Some of you might know that I work with horses, as in healing them. A long time ago in a land far, far away where the people are skinny and the weather is warm and the air is often thicker than water, I thought this was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, healing horses, one four-legged furry giant at a time.
When I tell people that the self same work I do for people can be applied to horses, most of them look at me a bit sideways. You know the look…it’s the one you get from your dog when you ask him to sit and he tilts his head ever so sweetly to the side, cocks his ears and appears to be listening patiently to your incoherent rambling.
“But horses are completely different than people!” my listeners often exclaim. To them, the very notion that horses could benefit from the same thing that serves the ever so elite human race is a radical concept that challenges their very perception of reality. Why? Because we like to forget the inconvenient fact that for all our spiffy evolution, we are really just animals, same as all of the other magnificent creatures roaming our planet.
But unlike our brothers and sisters who still live in the wild, completely committed to the present moment, many humans wander the earth like living dead. We blindly walk the same streets, eat the same food, mutter the same mindless chit chat. We live mechanically, influenced greatly by the technology that surrounds and supports us.
Horses have been, ironically, some of my greatest healers. At 3 years old, I begged for My Little Ponies. At 7, I begged for a pony, and fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which side of the bills you landed), my parents got me one. And for the last 22 years, some of life’s greatest lessons have been learned on a horse’s back, walking by a horse’s side, and very occasionally, while lying humbly in the dirt next to my perplexed horse’s nose as she gently nuzzled me and asked how I got all the way down there.
I believe that the lessons learned from a horse can save your life. No, they won’t stop a speeding bullet or wrench you from the torn wreckage of a shattered car, nor will they help you float if you’re drowning or call an ambulance if you have a heart attack.
But they will keep you from a fate that, in my humble opinion, is far worse: succumbing to a life half lived. Our time on the planet is so very brief; it’s gone faster than a shooting star travels across the sky. There is no time to waste, so if you are ready to bust out and get more outta life, read these lessons learned from a creature who has mastered the art of the present moment.
Tell it like it is. Horses don’t lie. If they’re hurting, they say so; if they don’t like you, they don’t try to hide it from you. And furthermore, horses find it disconcerting and downright scary when you try to hide your true feelings. If you’re scared or angry around a horse and you try to cover it up, you might find yourself dealing with biting, kicking and outright aggression until you step up and speak your truth.
Where in your life do you need to say what’s true for you, without blame or judgment?
Drop the judgment. Horses have a unique world view. No one told them they’d look fat if they stopped clenching their bellies. No one criticizes them for having a big butt. Horses don’t judge their bodies. When I’m working on them and I find the holding spot, they just let it go without all the angst. Most people would greatly benefit from simply letting go of the pain instead of worrying about what others will think.
What pain are you holding onto in order to please others?
Have some fun. Lazing in the sunshine, kicking up their heels in the paddock, or simply rubbing noses across a fence, horses know when to run and when to rest, whereas humans feel the need to be moving at all times. Idle hands are the devil’s work and all of that…but when was the last time you paused to cherish the feeling of a sunbeam on your cheek, to listen to the sound of the wind in the trees or to watch snowflakes gently drifting to the ground?
Find some time to slow down and take in the moment. It’s in being fully present for the moments of our life that we are also fully alive.
Set boundaries. One of the most admirable things about horses is their clear boundaries. Watch a herd interacting in a field and it’ll leave no question as to who’s in charge. When someone crosses into the lead mare’s territory, she answers with a swift kick in the rear end, but she also doesn’t hold a grudge. In moments, the fuss has cleared and everyone is back to their favorite activity…grazing.
Where could you set clearer boundaries in your life?
Breathe, move, express. When horses release their physical holding patterns and emotional traumas, they take giant galumphing breaths and lick and chew. They also fart. Basically, they have no problem expressing themselves, not in the least.
While farting is optional, how could you better express yourself through your physical body? Consider taking dance, yoga or other physical art classes that inspire you to speak through body language.
Look for softness. With rage and violence the prevalent news, treasure the softer moments in life. I’ve spent many hours sitting on a fence with a horse’s nose resting gently on my head or shoulder, reading a book. It’s in gentle moments that we remember what it’s like to truly connect with the world around us.
What softness in your life have you taken for granted or ignored, and how can you engage it again?
Horses aren’t the only animals who have lessons to share. In a world dominated by machines, we often lose sight of the magnificent mirror that nature provides us for discovering ourselves. What lessons have you learned from the animals in you life? Leave me a comment below and share your wisdom!