In the days leading up to Christmas I was nominated for one of those social media challenges, that are a part of our lives these days. I was invited to post 5 “meaningful” horse photos. For someone who seems to photo every horse that I meet, that was a material challenge.
As I thought about the options, the task took on a different level for me. At the same time (as well as everything else this time of year throws at us) I was also in the middle of an extensive “group” healing undertaking, an experience that I was sharing with some very talented healers. This exercise, which was so desperately needed by the recipient souls, proved similarly to be a very significant challenge for each of us involved. We were all being tested.
In the middle of this work, what I took on as a simple pleasure, became a significant and much needed re-affirming of all that I have been working towards over the last year or so. Significant to me, coming as it did, exactly 2 years after I was last engaged in formal corporate employment.
It became a vindication of my choice and my commitment. Given the personal importance of that these postings assumed it seems wholly appropriate to bring the story together here as a single discussion.
The first horse picture is me with Champ, a field mate of my own horse Ernie. Champ is in his mid twenties and has long been retired to a quiet home of love. In practice, he has been there, seen it, done it – and carries the discomfort and pain to prove it, yet he remains affable, gentle and engaging to all. As I have learning to hear what I see in a horse, Champ has been a wonderful and supporting teacher. I can stand with him in the field and he will wander around me, stopping to present those parts of his body for which he seeks a little healing, most often no more that a scratch or a massage – but think for yourself (or your parents perhaps) how often those aging joints enjoy a gentle rub or scratch by a caring partner.
My second horse photo is from the first time that i met A’plus with lives down in Kent with some very special friends of mine. The meeting was as if we had known each other 100 years, yet he is barely 3 years and he still lives with his mum. However he knows little or no demand from humans, beyond the basics of don’t flatten me or the winter time’s journey in hand from shelter to field.
When we met he was a excitable mix of nerves and curiosity; he desperately wanted to join me, but was equally scared. Every time I made any movement, not necessarily towards him, he jumped back two or three paces and looked anxiously back to the rest of the herd for their support. But he stayed. Once I got the message that he needed me to be absolutely quieted myself, I lowered my energy and physicality. He then quickly worked his way back to me, within 5 minutes we were embraced a wonderful shared space, as pictured.
By asking nothing at all of him in that moment, he gave me everything. His curiosity was permitted through my quietness, a safe exploration, and the bond was established. As with Champ, giving him the space to choose created a deeper bond, because it was a bond on he created, when he felt safe to enter my space (and to have my energy within his space) I allowed him free access to mine. And in that space I offered nothing beyond companionship.
It reminds me that we create rules for our horses which mean nothing to them – be it in our stable handing, performance or natural horsemanship “games”. We created fake languages (Equus and other constructs) to weave a magic around our approaches; and yet I wonder, why not just be ourselves. Do we need the rules and the models because our relationships are one-sided (and in many cases it could be argued that they are necessary for own safety); the engagements are built upon us creating the agendas, agendas which have no specific context within equine life and often engage energies and emotional systems in a completely false context, often those more naturally invoked for self preservation or in flight situations.
My third horse posted photo was one of the iconic images from the cave paintings in Lascaux, southern France. For me this symbolises the respect and reverence that we have had for these animals for so long. The fascination of man with horses is an existential one. One which resonates deep within our essentially humanity. Yes they were also hunted but they were hunted from wild, for survival, not farmed or bred and maintained in some clinical husbandry process. No one played god. No one needed to, they saw the divine in everything around them. Here is a direct engagement with the spirit of the horse, perhaps to seek permission to hunt, to give thanks for a life offered to maintain the balance to sustain life. These animistic cultures realised a balance of life, a respect for everything that shared their space.
These images supported trance induced shamanic states – they accompanied the shaman on their spiritual and healing journeys to the other world. To connect with the spirit of the horse is also to connect profoundly with human ancestry, not the great figures of our historical past, but our essential existence, a time when our lives were just part of the wider pageant; these were shared paths; souls co-creating.
Strange concepts for our contemporary disassociated and disconnected existence.
Picture four: Well there had to be one of Ernie – of course the challenge was which one. Then I realised it didn’t matter which one, it just had to HIM. Horse after horse over the years have got under my skin – my daughter once joked that it was every horse that I ever met! But Ernie cut deeper, he touched my soul and said you are mine. The first day that I saw him, he was laying down, he was ill and on box rest, he was barely four and recovering from his transfer to his new home at a riding school, I knew that second that somehow our paths were to be in some way coincident. I have said many things about him over the years but the two resonate most still to this day; “I brought him because if he were a person I would want to got to the pub and have a beer with him”, and; “that he is more philosopher than athlete”. I guess I should have guessed early on that our journey was not to be one-day-eventing champions, or grand prix divas.
He has taught me to question everything. He has taught me to change my perspective. Most importantly, my love for him has given me the courage to be myself and to call upon the strength needed to follow my heart; not to default to the one that peers or colleagues might define or propose for me.
Without him I might have still have dreams or visions that I cannot quite place; perhaps some quiet yearning for change. Yet with him I have found my dreams, and in those dreams found myself. And in finding myself, I have found myself accepted intimately by horses. Whilst this may feel like my own path it is one that is accessible to any that wishes to create the right space.
No icon or image has touched my life like this one – it haunts memories of childhood car journeys; or the sleeve of one of my favourite LPs; it is for me a beacon for pre-Christian society, beliefs and achievement. It stands as a living testament to builders of the stone circles and dolmen that have fascinated me and engaged me for my whole life.
It stands sentinel over the mythological grave of one of the great dragons of old Albion. It links with Uther Pendragon, it lies at the heart of all that it is to be English. Not the shopaholic soccer fans seeking material credit fuelled gratification, but an ancient wise and magical race, with the Isle of Avalon as the heart which is forever beating within its breast. Like Arthur, a great once and future dynasty, lost yes, but not gone. We just have to look. We just have to look within ourselves. And when we look into the horses’ eyes we can see the reflection of our own souls too.
At Uffington lies a horse that is every horse that ever lived, and every horse that will. She is “The Eternal Horse”. To understand her is to not only understand horses, but to understand life itself.
And in achieving that understanding we come full circle, we understand ourselves. We can once again position ourselves within the greater living scheme. We come home to Gaia.
(c) The Mindful Horse