Don’t Shoot the Messenger

 

At an animal communication class I took years ago, students were working with photos of each other’s animals. A dog told one of the students that he didn’t like his food, that he wanted real meat. The dog’s human laughed when she heard this, completely discounting the dog (and the other student). She said that the dog’s food was fine, that she even chopped up bologna in it—as though bologna could ever be confused with real meat.

I was surprised by the woman’s reaction, surprised that someone in a class to learn how to communicate with animals would be so unwilling to hear what her own animal companion had to say.

I was even more surprised that the instructor, a well-respected professional, joined in the laughter rather than asking the dog’s human why she wasn’t listening.

Recently, a client contacted me to speak with her beloved horse, a horse that I had worked with before. The woman, who was swamped at work, wanted me to convey her apologies to her horse for not getting out to see him for awhile.

She knew that her horse was upset with the break in his routine because the last time she’d made it out to see him, he’d bitten her, something he’d never done before.

“Just tell him that I’m sorry, that I miss him, that I’ll be out as soon as I can,” she said.

During our session, the horse told me that he missed the woman. He also said that he was extremely bored, that he was not getting enough physical or mental stimulation. He suggested that perhaps someone else could work with him when the woman was unable to come out. I saw a picture of a young woman and wondered if this was who he had in mind.

At the end of the session, he quietly and sadly said that he felt “disrespected.”

When I shared the session notes, the woman wasn’t happy. She told me that her horse was her “everything,” that he shouldn’t feel disrespected. She told me that he was in a big pasture with a mare that he loved. She said he couldn’t be bored. As for the suggestion about another rider, she didn’t respond.

 

Last year, I worked with a horse who had been struggling with lameness issues. The human who had taken him in was a professional barefoot trimmer; she’d rehabbed many foundered horses. The woman said that she had known about me and my work for several years. She felt confident in my abilities. She hired me because she wanted to know if there was anything else she could do to help this horse.

The horse told me that he needed the bar on one of his feet (and he showed me which one) taken down just a little bit. When I conveyed this information to the woman, she responded with an angry email explaining the dangers of digging out the bar.

Now, her horse hadn’t said anything about digging out the bar. He had asked for an extremely small adjustment. I had no opinion about it myself, as I’d never seen his feet. I was just passing along the information—even though I knew in my heart there was a good chance the woman would get angry.

 

A few months ago, a woman called me to talk to her off-the-track thoroughbred. She had recently adopted him and wanted me to ask him how he was doing and if he needed anything.

This sweet, young guy told me that he liked his new home but hated being confined (stalled). He said that he was bored, that he needed more exercise and more stimulation. He said that he wanted to go on long rides out of doors.

He also brought my attention to some tense areas of his body and, having gotten prior permission from his human, I did a little bit of neuromuscular retraining work to help him to move more freely and comfortably. He thanked me.

When I shared the transcript of the session with the woman, she told me that her horse couldn’t be bored. She said he was turned out for six hours a day. I pointed out that this meant he was confined for 18 hours a day. She paused for a moment but then insisted he was fine.

She told me that his body couldn’t be tense, that he was regularly seen by a chiropractor.

She told me that she couldn’t take him on trail rides because he was too much for her to handle.

Then, although she hadn’t mentioned this before, she told me she’d really just wanted to know about his life on the track, that that was the main purpose of the session.

 

Now the vast majority of the humans I work with are eager to hear what their animal companions have to say, and they make the changes necessary to improve the situation. But whenever I find myself up against rock-solid denial, I have to ask, what are these humans so afraid of?

Years ago, before I was even sure I believed humans could telepathically communicate with animals, my riding instructor said she was having a session done with her horse. My instructor was very nervous and said she’d almost cancelled the appointment. Why? Because she was afraid she would learn, in her words, “that my horse hates me.”

I remember wondering, why would your horse hate you? And if she did say she hated you, wouldn’t you want to know why? Wouldn’t you want to know what you could do to improve your relationship?

 

Change is incredibly tough for some humans. They seem to get stuck on the notion that change means admitting you’ve done something wrong. It’s as though they believe that if they refuse to acknowledge a problem, it doesn’t exist.

But fear is a mighty thief. It robs you of the opportunity to learn, to grow, to form closer bonds—both with the four-leggeds and the two-leggeds in your life.

 

My view is that it makes more sense to look forward, not back. You did what you did because you thought it was the best thing to do. Now you have new information. Life is short. Get on with it.

The woman with the bored, “disrespected” horse? She called a few weeks after the session to say she was looking for a new barn for her guy, a place with more activity, with more horses and people for him to engage with.

I love happy endings.