When Horse Knows Best

The other morning I received a phone call that resulted in me having to make a very difficult, very personal decision. My brain was sent into an immediate tail spin as I endlessly reviewed my options for what to do. Scenario after scenario filled my head as I contemplated both the consequences of my previous decisions and the implications of future outcomes. A veil of mental fog overcame my senses, leaving me in a state of private, silent consultation for the majority of the day. I was at a loss as to what to do and how to access my normally clear way of thinking.

Attempting to use the old trick of coin-toss decision making, I pictured such an allegory in my head. I assigned yes to tails and no to heads and mentally tossed coins for the bulk of the afternoon. A rain shower of change flowed through my synapses. The idea was to see which side, in the moment of the toss, I kept secretly hoping for. Unfortunately, simple repetition didn’t prevail and I kept flip flopping between options – sometimes cheering for a yes, other times a no. Frustrated and mentally exhausted, I arrived at an emotional standstill.

Photo by:  Jane Stewart
Photo by: Jane Stewart

That evening I headed out to the farm where I am trained to use horses in experiential therapy. Once a month I meet with veterans who have varying degrees of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The horses are used as metaphoric guides as we collectively work towards aiding the veterans in their mental health. Equine assisted therapy is an avenue of animal assisted therapy that I never thought I’d explore, let alone be privileged enough to run. What is so special about horses is that they mirror our human behaviour. You can’t lie about how you are feeling when a horse is around, they will call your bluff every time. The best way to connect with a horse is with your heart and not your head, for they will always be there to shed light on your authentic self – whether it takes a positive or negative form.

Through the breadth of this blog I will share the experiences I have had with horses. Some are so overwhelming that I still cannot wrap my head around them. I have been privileged to be both the observer and participant of many intimate encounters with our equine spirits. My experiences with horses over the last several years have affected my soul in ways I cannot express with words.  I will never be able to look at such amazing creatures without a sense of awe and unwavering respect, for it is the horse that has proven to me that animals do in fact garner a soul.  Souls so deep that to look an animal in the eyes is to understand what it means to be alive.

It is because of this knowledge that I knew my time with the horses that night would help lead me in the final direction of the very difficult decision I needed to make.  For success to come, it was essential that I looked deep within myself and let honesty prevail – no matter how much I would/wouldn’t accept it. During our session debrief, while a rather heated discussion was going on, my brain began to trail off. The spinning thoughts of yes and no started up again and I mentally travelled within myself, blocking out what was happening around me. While one of the other facilitators was entertaining the group in a lively discussion of trust versus perception, I became besieged with emotion. Taking several steps back from the session participants, I gave myself permission to be mentally alone for a minute. In that moment I accepted the magnitude of the decision I had to make and let myself be open to what I knew (and had known for some time) I wanted to do. It was then that one of the horses came over to me and put his head on my shoulder. I stepped closer to him and immediately felt an aura of unbelievably powerful energy. Heat and lightness transferred from my equine friend to me and a feeling of instant peace overcame me. While I knew I had already made my decision, it was in that moment, with my equine guide at my side, that I chose to ACCEPT it. The choice had been with me all along; I just needed a push to not only face it but to recognize that all would be well if I decided to make it my reality.

Photo by: Randy Hamelin
Photo by: Randy Hamelin

Before parting, I took a deep breath and scratched my horse friend on the chest. After a little sniff of my ear, this gentle giant took several steps back. Before walking away, our eyes met. I said a silent thank you for his grace filled guidance, fully knowing that he knew I was grateful. I rejoined the group and finished the rest of the session with a clearer head and a restored heart.

My life changed forever when I chose to open myself up to those things which are difficult to explain.  My connection with my day to day world has been strengthened astronomically as a direct result of my work with horses. These creatures, the same ones that used to terrify me but now reduce me to tears because of their gentleness and compassion, have been the best life coaches to me and many others who have been open minded enough to give themselves over to their teachings. No, not every horse is capable of such intervention – nor is every human capable of empathy and understanding.  It is from the horse that I have learned what it means to be human and that trusting my instincts and listening to my heart is what ultimately will allow me to harness the very essence of who I am – including having to make life-changing decisions.

Horses really do know best.

Erica 🙂


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