Lessons from a Horse Fair

Lessons from a Horse Fair


I didn’t notice her at first. Her friend had walked up to my booth with a big smile, her $5 donation in hand (to be given to Wild Horse Rangers), asking for her mini- Reiki treatment. She sat in the chair so eagerly, I assumed she had experienced a Reiki treatment before. But, no, she said she hadn’t. When the 10 minutes was up, she was surprised. The time had gone so quickly, she said. She felt relaxed, refreshed. She got up and urged her friend to give it a try.

Her friend a tall, thin woman, with sun-parched face, cowboy boots and hat, arms firmly clasped across her chest, stood several feet away from the booth. She shook her head no, not making eye contact with her friend or with me. Her friend asked again, her voice more insistent. The tall woman said no, clasping her arms more tightly across her chest.

“She doesn’t want to. That’s OK,” I said, trying to break the impasse.

But her friend tried once again.

As she moved past the booth, the tall, thin woman, her face tight and sour, said, “I don’t try nothin’ I don’t understand.”

After a two-second pause, I said. “That makes sense to me.” Holding out a sheet titled “Reiki for Animals,” I said, “If you’d like to know more about it, this will give you some information. Then, if you like what you read, fine. If not, that’s fine, too.”  I smiled at her. Genuinely. Something about her touched my heart. I wasn’t trying to sell her anything. I just wanted to share a bit of information.

The tall, thin woman approached the booth, uncrossed her arms. She took the flyer from my hand, a big, friendly, gorgeous grin. Her posture changed; she was comfortable in her body again, comfortable in the room, comfortable with her friend, with me. She thanked me, and she and her friend moved on to wherever it was they were going next.

Later that afternoon, I stood outside the exhibit hall for a couple of minutes, to get a breath of air and watch the pony rides going on across the path. A woman was trying to convince her toddler, a girl of maybe 18 months, to pet one of the ponies. The little girl didn’t want to pet the pony. Her mother was holding her, and the little girl visibly recoiled whenever her mother brought her closer to the pony. The attendant said, “Maybe if we just sit her on the pony’s back for a minute, she won’t be so afraid.” The mother took the girl’s hand again and tried to make her pet the pony. The little girl recoiled.

I wanted to shout, “What is wrong with you people? She doesn’t want to pet the pony!”



How quickly our community formed in Exhibit Hall 3!

Within hours, we were chatting, helping, sharing. Volunteers passed around trays of coffee each morning; the man selling fencing across the aisle from me lent me hooks to rehang my falling-down sign; noting my lunch of sliced vegetables, he said, “We have way too many cucumbers in our garden” and brought me a bag of them the next morning; the woman selling watering systems in the booth next to his shared Hershey’s Kisses with everyone in sight; I shared my breakfast of cantaloupe chunks with the women in the booth next to me. They run an equine rescue. I suggested they raise the two-low price of their pony rides. They did, and made more money for the horses than they’d expected.

When someone made a sale or mentioned a successful talk, high fives all around.

The man sharing the booth with the Hershey’s Kisses woman came to my booth during a slow period one afternoon. He said, “OK, what exactly do you do?” I told him that I’m an animal communicator, that I’m a Reiki practitioner. He sat in the chair for his mini-Reiki session. The woman in the booth next to his anxiously observed us from a distance. At the end of the session, he said he’d had a headache, but that it was gone. He told the anxious woman that. She came over and sat in the chair. Soon, a small group had gathered to watch.

Saturday morning, a wicked storm blew in, washing out all of the planned events. We closed most of the garage-like doors of the exhibit hall, leaving one open so we could watch the sky, warning each other not to venture out, to be safe, to stay put.

When I packed up my things on Sunday, I felt like I was leaving family.

How easy it all was, how completely natural, chatting and sharing and helping.



On  Saturday afternoon, people sat shoulder to shoulder on metal benches in the too-small, hot tent. I asked everyone to think of a time she or he had communicated with an animal non-verbally, reminding everyone that this is something they do every day. They shared their stories in pairs; then I asked for volunteers to share with the whole group. The first couple of volunteers told their stories eagerly, but then I had to coax: “Come on, who else? You all have stories; please share.” And they did.

At one point in my talk, I asked how those present would like me to proceed. I could just explain things, or I could tell stories. Stories! They wanted stories! It was magnificent, a cramped room filled with adults remembering what it meant to be excited children. Even better, after a few of my stories, someone interrupted. “I have a story,” she said. The stories took over. The tight space opened up. I had the pleasure of becoming a student at the feet of these amazing teachers.



Since I was working, I didn’t get to see much of the fair. But one afternoon, I ventured out to watch the Cowboy Challenge going on in a field not too far from Exhibit Hall 3. Most of the 20 minutes I was there, the folks were resetting the course. Finally, a man and his horse entered the field. The horse balked at every jump (barrels set on their sides), every obstacle. But the man persisted, never voicing an unkind word to his equine partner, never yanking on the reins or harshly kicking. Even though the attempt wasn’t much to look at, the spectators, who were lined up around the fence, were quiet, respectful. When the two finally managed to complete the course, the spectators responded with hearty applause.

I heard from several folks at my booth later that day that the Cowboy Challenge was one of their favorite events. Anyone could participate, not just seasoned competitors, but novices, elders. One woman said she saw a man compete who looked to be in his 80s.



I can’t help thinking what it would be like to live in the world I experienced for three days at this rural Illinois horse fair–a world where community formed quickly; where people respected and supported each other, shared their stories, their wisdom with each other; where people challenged each other and themselves in non-threatening, nourishing ways. Add to this recipe a healthy dose of horses and small animal companions, and it sounds like Paradise to me.


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5 Replies to “Lessons from a Horse Fair”

  1. That is a wonderful example of camaraderie and kinship brought about by peoples’ mutual love for and awareness of their kinship with animals. I am so glad you shared that, Pam!

    Speaking of stories, that just reminds me that I have one to share, hope that is OK to do here. I just recently had a very cool set of (repeated over a few days’ time) communications with my mare Honey. I wish I could ‘hear’ her better, but she understands me fine! She was turned out in a little paddock to graze a few times recently. I was thinking she might be ready to come in (she was) and I called out to her to ‘Meet me at the gate and I’ll get you out of there’. Each time, she has immediately ambled over to the gate. I was not at the gate any of the 3 times I have told her that, and each time she meets me at the gate! (FYI she is a ‘funny’ horse, more happy in a barn than outside, probably because she spent her formative years in a show barn and really like stall living. She almost drags me over to her stall, so eager she is to get back to it after being outside.)

    1. I love that you are sharing a story here, Jeanie. It’s always OK. And what a wonderful story it is. I am thrilled to hear that you and Honey are getting on so well. If your connection is this strong already, I can’t wait to hear how it progresses.

  2. Hi Pam,

    I was wondering how your experience at the Horse Fair went. It sounds like overall it was positive experience for you with the added bonus of a great community.

    I would have had a difficult time preventing myself from telling the lady who kept trying to get her daughter to pet the pony to “knock it off.” I shudder at the message her little toddler was getting about having her boundaries and feelings respected (or not). Likewise for the woman whose friend was being a bit pushy about getting her to try something she didn’t know about and therefore wasn’t comfortable with trying. Yet, it was clear that when she wasn’t being put on the spot and pushed into a place of defensiveness, the wary woman was willing to consider new information when she saw you were willing to meet her where she was and respect where she was coming from.

    It’s amazing how unintentionally (and occasionally intentionally) disrespectful we can be when it comes to respecting others’ boundaries and preferences. Why do we think we know what’s better or most comfortable for our friends, partners, children or animal companions than they would? And what does it do the level of trust and openness in a relationship if we don’t feel that our boundaries and experience of reality are respected?

  3. I understand what you are saying, Sue. I always have, and always will, speak out when I witness abuse. But neither of these situations was abusive. Becoming angry or pushy myself wouldn’t have improved either situation and might very well have made it worse. I was satisfied with the outcome of my exchange with the woman. And the mother of the toddler had the sense not to put her baby a pony’s back (thank goodness).

    Both of the “offending” women were just trying to share what they felt were wonderful experiences. They wanted their companions to move past their fear so that they could share the joy.

    Sometimes, it’s best just to hold one’s tongue.

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