’m wanting to cozily curl up and write about me. I want to go inward with myself. So while the weather outside is nasty, inside there is heat; and warm foods are cooking on the stove. The horses have all been fed. Henii, my airedale mix, is on her perch which is up one step from where I am sitting. She is drying out as she slumbers with one eye open. I just ladled myself some hot red lentil soup, a spoonful of brown rice still steaming, and a touch of mayonnaise to make it creamy. I’m tucked in lovely tonight. The lights are dim, a candle is burning. I shall write.