Author: Pam

Live Each Day Part Two: Lessons from a Wild Mustang

Live Each Day Part Two: Lessons from a Wild Mustang

 

When  I wrote “Live Each Day” Two weeks ago, I didn’t know there would be a Part II. But there is more to tell about the beautiful mustang, Chloe.

 

A Little Background

For those of you who have not heard me tell of Chloe, she was born a wild mustang. She was taken from the range by our government, and adopted out—three times. In the first home, she suffered a broken pelvis; in the next, she was starved. The starvation severely damaged her kidneys.

When Sue, who runs a small horse and dog rescue in the Colorado mountains, adopted Chloe earlier this year, the vets didn’t hold out much hope that Chloe would recover. But Sue was determined to create a loving, supportive, joyful environment for Chloe and her filly, Snapdragon. For no matter how long she lived, Chloe would be safe and allowed to live with dignity.

In April, after learning about Chloe from a Facebook friend, I contacted Sue and offered a series of three Neuromuscular Retraining sessions for Chloe (from a distance), who was having difficulty moving freely as a result of the injury to her pelvis. Chloe responded to the work beautifully and moved much more freely as a result.

In addition to the movement lessons, I shared Reiki treatments with Chloe as well. In the first session, I was hit with a wave of grief from this beautiful creature, who longed so powerfully for her life in the wild. I apologized for the cruelty and stupidity of the humans who had captured her, for the humans who had done her harm. I explained that while she could not run free, she now had a forever home where she would be treated with dignity and respect.

Sue reported that after that session Chloe’s spirits lifted; she accepted her circumstances with not only dignity, but joy. I never again felt this grief from Chloe. She released it, and that was that.

When the three weeks of movement lessons were over, I asked Sue’s permission to continue giving Chloe weekly Reiki sessions to support her damaged kidneys. Chloe responded so well, that about a month ago, I reduced the sessions to every other week.

 

Long Walks

Sue lovingly referred to Chloe as “my wiiiild mustang.” To help Chloe deal with her domestic life, the theft of her freedom, Sue would take Chloe on long walks on trails through the mountain woods. Sue kindly shared with me Chloe’s joy on these excursions, how she would forage for the tastiest morsels of grass, how the two of them bonded, became sisters in spirit.

For several dreadful weeks this summer, they had to forego their walks because of news that a black bear was in the area. But soon enough, they got word that he had moved on, and they were able to resume their glorious excursions.

 

Cold

It gets cold in the mountains of Colorado. One of the biggest challenges facing Sue and Chloe was Chloe’s difficulty staying warm at night, when the temperature would drop below freezing. Sue told me that her first attempt at blanketing Chloe had resulted in several broken ribs for Sue.

During one of my sessions with Chloe, I spoke to her about her need for a blanket. I showed her a blanket (again, from a distance), visualized it being placed on her, and imagined the glorious warmth it would bring. After the session, I suggested to Sue that she get someone to help her with blanketing, that Chloe now understood what a blanket was for and would cooperate with the lesson.

A few days later, a wonderful trainer successfully blanketed Chloe. Now the problem was that Chloe was getting too warm in the daytime! But it didn’t take long for her to allow Sue to put the blanket on at night and take it off in the morning.

Winter comes early to the mountains. About a month ago, in August, Sue emailed that she had awakened in the middle of the night and instinctively gone to the barn. Chloe, who was wearing her blanket and who had a heat lamp in her stall, was shivering terribly. Sue had to put two more blankets on Chloe before she was warm.

In her email, Sue expressed her terrible sadness that Chloe would not make it through the winter. She didn’t want her dear friend to suffer. She did not know what to do.

In my next session with Chloe, on August 11, I tried to get a sense of what Chloe wanted to do. My sense was that she hadn’t made a decision. My notes for the session read:

She felt solid, balanced, happy (a little joyful bubble inside).

I asked, Do you have anything you want to tell Sue?

Chloe answered: “She is perfect. She is a jewel. She has made my life worth living. I was in such despair; I thought that the end of my freedom would end me, but I am happy now. All is as it should be. I am very grateful to her.”

 

After our next session, on August 25, I wrote:

She feels great. Is it sunny today? I can feel the warmth on her back. [I learned later that Chloe has been lying in the sun during the session.]

Last time, she felt good, but I wasn’t sure if it was a transient feeling. I wasn’t sure if she was going to choose to make it through the winter. But today, I felt that she has made a decision. And the decision is to stay. I reminded her that she has a nice warm blanket if she needs it.

 

In our session on September 8, Chloe still felt strong and balanced. I gave her a complete Reiki treatment, but my hands were no longer being drawn to her kidneys.

 

Moving

Several weeks ago, Sue contacted me to say she and her husband had decided to move themselves and their small herd of rescued horses from the mountains of Colorado to Southern California. They had been considering the move for some time but now felt compelled, because of Chloe, to move sooner rather than later.

The trainer was teaching Chloe about trailers. Fairly quickly, Chloe had begun walking into the trailer herself and taking naps. Still, Sue was concerned that the trailer ride might cause Chloe so much stress that she would once again fall ill.

 

On September 12, in my session with Chloe, before I could ask a question, Chloe said, “I’m  having fun!”

I said, “You like playing in the trailer?”

Her response was that she liked playing with her trainer!

I explained to Chloe the plans for moving, which was to happen no later than the first week of October. Chloe said that while she didn’t really like the idea of being closed into a small space, she was open to a new adventure.

She had a number of questions about the trip, which I shared with Sue in my notes. But, I added, “I think with preparation this is going to be a non-event. Chloe assured me she is going to be OK 🙂 ”

Sue was, of course, ecstatic at this news. She wrote: “Hi Pam! Your email made my heart flip with joy!! I will answer the questions later but just had to send back a quick THANK YOU!!!!!! Xoxo!

 

Free at Last

But I didn’t receive those answers. Instead on September 20, two days ago as I write this, I received this email from Sue with the subject line “Free at Last”:

 

Dear Pam,

I had the most blissful week I could have imagined with my sweet Chloe. She whinnied all week in her adorable teenaged girl high pitch whinny that I so love–demanding my presence and attention at all times. She grazed and gobbled grass and hay and last night even ate treats for the first time since May. I can honestly say she was the happiest she has ever been. We snuggled endlessly and laughed together at all of her silliness.

I went to bed with a smile deep in my heart.

This morning she was different as we walked out to graze. I watched carefully because I knew something was off but not sure what.

Then she had a seizure. It was time.

My vet came up and we let her go in the lower pasture, so peaceful and beautiful and perfect, and my dear friend moved her body gently to her grave. He laid little wildflowers on her and I said goodbye to my gorgeous girl–she looked as though she was galloping free, wind in her mane.

I am heartbroken but so grateful for all that she taught me and the love and trust she gave so sincerely.

Thank you for being a part of our lives. I feel so grateful for all of the friends who were there for us in so many ways.

Big hugs your way,

Sue

 

Thank you, Sue, for allowing me time with your beloved friend.

Thank you, Chloe, for all that you have taught us, all of us, about living each day.

 

Chloe the wiiild mustang

 

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Live Each Day

Live Each Day

 

Her horse is doing fine now, living outside, eating a nutritious diet; he is happy and full of energy. Still, she worries.

Her horse is prone to melanomas. A few years ago, he had a severe patch of them growing under his tail, growing inward as well as outward.

They were removed, at great cost, and with his new diet and lifestyle, he has done well ever since. Still, she worries.

Telling me the story, she begins to cry. This will happen again. The surgery was a temporary measure. What will she do when it happens again? She can’t afford the surgery again. She cannot allow him to suffer. She will have to put him down.

She collapses into grief telling me this.

I remind her that he is completely healthy now, enjoying life, that sweet fall is upon us, cool, bug-free nights. I remind her to enjoy every day she has with him.

Every single day.

 

***

Huggy is dying. This sweet, handsome, black-and-white cat has cancer in his gut. I have been working with him twice a month for about six months. The Reiki sessions have resulted in increased energy and increased appetite. He is thin, hasn’t gained weight, but he has stopped losing weight.

During the sessions, he has explained what food he likes and doesn’t like (or isn’t agreeing with him), his response to certain medications and herbs, his feelings about his surroundings (other cats and so on).

His human does her best to accommodate him while, at the same time, taking care of herself. She does not dwell on the future. She lives each day.

After my last session with Huggy, his human sent me this note:

We had such a lovely moment last week.  I was reclining in bed watching TV.  He came and sat on my chest.  I petted him, and after a while he scooted over to the crook of my arm. He finally  ended up on his back with his head on my shoulder, two good friends hangin’ out. These sweet lovey times do us both good.

***

Chloe was born a wild mustang, captured, mistreated. Her current (and forever) home is at a small private rescue in the mountains of Colorado. Chloe’s kidneys had been damaged from starvation, and she wasn’t given much hope for surviving. The cold spring had Chloe on the edge, shivering uncontrollably, refusing to eat hay, but unable to eat the deeply snow-covered grass.

I shared a Reiki treatment with her weekly for several months. She improved so much, I have now reduced them to every other week. Her human takes her on daily walks along wooded trails, hours-long walks, since she can no longer run free. A trainer successfully introduced Chloe to a blanket; her humans have fenced a larger pasture for her to run in; Chloe has become strong, healthy, balanced.

But there is no way to know if Chloe will survive the winter, the winter that has already come to the mountains of Colorado. The days are still warm, but the nights are very, very cold.

A few weeks ago, Chloe’s human shared her worry over what might happen. Thinking about losing her was almost too much to bear. Thinking about her suffering was even worse.

But when Chloe made clear in a session that she is happy and feeling good, that she is enjoying the sunshine and the long walks and the sweet days in her new pasture, her human relaxed into this sweetness.

I received an email today, after a lovely Reiki session with Chloe. Her human shared that she woke up a few nights ago and was moved to check on Chloe who, even though blanketed, was shivering. It took two more blankets to bring her warmth.

But the heart of her email was this:

How nice to hear that-she is definitely rallying! I take her on walks every day for 2-3 hours looking for yummy grazing spots—she loves it and so do I! And she and I have finally gotten to a good place with blanketing. The silly girl has a full wardrobe of different weights and styles of blankies 🙂 she has even been eating some hay! I love her even more than ever if that is possible-she is so sweet and snugly and silly 🙂

No one can know what the future will bring. All we can do is live each day.

 

Chloe in Her New Pasture

 

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Lessons from a Horse Fair

Lessons from a Horse Fair

Respect

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!”

 

Community

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.

 

Stories

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.

 

Challenge

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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Coming to Terms

Coming to Terms

The Move

It turns out that Oreo is a really nice mare.

You couldn’t have convinced me of that 10 days ago, though, when I moved my gelding, Fuersti, and my mare, Tara, to the herd that Oreo leads.

Tara and Fuersti had been living together, just the two of them, for four years on five acres I’d been renting, a piece of a larger property owned by an elder couple who had retired from horse breeding. It was a wonderful arrangement: I cared for my own horses twice a day and could freely use the barn and indoor arena. I keep my horses naturally, so I had a shed built for them as well as an electric rope fence that created a 15-foot track all the way around their pasture—a round dry lot, if you will. (See Jaime Jackson’s Paddock Paradise.)

It’s probably not true that all good things come to an end, but this good thing did. The couple sold their property early this summer, and Tara and Fuersti and I were forced to move along.

While I continue to look for a place to call my own, I’ve moved them to a pasture board situation. The property is clean, the barn is clean, the herd is calm and happy. Tara and Fuersti have lived in a large herd before, so I knew that, after the inevitable adjustment period, they would be fine.

I knew that I would have to adjust as well, to personalities and barn rules. And I expected that leaving my barn would hit me hard, which it did, and that I would have to find the space and time to grieve the loss.

What I didn’t expect was Oreo.

Meeting Oreo

A brown and white paint draft with a blonde and brown mane and tail, Oreo is a lovely looking mare. Her manners, however, frazzled my already frazzled nerves to just this side of the breaking point. She immediately decided that Fuersti was hers and followed him around the 11-acre pasture endlessly. She allowed me to walk out into the pasture and bring Fuersti and his sister into the barn, but she followed closely behind, her nose practically on Fuersti’s tail. And when I got to the gate across the back of the barn, she was standing so close that I couldn’t back my horses up to allow the gate to swing open.

Oreo

I could have swung the gate in, but then Oreo would have—I assumed—walked into the barn with us.

My horses have excellent ground manners. If I want them to back up, I only need to gently touch their chests and they move off from the pressure. If I want a shoulder or hip moved over, I only need to focus my gaze on it.

I tried touching Oreo’s chest. Not only didn’t she move, she didn’t acknowledge that I had touched her. She just stood, rooted like a giant Maple, looking at me.

And so I had to drop the lead ropes, flip the chain up over the gate post, open the gate a crack, slip into the barn (hoping Tara and Fuersti, who had not yet settled into their new herd, wouldn’t take off), flip the chain back over the gate post, go get my stick (a training tool, not a weapon), flip the chain up over the gate post, open the gate a crack, slip back into the paddock, flip the chain back over the gate post (by which time I was so frustrated I could barely breathe) and, holding the stick vertically to the ground, pound the handle into the ground, while making myself very big (head up, chest open), so that Oreo stepped back  . . . one . . . little . . . step. And repeat. About six times. Until there was enough room for me to swing the gate outward and get my horses into the barn.

Slow as Oreo moves, it didn’t take her long to catch up with us, and so I had to repeat the stick-pounding dance to move her back a step so that I could close the gate again.

My horses, who are used to walking into the barn themselves and going into their stalls to eat, with no direction from me, stood in the aisle, attached to lead ropes, agitated and confused about what they were supposed to do next. Unfortunately, their stalls, across from each other, are directly inside the barn, right next to the gate. To get into the barn and close the gate before Oreo could follow, I’d had to lead them past their stalls. Now I had to turn them around and coax them in. All the while, Oreo was not only leaned against the gate, she was kicking it.

Fuersti was so wound up, he wouldn’t eat his dinner (or his breakfast or dinner the next day). He spun around in his stall, while Oreo hollered for him and kicked the gate.

Three or four times, I would grab the stick, make myself big, and walk with energy and purpose up to the gate, staring at her. The kicking would stop . . . for a minute.

The evening of the second day, I was actually dreading going to the barn to feed. This ticked me off. My horses are my sanity; the barn is my church, the place where I commune most powerfully with Spirit. And because of that blasted stubborn mare, I was dreading it.

After that second dinner, as Oreo herded my two away from the barn and into the herd, she stopped for a minute, craned her neck and looked at me over her shoulder, long and hard. I spoke to her in a loud and angry voice: “I don’t like you, Oreo. I don’t like you at all. You are making things very difficult for me, and it just isn’t fair.” She turned and slowly walked back to the herd.

Stress Can Make You Stupid

After my first day of fighting with Oreo, I spoke to someone at the barn about her and found out her human has stopped coming to see her, which explained the lack of manners. No one groomed her or took her for walks or spent any time with her. Now I don’t know that horses living in a good-sized herd actually need this kind of human contact, but something was up with this mare.

I was starting to face the fact that this situation was going to be our situation for awhile, that our former barn wasn’t our barn anymore, that I didn’t know what the next steps were going to be, but that for now this is where we were. I was, to put it bluntly, coming to my senses.

I remembered that I am an animal communicator. (Yes, stress can make you stupid.) What was I doing getting angry with this poor animal?  How about talking to her instead? And so the morning of the third day, after I’d maneuvered my horses into the barn, after Oreo had positioned herself against the barn gate so she could stare at Fuersti, and before she started kicking at it, I stood in front of her and gently stroked her face.

“Beautiful girl,” I said. And I meant it. Her eyes softened, her face softened—or that’s what I saw at the time. I think now that her eyes and face had always been soft, that I had been so stressed and frustrated and sad and mad that I hadn’t noticed who this beautiful creature was or what she wanted from me.

I spoke softly to her for several minutes, then went about the business of tending to my horses. She never once kicked at the gate.

That evening, when I went out to the pasture to get my two, I made a point of first approaching Oreo, greeting her with soft words and strokes to her face and shoulder. I felt I owed her this respect. She is, after all, the lead mare. The herd is hers. She accepted my greeting and then gently took one step away. I found my horses, and we headed back to the barn. Oreo did not follow us.

She has not  followed us to the barn since. I can easily come and go, and my horses calmly eat their meals. When they rejoin the herd, Oreo quietly greets them. Only once was she standing outside the barn gate as we were getting ready to leave, and she stepped aside, no word from me, giving us plenty of room to maneuver.

Peace

Yesterday morning, Tara and Fuersti were both lying in the sun, sleeping. They were clearly exhausted, and I could not rouse them. Transitioning into a herd is tough work. I greeted Oreo, who was standing watch a few feet away, one hind leg cocked. I let them sleep while I took my little white dog, Elika, for our morning walk around the hay field. As I left, I thanked Oreo for accepting my beloved horses into her herd, for accepting me.

Beautiful Girl

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your Life

 

This whole debt-ceiling hostage crisis has given me a stomach ache or, more accurately, a heartache. The posturing, the vitriol, the expectation that one take a “side” and hurl insults at those on the other “side.” The insistence, by some, of total commitment to an ideology.

Some years ago, when I was teaching college writing and for a brief moment thought I’d like to teach at the high school level instead, I began taking education classes. One day, in the History of American Education class, the professor asked an ethics question. I don’t remember why he asked it, but I remember the question very well because of the response one of the students gave, an African-American woman in her late forties or early fifties, a straight-laced, serious woman. A, by her own description, devout church goer.

 

Here’s the question:

Your child is desperately ill and will die without a particular medication. You have a prescription for the medication, but the pharmacist, the only one in your rural area, refuses to sell it to you. He is a bigot, and refuses to sell to (fill in the blank).

Do you steal the medication, or do you let your child die?

 

Now the answer seems so obvious to me as to render the question ridiculous. I mean, if you want to talk ethics, give me a question that forces me to weigh the options. Who on earth would allow her child to die because a bigoted pharmacist refused to fill a legal prescription?

Well, you guessed it, the straight-laced, devout woman would have.

Stealing is wrong, she said. It’s illegal. She would never steal for any reason, she said. She would never break the law.

“You would let you child die?” I asked, stunned.

She just stared at me with icy eyes.

Let me say this: This woman, and every other individual, has a right to her world view and, yes, even to her ideology.

But I think that our ideologies, when set in stone, can cause great damage. Rigid ideology of any kind can feel comforting because we don’t have to think; we can just react. This is right. This is wrong. End of story. And, too often, we don’t have to feel, either.

What would happen if each of us stepped back from our ideology, our opinions set in stone; looked, really looked, at a situation we may be facing—a personal situation, a local situation, a national situation? What would happen if we not only allowed our minds to open but allowed our hearts to open as well?

What would it mean to our own personal well-being, to the well-being of our families, our communities, our states, our nation, our world? What would it mean to our wild horses, our wolves, our manatees, our tigers? What would it mean to our oceans, our rivers, our lakes?

What would happen if we looked, really looked into the eyes of a hungry child, into the eyes of a woman on the edge of despair, into the eyes of a man so consumed with amassing wealth that he has forgotten how to live? What would happen if we looked into the eyes of the wild creatures, recognized our own wildness in them, and chose to honor that wildness rather than destroy it?

What would happen if we—each of us—stepped back and considered solutions to our most pressing problems not only through the lens of money—how much a solution will cost, who will gain, who will consequently have to lose (because if there is a winner, there has to be a loser) but with regard, instead, to the sacredness of life?

 

 

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Two Goodbyes

Two Goodbyes

 

 

A Beautiful Morning

A break in the heat and humidity made it a gorgeous summer morning, and I was in great spirits because after 13 and a half miserable hours the day before, the power had finally come back on–and was still on. What a storm that was!

I’d gotten to the farmers’ market early enough to claim some of the luscious organic tomatoes and cucumbers I wait for all year, and I was chatting with the farmer, friendly, rather idle conversation, about the nasty storm (his power still wasn’t on), past nasty storms (the time a power line fell across his driveway), organic gardening, and the beautiful weather we were blessed with that morning, my dog, Elika, sitting calmly at my feet, the guitarist playing in the band shell in the middle of the grassy square, the smell of fresh bread and cut flowers.

The conversation took a sad turn when the farmer told me he’d had to put a horse down over the weekend, his daughter’s horse. He told me how much his daughter loved that horse, how they used to go to shows, what pals they were. She’s a college student now, lives out of state, but had been home for the weekend. Her horse’s intestines had burst into his diaphragm; a genetic weakness, the vet said, something he was most likely born with. I said it was a blessing that the horse had waited for his daughter to come home. He looked at me oddly, maybe wondering if I was joking. I told him I was serious. It was a blessing that they got to say goodbye.

 

Trouble

We didn’t have to try to change the subject because a woman a few feet away asked me if it was safe to approach the booth. I wasn’t sure what she meant until she pointed to my dog, my sweet Elika, who was calmly sitting, leashed, at my feet.

I assured the woman that Elika was perfectly safe; still the woman hesitated, then told me she used to have a dog just like mine—an American Eskimo mini. Her dog, though, had been very aggressive.

The woman catapulted into a long, frantically told story about this dog, this Eskie, and her two other dogs, Shelties, and how they sometimes got along and sometimes didn’t get along, and how the Eskie, a male, was very aggressive, would bark and bark and bark like a crazy creature when someone came to the door. (I added that my Elika used to be that way, too, just so the woman wasn’t talking to herself. I didn’t say that the behavior was actually territorial, not aggressive, but that’s what I was thinking.)

The woman said her Eskie, when he was barking madly at the door, would sometimes nip at the other dogs if they got in the way. I wanted to ask how she responded to this behavior, but I held my tongue. Then one day, she said, when a delivery person came to the door, the Eskie attacked one of the Shelties, grabbed the side of its face. Well, she said, she took the Eskie to the vet that very day. I thought, she took the Eskie to the vet? What for?

She told that vet she just couldn’t have this behavior in her house, couldn’t abide her Shelties getting hurt.

And I, not quite believing what I was hearing, said, “Wait. You had the dog put down?”

Yes, she said, what else could she do?

I turned and thanked the farmer for his gorgeous tomatoes, promising to come back next week. The woman was still talking about how she had to put the dog down, she couldn’t put up with that behavior. I turned to face her and said the first full sentences I’d managed to utter since she’d begun talking: “This was a training issue. It was your job to train your dog. Excuse me. I have to leave now.”

As Elika and I walked away, the woman launched into an even higher gear, her voice shrill and accusatory (accusing me?) explaining (trying to convince herself?) that the situation was just too dangerous, that the dogs had all lived together for four years, and if he was going to attack a dog that he’d known for four years, well, he just couldn’t be trusted, and it was an awful wound, and blah, blah, blah. Elika and I kept walking. I said a silent prayer for the lost dog. I tried not to think dark thoughts about the woman, who clearly had no clue. I thought about the vet who had carried out this death sentence.

 

Two goodbyes, one said with love and sorrow, one said with ignorance and fear.

 

 

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Event Schedule

Event Schedule

If you would like to schedule a free, 90-minute Reiki or Animal Communication talk at your home, barn, or club, Contact Pam.

 

Introduction to Animal Communication

July 14, 2018

22 private acres of woods and prairie in Harvard, IL.

This is a gorgeous rural property that is home to deer, wild turkey, rabbits and other furry creatures, and birds, birds, birds (who often stay close during classes).

For more information or to sign up, Contact Pam.

 

 

 

 

A Tender Heart

A Tender Heart

A perfect day. The rain never came, the sky was clear and blue, the air was warm but not too warm, and the 65 mile drive to the city had been relatively uneventful. I sat in the air-conditioned chill of the theater with my two dear friends, quietly chatting and waiting for the film to begin. I had been waiting for weeks and weeks, ever since I heard about the film, ever since I saw the trailer, which left me quiet and sad and elated and excited, so very excited, like a little girl waiting for her birthday, her party, all of her friends at her house, the fun they would have, the nourishing love embedded in that day.

My two friends are very special friends. I have known them for most of my adult life. But several years ago, a quiet, stealthy rift somehow snuck itself between us.

I invited them to see this film with me to help to heal this rift. My friends know my love of horses, how this love turned my life upside down, drove me out of the city, into what I once considered the edges of civilization, that drove me to a new occupation, a new life. My friends had once visited the barn I lease for my two horses, had learned to groom and lead them; one had even sat on my Fuersti and experienced the thrill of being five feet off the ground atop the warm strength of another being.

Within minutes of the start of the film, I had settled into its world, the world of horse trainer Buck Brannaman and his life on the road, traveling around the country, “help[ing] horses with people problems.” I felt as though I was right there at the clinics watching Buck working with the horses, patiently teaching the participants; I could feel the hot sun on the top of my head, smell the dust in the air, the musky sweat of the horses, feel the camaraderie of the group, the horse lovers hungry for direction, wanting to learn a better way of being with their horses.

As I watched this man, a man who had suffered extreme abuse as a child, who had been mercilessly beaten at the hands of the man who should have offered support and guidance, his father, beatings so severe that Buck and his brother were eventually removed from the home after their mother’s death and placed with foster parents, as I watched this man, listened to his gentle voice, watched his gentle manner, with both horses and humans, gentle but firm, direct, honest, something inside me began to shift.

Years ago, I read a book by psychologist Alice Miller, The Untouched Key, that argued that what kept the abused child from becoming an abuser was a sympathetic witness, someone who acknowledged the child’s pain and helped to heal the heart.

Buck Brannaman was blessed with several such witnesses, both two-legged and four-legged: His loving foster parents, his mentor, horseman Ray Hunt. Buck said in an interview that horses saved his life and that the work he does now—crisscrossing the country, teaching people to relate to horses with patience and fairness and gentleness—is his way of giving back. He made a choice. He chose to transform the brutality, the  terror, the pain, into vulnerability and tenderness, and to use these divine gifts to create healing for himself and for others.

The something inside of me beginning to shift was my heart unfolding.

As we left the theater, my friends and I talked quietly, deeply moved by what we had experienced. We were not the same. I had hoped that our time together would start us on the path to healing. I had not expected that the quiet dignity of a man on a screen would be a force that healed us.

Driving away from the city, back to the edges of civilization, my little white dog dozing in the back seat, driving towards my beloved horses, I felt nourished and tender. My body was relaxed, my hands soft, my heart full. I felt a tender promise in the air, a tender possibility, the glorious promise that each day brings.

 

 

Click here to see the trailer for  this beautiful film, Buck.


I would love to hear your thoughts and stories about our power to heal ourselves and others.  I hope you will be moved to share.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

 

 

How to Breathe with Your Horse

How to Breathe with Your Horse

 

Originally published in the June 2011 issue of From the Horse’s Mouth

 

You rush into the barn after a killer day at work, after being caught in traffic or missing your train or having to listen to loud-talkers on their cell phones when all you wanted to do was try to relax. You don’t have much time to ride now, darn it, so you dash around the barn at top speed, throwing on your riding clothes, silently cursing the fellow boarder who stops to tell you a (not very interesting) story about her or his horse or dog or child. Ordinarily, you would love to stop and chat, but not today. You smile weakly, nod in fake agreement, silently counting the minutes of riding that you are missing, computing how long it will take you to get back home so you can shower, eat something, pay some bills, and get ready for tomorrow, to start all over again.

Or maybe your horses live on your property, which means you won’t have to drive home after you ride, but you will have to feed and muck and fill the water tank and sweep the aisle, and what is that, a loose fence board?

Maybe neither of these scenarios rings true. But you get the idea: Sometimes when you go to ride, you’re stressed.

Horses being horses, the more hurried you are, the slower they move. And the more stressed you are, the less cooperative they are. They’re trying to tell us something, but too often we’re just not listening.

Because a stressed ride is rarely an enjoyable ride, it’s a good idea to calm yourself before attempting to communicate with your horse. You could take your horse for a short, relaxing walk in hand before mounting up; if you have been trained in Reiki, you could do self-Reiki for a few minutes, and then share a few minutes of Reiki with your horse; if you practice meditation, you could calm and center yourself with a few minutes of meditation.

What all of these approaches have in common is that you are slowing your breath, letting go of distractions, and refocusing your attention on your equine companion, on the calm, the peace, the fullness of heart that just being together can bring.

If you don’t already have an approach for finding this calm center, I would like to teach you a very simple and effective one: Breathing with your horse.

 

Softening Your Hands

The first step is to soften your hands. To do this, pretend you are gently pulling taffy. Start with the fingertips of your left hand touching the fingertips of your right hand. Then gently pull your hands apart. Repeat this slow, gentle motion until your hands, wrists, and arms are relaxed. Four or five repetitions will probably be enough.

Remember to breathe as you do this. Humans often hold their breath when they are learning something new or concentrating too intently. Let your mind go; relax. Pull the taffy, gently, slowly.

Pulling Taffy

 

Placing Your Hands on Your Horse

Remember that whenever you touch your horse (or dog or cat or child or spouse—any other being), you are joining your nervous systems. This is why touch from an agitated person can be so unnerving and why touch from a calm, centered person can be so soothing.  As you know, horses are extremely sensitive to touch, so you want to make sure you are sharing calm, nourishing touch.

Once your hands are soft, place them on your horse’s body. You can place them wherever you like: The ribcage area is probably easiest, but you can also place your hands on your horse’s back or neck or chest or girth area (or one hand on one area, one hand on another). Just be sure you are in a comfortable position.

Make sure your hands are actually on your horse, not just resting on her hair, which can tickle and annoy her. And be sure your hands are not gripping your horse. You want soft, firm, calming hands.

Your horse may move away from your touch, especially if he is trained to move away from pressure, which can be frustrating when you are trying something new. But be patient. Once your horse understands what you are doing, which may not happen the first time you try this, he will both enjoy and appreciate it.

Soft Hands on Ribcage

 

Breathing with Your Horse

You’ve softened your hands and placed them on your horse; now all that’s left to do is breathe. Yes, I know you’ve been breathing all along!  But now you will slow and deepen your breath.

Try breathing from your abdomen. As you inhale (yes inhale), let your abdomen fill with air like a rubber ball; as you exhale, allow your abdomen to flatten. Find a comfortable, slow rhythm. Keep your hands soft; breathe.

You may be able to synchronize your breath with your horse’s breath (although this can be easier with a dog, where you can feel the rising and falling of the creature’s chest and sides). But whether or not you can feel your horse’s breath, your horse will be able to feel yours.

If you keep your hands soft and breathe deeply and slowly, you will find that the anxiety of the day will evaporate; within minutes, you and your horse will be one.

Your horse will be grateful for your calm and loving presence. And you will be in a better frame of mind to enjoy your ride.

 

Copyright 2011, by Pam Sourelis

 

 

 

Like a Child

Like a Child

 

I was six, maybe seven years old. My little sister and I were visiting our grandparents in Colorado, and they had taken us to their friends’ farm where we got to ride a horse, a real horse, a big, brown, gorgeous horse. Helen. We were thrilled just by the sight of her. The sweet touch of her velvet nose in my outstretched hand was almost too much, the feel of the saddle on my bare legs, my sister’s arms around my waist, the clop, clop, clop, clop of Helen’s hooves on the hard dirt as our grandfather led us around the farmyard.

Earlier this week, on a cool, luscious summer evening, I was in the company of  another big, brown, gorgeous horse, my Tara. It had been a bear of a day, and I was soothed by her quiet eyes, the musky scent of her skin, her solid, calm presence as she walked next to me. But it was the sound of her hooves on the long asphalt driveway that brought to mind the ecstasy of my first encounter with a horse. Oh yes, I’d had the pleasure of sitting on a kind-hearted pony at Kiddieland, going round and round, but a “real” horse, on a real farm, the smell of cut hay and cattle, the three-legged dog, the old white farmhouse, my grandpa, my sister, Helen, this was food for my soul unlike any I had ever tasted.

When this memory darted into my mind, I grabbed it, turned it over, stepped inside of it, reveled in its sweet healing.

Do you remember the thrilling sound of a puppy lapping water from a bowl; the tickly hum of a kitten purring in your lap; the bobbing head and chirp, chirp of a blue parakeet, it’s head cocked to one side; the squeak, squeak of a hamster running laps on its wheel; the gurgle of the fish tank stocked with zebra fish darting in and out of their porcelain castle? Do you remember these sounds from years ago, the heady joy of being in the presence of one not of your kind?

I thanked Helen for the memory, then looked at my beloved Tara—my friend, my confidant, my teacher—with fresh eyes, the eyes of a thrilled child walking next to a horse for the first time on a beautiful summer evening.