How do you know if you’ve found your heart horse?
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?
It seems to me that some of us, if we have the privilege, get to experience magic here on earth.
At that pivotal time 13 years ago, I had my first real taste. Magic: pure, shocking even. My hands were waking up to their healing potential, complete with tingling palms and inexplicable recoveries. My heart was breaking open. My old ways of thinking and being and acting were crumbling (because they were kind of shit). Yes, as you can imagine, I was a complete mess. Emotional, fragile and about to meet my match of a horse, a horse designed to unravel me and put me back together. My heart horse.
Diva, at the time a 4 year-old, is a Percheron-Morgan mare who’s demand for respect and meaningful connection are unrivalled. I met her at a time where my entire life was in transition and transformation. I was 23, recently single, living on my own for the first time ever and starting a new career as an Equine Sport Therapist after an abrupt and heart-led 180 after earning my Kinesiology degree. Diva sauntered into my life and heart one rainy November day. I will never forget that pivotal moment.
In that first year together, I dreamt of selling her countless times, this horse who refused to fit into my old, out-dated and comfortable ways. In those early days, she drove me mad (or should I say, her way of being drove me mad), often leaving me a tantrum-y mess, complete with emotional over-reactivity and untimely outbursts, and then something shifted.
First, I got my head out of my butt (well, it wasn’t literally up there, but I sure was needing a dose of humility and compassion and clear vision) and started to understand that it actually wasn’t her fault. Second, I realized (slowly and with much not-so-gentle prodding) that the ways I had been doing things were clearly not working, or effective, or in any way helpful to this new relationship I had committed to. And third, I became terrifyingly aware of the driving forces behind most of our learnt ways of being with horses – namely, control, dominance and the view that horses are not even close to our equals and should never be treated as such. It was a painful initiation to my first truly loving relationship with a horse. All along Diva knew – she fully understand what love was and she stood her ground on that. At the time, I did not.
Don’t get me wrong, I had loved horses since forever. But I had not treated them lovingly, and sadly, had not known how. I look back over the long line of horses that I had forced into all sorts of things, horses that were too scared or dissociated to do much about it. Until Diva.
Even thirteen years later I do not know many horses who hold such a strong and unwavering line around respect and what it means to be loving, to be loved and to be a good partner. Every day I was asked to show up. Many days I failed at the task. And some I succeeded. Eventually, the days where I was able to show up fully outnumbered the rest. Today, I am happy to report that I am doing pretty darn well at this showing up business.
What does showing up look like? It means being you. Real. Honest. Humble. Open. Available for learning and growth. Willing to fail. Powerful without force. It’s all our horses want from us.
Shall we dive into what a heart horse is and how you recognize one?
Before Diva, I would have looked at you sideways if you’d dropped the term. I mean, horses are serious business, not really a place for the heart. They’ve got a job to do and they should do it without a fuss. Right? Nope.
In fact, that kind of conditioning and thought is what we call the effects of patriarchy and it’s hella out-dated and leads to all sorts of other harmful action (oh boy, this is a whole other six articles!). It’s the same mentality that agreed that women should be at home making dinner while their men were out making a living. True partnership? If you’re in full and conscious agreement, maybe? But, if it’s just plain old cultural conditioning working it’s magic, not at all.
This is where the real meaning of what a heart horse is trots onto the scene – because it blows apart the old understanding of what horses are meant for and why they are in our lives in the first place. We travel the essential and challenging distance between enslaved and empowered. We make the leap into a heart-centred partnership based on equality, communication and the type of power that only increases when we lift up another. When we share our lives with a horse in a heart-centric way everything changes, initially, quite possibly, for the messy, and long-term for the way better. This is the true meaning of a heart horse. Which means, if we can make that leap, that any horse can be a heart horse, depending on our perception of them, the environment they share with us, the depths we’re willing to dive into, the accountability requested, and the essential nature of the relationship. I believe the same is true of “medicine” horses – not all horses exist in an environment which nurtures or experiences horses in this sense, and therefore, they don’t show up that way. The space just isn’t there for them to do so and so, their medicine remains dormant until the setting is just right.
That being said, if you’re having a time figuring out whether your equine bestie is a heart horse, and, more specifically, your heart horse, here are 5 tell-tales…
- They make you better. And by better I mean, more loving, compassionate, consistent, fair, emotionally intelligent. Every day, you accept their challenge to do better (and some days you crash and burn and then forgive yourself and say sorry) and you incrementally become a more rockin’ human being because of it.
- They see right through you. Shit. You can’t even make it to the barn in the morning and they’ve got you pegged. You can’t hide a bloody thing. This is the kind of relationship based on utter truth and transparency. Vulnerable? Hell yes. Worth it? Definitely.
- You can’t get them off you mind. You’re just a little obsessed with your horse. You dream about them. You think of fun adventures. You can’t wait to hang out. You just feel better why you’re around them. They vy for top position with your actual partner but that’s about it.
- They know your buttons. Got a mind field there? They’ve pushed it. Trigger there? Yep, they’ve trotted on that too. They seem to be systematically exposing you to, well, you and all your weird and wacky stuff. You love them and hate them for it, because man, it’s uncomfortable. But, strangely you’re starting to feel lighter and you’re not nearly as grouchy. Weird.
- They are there right when you need it. When your world is falling apart and you’re huddled in the corner of their stall crying, you can feel them holding space for you. They might even put their head on a certain body part. Heart horses are also healers.
From personal experience, life with a heart horse is never boring.
Just when you think you’re cruising, they invite you into more self-awareness and openness – perhaps an injury to nurse, or a behaviour to unpack or a feeling that you just can’t shake. Did I mention that it’s normal to communicate with your heart horse non-verbally – in fact, many of them require that you cultivate this skill daily. Because frankly, communication is a big part of what makes a relationship awesome. Horses, as a species, are one of the most heart-centric living on the planet today, with enormous heart fields (I’ll get more into this in my next article!) – communicating on this level can be powerful and rewarding for all concerned.
I’m realizing as I write that this topic truly deserves more space, and so another article will be upcoming sharing more. But for now, know that your heart horse and you are on an adventure into the unknown and it’s a good one. Deep breaths, developing your ability to let go, and following the intelligence of your heart and your horse will help keep you safe and forward moving on this journey. Next time, more on how to work with your heart horse to grow your partnership, your self and a way of working with horses as equals and partners!
Have a story about your heart horse? I would love to hear about it! Post below
Are you in Western Australia? Join me for a Horse Healing Masterclass on February 11th, 2017 in Serpentine, WA!
Alexa and Diva