Last year at this time I went to a daylong personal growth workshop with horses. In these workshops horses are not ridden; participants touch, lead and observe them. Powerful, gentle and extremely sensitive, horses 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. In last June’s blog I wrote about one powerful experience at this workshop learning about love with a dear horse named Shooter.

In this blog I’d like share another part of the adventure of that day.

The culminating event in the workshop involved leading a horse through a spiral path created within hay bales. This spiral represented our life’s path. The question was how to create the life we want—what is needed and how do we get there? I decided to explore how to find the home of my heart.

The task was to lead our horse–Shooter–through the spiral. At three spots along the path sat barrels, representing challenges or obstacles to what we were seeking. When we reached each barrel we were to identify the challenge and consider how to deal with it. Then we could move on through the spiral, into the center (taking some time to absorb having succeeded), and then lead the horse back out.

This task was easier said than done, I saw. Shooter completely ignored one woman’s attempts to lead him, continually wandering off the path (we learned she was trying to accommodate the horse instead of showing him clearly what she wanted; she became aware she had trouble asserting her own will in many aspects of her life). Another woman tried to pull Shooter along and he balked. The more stubborn and insistent she got the more strongly he resisted. Until she noticed what was happening and gave up trying to control the horse, at which point he became instantly receptive to her.

So when it was my turn I wondered how badly I would embarrass myself. I approached Shooter, took a deep breath, and opened my heart to him, letting myself feel all the love and ease that we had shared earlier that day. Then without thinking or speaking I moved forward, holding his lead—and he followed! When we got to the first obstacle he stopped when I did. I paused to sense the nature of the obstacle, ponder how to deal with it, and then resumed the journey, with Shooter by my side. In fact, he was RIGHT by my side, bumping into me with every step—at first I thought maybe I was leading him “wrong,” that there should be more room between us, but immediately I decided I didn’t care, I LOVED having him so close. I was comforted by his big warm presence, sensed that he was lending me his energy and power for the journey. Suddenly teary with relief at feeling accompanied on the path. (Which showed me how alone I have felt so much of my life). I sent my love and gratitude to Shooter as we continued on to the second obstacle, then forward on to the third. All the while soaking in his strength and warmth.

But when I began to lead him away from the third obstacle Shooter wouldn’t budge. Startled at first, I realized I had tried to glide over this obstacle—thinking superficially about it but not stopping long enough to fully absorb it and decide how to deal with it. So I told Shooter he was right. I stayed there until I felt in my center that I was done. At that point we walked on together, to the spiral’s center, waited together until I felt complete there, and then made our way back to the start.

While this exercise gave me some insight on my question about home, its greatest effect was to anchor in my body these powerful truths:

I am not alone. The Universe lovingly accompanies me, wants to lend its energy and smooth my way—like Shooter. (And other beings like him, and other friends and helpers.) But it can only do so if I am clear (not confused or conflicted), open to loving connection and relaxed. Clarity comes not from my head, but from discovering the truths sitting at the center of my being. So I must give myself the stillness, time and practices I need to find that clarity.

Earlier that day, when asked if he had a message for me, I heard Shooter say, “Stay in your body–in your heart, with your breath—it knows.

Thank you, Shooter.