When did you discover your horse obsession? For me, the age is unknown (I was wee), only the feeling. A feeling of utter awe and inexplicable understanding. A feeling right in the centre of me that knew that these powerful creatures would be my north star from this day forward.
Thousands of wheelbarrow loads of poop, rides, grooming sessions, hay bales, hoof pickings, dollars spent and bum rubs later, and the addiction does not appear to be fading. On the contrary, it seems to be picking up steam. It may have a little something to do with my mare Diva meandering her way into my life and heart almost exactly 13 years ago and flipping my world, quite literally, on it’s head. Perhaps?
Last February in Perth, Australia, at a workshop based on my book, Death Sucks: A Straight-Up Guide to Navigating Your Pet’s Final Transition, two amazing women arrived from Singapore to steal away all of our hearts. And in the process, we learned of Hope, a dog that had been a transformational whirlwind in their lives, the light of their life, the inspiration for their careers, and the focus of their last several years. Her care, her needs, and her very presence were all very big. Hope was, during our time together at the workshop, in the last months of her life before making her final transition. These two women had come to the workshop to be with their grief, to understand how to let go, and to prepare themselves for the inevitable. She had been on the verge of this final transition for quite some time, in the space I often refer to as the peaks and valleys. It wasn’t until several months after they returned home that she finally expressed her readiness to let her very well-used dog body go. With the help of a dear friend and veterinarian, these two women said goodbye to Hope in the most beautiful way imaginable, showering her in love and blessings, rose petals and prayer flags. Hope, a rescue that had seen the worst of the human race, parted this world knowing a depth of love that many of us only dream of.
As I write this my brain feels like it just ran a marathon and needs to sit on the couch for a week watching Netflix just to recover. You see, this horse girl just made her first foray into the world of Deep Democracy (learn more about this amazing work here), arriving at the event with terribly sweaty palms and a racing heart, prepared for a potential onslaught of uncomfortableness and things that I have had the privilege to avoid more often than I’d like to admit, like conflict and feelings.
When something is causing that much upheaval in my unconscious it usually means one of two things: either run far far away OR get a whole lot closer and take a deeper look. This event, when I checked in with my inner guidance system, was the latter, hence my attendance despite some noticeable reluctance. I should probably give you a bit more context at this point on why my palms were so so sweaty. This particular afternoon of Deep Democracy was dedicated to a rather taboo subject matter, which I have already hinted at several times. Yes, we were talking about privilege.
Years ago, when my mom attempted to give me the book The Highly Sensitive Person, I distinctly remember the feeling. I felt insulted, slighted and not in the least bit grateful. “I am not highly sensitive!” I declared with fervour and perhaps, although I seem to have repressed this particular memory, a small temper tantrum. This type of passion, I now realize, is generally only reserved for things that really sting because we know in our heart of hearts that they are true. Which was precisely the case in this situation. At the time I viewed being highly sensitive as something to be avoided at all costs. It was like admitting I was weak, emotionally immature, out of control even. And after spending a good chunk of my existence as a tomboy, over-achiever, control freak, goodie two shoes and not necessarily in that order, that pill seemed nearly impossible to swallow. It took me years after this passion-charged moment to understand/admit that this quality embraced is actually my superpower, amplifying my intuition, enhancing my ability to communicate non-verbally with animals, powering up my empathy and allowing me to walk into a room and read an entire crowd merely through feel.
I don’t care what kind of rose-coloured glasses you sport, the reality remains that the world has just about as many assholes as it can handle. The guy that cut you off this morning in traffic AND then gave you the finger, that guy who makes inappropriate comments every time he takes a breath, the lady at Starbucks who spills her coffee on your new shoes and doesn’t even look back and all the power-tripping buggers with mama issues and well, let’s face it, Donald Trump.
We all know them and we all love to hate them, spending countless hours plotting our revenge, our fabulous comebacks, and how to orchestrate that one thing that will hurt them back just as much as they have hurt you. Hold that thought. Because you and I both know that there is no comeback in the world that is going to make an asshole magically turn into something else, like a gentleman or a saint. And this is the most annoying, verging on infuriating, part of it all. So if your revenge plots, wickedly awesome comebacks and semi-serious murder fantasies aren’t going to cut it, how are you going to deal with the assholes in your life in a way that actually works?
Over the last twelve years as an Equine Sport Therapist, I’ve spent the better part of my time diving into what makes the best horse-human relationships tick and how to help horse women everywhere cultivate this kind of stunning connection with their horses. A connection based on trust, communication and relaxation, where the horses are balanced, healthy, willing and full of life, and the rider is intuitive, trusting and having an awesome time.
You might get glimpses of this garden of Eden in equine form, but does it stay? Can you maintain it?
Speaking from personal experience, there are countless factors involved in creating a horse-human partnership that is beautifully harmonious, a dance. My mare Diva and I fought for a good long while at the beginning of our relationship, with tiny glimpses of relaxation and harmony, and you know what? A lot of the time it sucked – I spent a whole lot of time questioning myself, my methods and what I was doing there in the first place. And then, with a whole lot of work and learning, we found our groove and remain besties in and out of the saddle to this day.