Blog Reflections

Emotions and Horses: A Reflection

As I sit here, with only the light of my PC screen illuminating my face, listening to “Sacrifice” from the “Beautiful Creatures” OST repeatedly, I am overcome by emotion. I am usually an expert at separating my personal life from business. The past few weeks, however, have lead me both pensive and explosive moments; those moments which truly shape a person, which shake you at your very core and challenge everything you are, have been and will be. Early last week, I had my best friend, Odin, put to sleep. He was in the prime of his life and it was not fair to lose him. I have never felt the amount of sheer terror and anguish I did the night I knew I had to say goodbye. I felt like I failed him. I felt Like a murderer. A horde of “what if’s” kept bombarding my mind. I felt empty, alone and guilty for the first time in years. Last year around this time, I lost my grandfather and it feels the same.

Throughout this mourning period, I have tried as much as possible, to return to my usual routine and to surround myself with clients and horses. There was a surreal feeling of not totally being present anywhere for a few days, however. I felt myself dreading lessons in case anyone asked where my beloved dog was, what had happened. I dreaded having to relive that trauma every time I told the story of our unfortunate goodbye. I managed, for the most part, to conduct lessons and clients even cheered me up, whether they intended to or not. One thing I still found I was struggling with, however, was schooling horses again. There is an acute loss of confidence which occurs when we experience any sort of trauma and I felt this deeply. Having had many years of experience, I knew better than to work with clients’ horses if I could not be fully present. I have also worked very hard in order to approach horses from an equine-centered perspective, as opposed to the still-common concept of domination. This has helped me to become a much more empathic trainer, but in moments of shock, I find myself unable to engage with any training for fear of “having to” resort to domination in my methods. The more I learn, the more this type of thinking makes my skin crawl.

Once I felt like I could attempt to ride again without causing set-backs, I rode my own horse, Atlantic, after a Sunday Easter social event at the yard. Big mistake. As forgiving as he is, Atlantic did not want anything to do with my emotions and he informed me, as best he could, that my emotions had no place in the saddle. Of course I attributed our “bad ride” to his stiffness and/or weakness, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I was in the wrong. This is the magic of horses. They have the ability to draw us out of ourselves, to awaken us to the present moment and if we are open, to encourage us to engage in the majesty of the now.

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The nest day, I made a point of visiting my broodmares. I told the groom to go home early and that I would take the girls to bed. Again, the importance of awareness was highlighted by these blissful creatures. Fine Pearl, who is the mare who keeps me growing and learning, wants absolutely nothing to do with my emotions. She in no uncertain terms told me to leave her stable until I sort myself out, or else. Cammy, who lives with Pearl while they enjoy their pregnancies together, is the complete opposite. She is a healer. When Pearl pushed me away, Cam stuck her head right into Pearl’s stable and nudged me. As I dug my fingers into her mane and wrapped my arms around her broad shoulders, she gave a gentle sigh as she let me emote. Without words being exchanged, it is just completely obvious how horses sense our emotions. I am brought back to Odin, who would chase after any horses excitedly if I so much as raised my energy towards them. I am also reminded of a therapy horse who tired of people’s inner conflicts. Lastly, I think back on a horse who was physically perfectly healthy, but who had a secretly depressed owner. This horse took on all of the owner’s emotions and became what would commonly be referred to as a “problem horse”. These creatures, all of the creatures in our lives, have so much to teach us about how to live, letting go and truly, poignantly experiencing life. If we are to allow them in, we must also realize that we are custodians, not only of their physical needs, but also of the fact that they do not process emotion like we do. They often absorb our energy and it manifests in stress for many, many animals. If we are to truly offer them the life that they deserve, we need to be responsible for our emotions, expressed or hidden, around them.

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