Upon learning he was a retired race horse, I immediately felt my horse’s frustration. Images flooded my mind of him maneuvering this steep grade and repetitious trail over and over. It was a road to nowhere. I silently told him how sorry I was things turned out this way.
I closed my eyes and focused on sending him love when suddenly, he stopped abruptly, swung his head around and stared directly into my eyes. I was stunned. It was 1986 and I was absolutely certain that animals do know our thoughts and feel our energy.
When I was 10 years old, my mother took my brother and me to a farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to ride horses. Each week started with my brother being thrown off a pony multiple times until the owner was finally convinced it couldn’t be ridden. After a basic lesson, we were on our own.
I loved feeling the power of my horse’s body beneath me along with a freedom I had previously unknown. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before my joy turned to terror when the gentle trot I came to trust turned into a death defying high-speed run back to the barn each week.
Years later in an equine and ropes workshop, my group was asked to persuade two horses to cross an imaginary bridge withoutcommunication, touch, or bribery, including with each another. We succeeded with the first horse then failed miserably with the second. I recognized how our mixed messages confused the second horse causing him to lose interest in us. For the remaining exercises I asked my horse to work with me, and once this connection was established we completed the final maneuvers almost flawlessly.
It was with high anticipation that I merged onto the freeway and headed north to Lake Stevens. I was meeting with the owners of a small horse facility to read their horses. I would only learn later that the horses were expecting me and, in fact, one of them had called me to them.
After arriving at my destination, I met the family and was soon communicating with Lakota, a seven-year-old dark bay Standardbred gelding that had recently come to live with them. I introduced myself and blended with his energy as I explained why I was there.
Lakota backed away and began to pace. I could see the confusion in his eyes. He was nervous and conveyed he didn’t know what to say as he had never been asked to talk to anyone before. I began asking questions to calm his nerves. His owner informed me Lakota does some things well but hadn’t been trained in others and, therefore, gets confused. She wondered what could be done to help him and if he was suited for trail rides.
Lakota emphasized that he is a smart horse then asked that the family be patient with him. He showed me he needed time to learn what is required of him then time to integrate the new training. He assured us he could master anything by the sixth attempt.
Lakota pointed out that he is very good with children. I saw an image of a young girl riding him in the family’s equine facilitated therapy program. Lakota showed me he was highly attuned to her emotions during the ride. I felt her emotions change from trepidation to joy; soon a happiness and increased confidence take hold of her.
I learned that a wise neighboring horse is helping Lakota to adjust and asked that he be patient with himself. Lakota understands he will learn much about life from this horse in addition to the people who come to ride him. He expresses gratitude to his family for his new home and opportunities and, most of all, for seeing who he really is and understanding him. Lakota thanks me for seeing his beauty inside and out. He hopes to someday share his own wisdom with me.
We leave Lakota to meet Casanova next. Casanova is a very handsome, proud horse. He prances as we approach. His energy is high and it takes a little while to bring him down. I feel his personality and anticipation of things to come. Eventually, Casanova is able to focus and communicate with me. We begin by asking riding style preferences and other day-to-day questions.
Casanova initiates by sharing how much he loves to feel his body and the pride it gives him. He informs me he was respected and revered for his hard work and training. His trainer praised him for his accomplishments and he was pushed to do his best. Together, they worked hard and he earned this praise. Casanova relives these times and the excitement of past events. He tells me he is happy to demonstrate his abilities and to show off for us!
Casanova is an eight-year-old bay Andalusian/Arab cross gelding. He makes it clear that he is no ordinary horse! His family confirms Casanova won a National Half-Arabian Sport horse Championship in Arizona in dressage among many other awards. He has boxes of ribbons and will soon perform in his first endurance ride.
The reading ends with Casanova’s message: “I try to do my best and show people and other horses what a soul can accomplish. We are all capable of more than we realize. I was a role model to others who did not know they could also work to realize their own potential. I am a proud horse and I enjoy showing others who I am and that they, too, can be more than they think they are. I am a shining example for many.”
Lakota and Casanova remind me of what is important and what is real. They are perfect examples of why I love what I do.
To meet Casanova or learn more about equine facilitated learning, go to The Flying Filly: