A Horse for the Soul

You bite, you kick, you lay your ears back and roll your eyes in a way that I could only dream of doing in order to brandish profound disdain. Some might say you never learned manners. I say you know how to express yourself. It is my duty to learn how to communicate with you, to engage with you in a partnership that satisfies us both.

Is this interaction with a horse so different from a relationship with a human being? We are caustic, recalcitrant and we can gesture disapproval graver than any stated phrase with barely the turn of a head and a look in the eye.

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We love, we long to love, we think we might love, and we lie down sobbing when we think we might never love again. Horses, by contrast, only know love when it is in the air: in the present moment, admitted or concealed. They also know and feel fear, grief, anger and any other emotion that present moment may hold. Being around a horse shines new light on soulful living.

My earliest definition of what a soul is developed at a very young age… probably five or six years old. It was a fluffy, cloud-like gray thing that was loosely rolled up inside the body of every living thing, and it gave that thing its aliveness. It also had a component of character. I believed there was something about each soul that was the reason for no two people or animals being exactly alike.

There was no doubt in my mind that horses had souls. On the farm where I grew up, the horses were distinct in personality and inclination; they played and fought and took care of one another just like people. In fact, it seemed to me, better than people. Around horses, I never wondered whether or not they liked me or whether I was good enough. Due to the farm’s distance from any neighbors who might have been playmates, I spent more time in the fields with the horses after school and on weekends then I did with other children. I was convinced for several years that I had simply been born into the wrong body; I believed I was a horse, and that underneath my 50 pound, two-legged frame and their 1,000-pound, four-legged frames, was exactly the same fluffy, gray, magical, life-giving soul.

By far, the most pleasantly outstanding aspect of my childhood was growing up with horses. They were my friends, my family, and my inspiration. I wandered freely among them in the fields, munching clover and licking salt blocks, feeling at peace and as one with any group or community as I had ever felt. That first moment when they would lift their heads from busily grazing to acknowledge my arrival might as well have been a moment when crowds cheered for the Queen as she made a public appearance.

Horses warded off loneliness, lack and feeling “less than.” They were good company and even better teachers. The first time I witnessed a foal emerge from a mare, I was completely in awe of the wet, pale grayish, shuddering blob that appeared, and within minutes became a perfect little newborn horse. That was magic. The patience, attention and care that mother demonstrated from those first moments of life defined for me a way of being that I had not been shown anywhere else.

When my family moved to the city, I was eleven years old and completely devastated. I locked myself in my room and did nothing but draw horses for days. That move was my first experience with the agony of loss and the pain of transition. I vowed then that somehow I would be reunited with the horses and I would never forget what they meant to me.

As one does in life in order to survive, I adapted. Although I was able to visit and ride my cousin’s horses for several years, I developed close friendships with classmates, discovered boyfriends, and eventually learned to see the tenderness and devotion my own mother had for my brother and me. Yet every time I so much as saw a photo of a horse, a current of emotion and a yearning surged through me.

The path my life took during the years away from horses led me through music, art, photography, political activism, and eventually to a steady corporate sector job in Human Relations. As I look back, I am grateful that I was willing and able to search for that which I found truly inspiring and meaningful in life. Somewhere along the line, I turned to seeking safety and stability in physical and mental terms only. I convinced myself that marriage, a house with a yard and a spare bedroom, and a climb up the corporate ladder would equate to a fulfilling and joyous life.

Instead of achieving the American trumped up version of nirvana, my life began to feel incontrovertibly awful.

When I had just about lost touch with my soul’s desire entirely, I began having visions of horses. Daydreams and night dreams filled my psyche with the four-legged friends who had been my first community as a child. I would drag my listless body to my office each morning, forcing myself to perform the duties of my job at an advertising company in a large city. There was still a part of me that was escaping into the old back field with the babbling brook, where I would eat clover and paw at the cold water with the horses. I began to think incessantly about a life in which I worked with horses to connect people to whatever it is in the world that makes life worth living.

I had no idea what that life would look like. I knew what horses had done for me to connect me to a sense of comfort and belonging many years ago, and that I was sure there would be a way, with the guidance and generosity of the horses, to bring relationship to the disconnected and to introduce possibility to the demoralized.

Though I was not conscious of it at the time, the horses were saving me once again. I was completely disconnected and nearly hopeless. The horses salvaged my link to my own soul. There is no enduring safety and stability in a one or two-dimensional life where the deep longing of the soul, the calling to embody one’s core values and beliefs, is ignored.

… To read the rest of this story, please visit p. 34 of  March/April 2015 TRUE COWBOY MAGAZINE online.

 


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