Nearly three weeks ago I went to a daylong personal growth workshop with horses. Because horses are powerful, gentle and extremely sensitive they are used for confidence building with special needs adults and children, in leadership training and team building and in personal coaching. In personal growth work horses are not ridden; participants touch, lead and observe them. I had read that they are excellent mirrors because they attune to what our bodies, emotions, thoughts and energy tell them and they detect and respond to any conflicting messages that we send.
I’d been looking forward to the workshop for weeks—though I was also a bit nervous because I had no experience with horses and had always been rather afraid of them. The day of the workshop I woke feeling tired, spacey, weepy and fragile. And I was limping a little with a sore hip. Yet I had paid my fees and a friend was picking me up, so I went.
We worked in an indoor ring with four male horses and their handlers doing a series of exercises, beginning with greeting each horse and deciding which one to partner with. In between exercises we met in circle to discuss our experiences and observations. During the course of the day we spent time breathing with “our” horse, listening for messages from the horse, and leading “our” horse on a path which represented a life challenge.
I chose to work with one of the white horses, Shooter, because he seemed the most gentle. And I felt affection for him right away.
Shooter taught me something during every activity (and everyone there experienced different lessons from the various horses) but one exercise I believe has changed me profoundly.
We were instructed to go to “our” horse, open our hearts, sense and connect with the horse’s heart, and then groom him with a brush.
I stood alongside Shooter, took a breath, and immediately felt a rush of affection for him. I let that stream guide the strokes of the brush. Slow, yet firm. Astonished at the depth of love that was pouring through me. Surprised that I didn’t care about not knowing the “right way” to do this. He relaxed, closed his eyes, radiated contentment. Waves of love washed from him to me. I soaked it in, grateful, giddy with our bond. Our communion felt so big and so sweet. The handler sensed it too, remarking that we were “really talking to each other.”
Tears of joy, relief and gratitude. It was so good to undam my heart and let it overflow (which I usually tamp down to avoid embarrassment). And to receive so much love on a day that I really needed it. All without words. The giving and receiving seamlessly woven together–magical!
I felt strong and clear the rest of the day.
Those minutes brushing Shooter rooted some truths deep in my body that before I hadn’t fully believed:
- When I am weepy, in pain, needy, I am still loveable.
- When I am weepy, in pain, needy, I am still full of love.
- Deep joy is letting my love flow freely without limits, even if it makes me feel “too much,” weird, silly, or opens up a well of grief too.
- When my love is flowing, my mind’s judgments, fears and commands become nearly inaudible.
- When my love is flowing, the Universe—in any of its many forms—receives my energy and sends love in return. Or recognizes my need, and sends love in return.
Thank you, Shooter, for your many gifts that day. I honor your big beautiful heart, and the big beautiful Heart of the World.
I am so touched by this article and your experience. I am inspired and touched by you and your writing.
Additionally, I want to do some work with horses. Would you please tell me where you went?
Thank you Anne for your gifts and blessings. Note sent with love.
Thank you for writing Michelle. It was an experience that touched me deeply.
Wow! Like others who have commented here, this post, your experience with Shooter just shot through me (pun intended). I LITERALLY cried which, like you, I tend to tamp down because I was taught as a child that tears were shameful. I could feel the love, the connection, and the transformation. Thank you. Thank you for giving this experience word and especially thank you for the mantras at the end. I have always been afraid of horses because a friend invited me to sit on a horse she’d been working with and as soon as I mounted the horse sensed my trepidation and shot off taking a small jump and throwing me in the process. I have taken trail rides and met horses in safe settings to work with the fear. Just reading about your experience added to the healing. Blessings to you. Can’t wait to see you soon!
I’m so glad it touched you Janet. Thank you for writing. It seems pretty brave to me that you’ve arranged other horse times to counteract that scary experience. They are big powerful creatures!!
Such a beautiful post, Anne!! Thank you for this.
Thank you for reading it and commenting Margaret!
Once again, you, sharing your experiences with Shooter, also opened my heart . I cried while reading it.
I remember fondly, my relationship, with my horse, Babe. I worked at a stables, and was given the priviledge of receiving Babe’s unconditional love.
I was a teenager, overweight, bullied at school, and at home, and Babe and I bonded. Our relationship, probably saved my life, at a most difficult time.
Thank-you for reminding me of Babe, and the first experience I had with inconditional love………………………………………Mary
Thank you for sharing your story about you and Babe Mary. Made me tear up…
How beautiful! I will send this along to my cousin Janet, who will understand it from the depth of her own experience. Thank you Anne.
Thanks Gretchen. I understand now (a little) about what a privilege it is to be with such sensitive creatures.