Updated: Sep 26, 2020
To be of service to others may have somewhat of a woo-woo connotation, especially when the other happens to be an animal who for centuries has served humans.
I first came across this way of being with horses by accident, (literally!) when a horse I used to lease was injured.
Before the injury I would come every day, groom and ride and as far as I could tell the relationship between the two of us was pretty normal for a horse-human one. Then, about 6 months into our relationship she was put on stable rest by the vet, due to an injury.
Suddenly our meetings looked very different. I would come and visit her and just check in on her and see how she was doing. I would be very attentive to her mood and I would see if I could notice if she was in more or less discomfort. I would unlatch the stable gate and sit on an upturned bucket and I would spend a lot of time just watching her. I would let myself be taken in by her presence and stillness and the wonderfully melodic sound of her munching her hay. I would chat to her about my day and what I thought would be fun for us to get up to once she could leave the stable.
I started to bring my books along and I would read to her. She would stand quietly at first, not really interested in me being there at all. And then slowly I could sense that she looked forward to my visits. Silky black ears suddenly were pricking up when I arrived...why had I not noticed that her ears were not pricked before? Perhaps she realised that I was just here for her, it was as simple as that. It was just the two of us, spending time together.
A short while later, the vet advised that she could be taken on very short walks around the yard - to the grass patch and back. And so began our little routine of a few steps of steady walking down to the grass patch. It was like these walk outs meant everything to us, together we were going to make it to that patch and back, and I was going to be there for her every step of the way!
The refreshing simplicity of this new way of being together had me wondering why I had complicated things so much in the first place. And really why was it so important that she trot a 20 meter circle in perfect tempo and why did that matter so much?
I started to notice very subtle shifts in the way she would stand next to me, day after day as we made it to the grass patch. In a way perhaps she felt that I had changed. Or perhaps she felt something between us that was better too. There was a softness between the two of us and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I think of her often. The little mare who I sat with, night after night, who told me: "listen".
You see, I thought that she needed me, but in fact, I was the one who needed the stillness and warmth of her.
Often when I would arrive in the evenings after a long day at work and settle down next to her in the warm, dark stable, I would feel my heart thumping against my chest. Had it been racing like this all day? I would notice I was hardly breathing before I would sit down with her.
It is a strange thing when you think you start to hear animals. And maybe "hear" is the wrong word. It doesn't happen in the way one might think.
You see, many times while I was sitting with her in that warm and dark stable, I would hear "listen". Over and over and over. Gently, quietly, soothingly, "listen". Night after night. Walk after walk. And then, tentatively I began to listen. Slowly, I began to take more notice of what was going on inside of me. In the quiet of the stable I could no longer ignore myself. I got to see myself for where I was at that time in my life - outwardly successful, but silently suffering from crippling anxiety and on the verge of a breakdown.
That little mare showed me that I had the courage to make some changes in my life and that accepting my anxiety was the start of a new beginning.
Many horses may cross our paths and if we practice mindfulness and conscious care we can offer our horses many wonderful things and we can greatly improve their lives. But I am forever humbled by what our horses want to share with us. Through coming to our horses in order to be of service, in truth, we are actually the ones who are being guided. And let me tell you, it is the most beautiful, pure and blissful way to be with horses.
Lara, founder of The Gift of The Horse
Peggy. I miss you. Thank you for everything x