Sunday, July 25, 2010

Darn that Midnight, anyway

So I’m standing on the lane with Midnight and Raja, talking to my cousin, who’s venting—she’s been taking care of our elderly aunt who recently had surgery.

The conversation has been going on for a while.

The two horses are grazing peacefully. It’s hot but thank goodness the sun is under the clouds. I’m mindlessly scratching Raja’s scruffy old back when suddenly I hear the t-tlot t-tlot t-tlot t-tlot of a cantering horse.

What the….

I whirl around. There’s old Midnight, high-tailing it (literally—he’s an Arabian, after all) down the lane. For a split second, I worry that he’ll run right into the street; then I remember that it’s 2:30, feeding time back at the barn.

“Janie--loose horse--gotta go. Come on, Raja. We’ve got to go catch Midnight.” Raja, though, can’t run; he starts to cough, so we slow down to a pretty speedy walk.

Back at Barn Eight, my friend Susan is holding Midnight’s lead rope. “Missing someone?” she asks. “Yeah. A mean little black horse.”

That goofball. Just like a kid: they always know when you’re on the phone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What a day!

OK. Squinch up your eyes and tell me the first thing you see in that picture.

Before I tell you what I see, let me tell you what the object in the picture is.

My cat knocked over a bottle of liquid face soap some time yesterday. It ran all over my counter and soaked lots of things, among them this badge. It's my favorite "Doctor Doctor Kay" Hatchlings badge, the one with the little gold wings that I earned the first time I called half a dance. It's really special to me, and I'm pretty upset about the damage.

Anyway. I tried to clean it off this morning, and put it away to dry. When I got home this afternoon, this is what I found.

I don't know about you, but the image I see is the head of a paint horse. How weird is that, folks?

And today was such a weird day. I spent most of it at the barn caring for, and arranging care for, two horses who don't even belong to me, but who need an advocate, and someone to go the extra mile for them right now. One is Raja, whose owner has way too much on her own plate to give him the time that he needs, no matter how much she loves him. I'm more than glad to help--he's my dear old buddy.

The other is "Spook," whose owner is a brand-new, first-time mother whose financial and personal predicament is pretty dire. There's no way she can deal with Spook, who was injured out in the pasture and couldn't fend for himself to get enough food. He's living indoors now, but needs extra care, extra food, and extra attention.

Long story. My part in Spook's case is more that of a negotiator, helping those who are willing to help care for him figure out a plan that takes in the needs of the barn, the owner, the horse, and the would-be helpers themselves. I just hope it's enough. He's a good horse.

It was a long, hard day. Midnight had a vet visit, Raja's food bucket desperately needed cleaning and bleaching, and it was just shy of 100 degrees in the barn. I was hot, tired, dirty, and thirsty when I came home. But that strange image on my badge feels like a thank-you from the Horse Ancestors!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Missed appointment

Midnight didn’t get to see the farrier today. Here’s what happened, as factually as I can report it:

The appointment was at 10:00 this morning. I arrived about 8:45, just before the storm hit, and got Midnight inside as the first raindrops fell. He and I walked around the arena barn, enjoying ourselves. Some of the time I stood inside the back door of the barn and let Midnight stand out in the rain, nibbling grass.

I pretty much let him go where he wanted. He investigated everything. He watched the camp kids, all fifteen or so of them, riding around the arena. He introduced himself to all the horses in the barn, including a new horse, a pretty little Arabian, who announced to everyone with his whinnying that he was not happy with his new accommodations. Midnight, trying to be friendly, nearly got bitten for his trouble. Midnight's neck arched and he got that studly look in his eye that says, “I’ll show you, little man!” I backed him away before the fight started.

As it got close to 10, we hung around the front of the barn near Midnight’s stall and watched for the farrier. A couple of my friends were there. "Sally" had Spunky tied to the railing, and "Elsa" was there wondering if she should let her horse stay out in the pasture in the rain or go bring him in. I tied Midnight up to the rail while we talked.

We were standing there talking at 10:03—I remember looking at my cell phone. As it got later and later, I walked Midnight down to the other end of the arena barn again, then brought him back. At about 10:25 I called Stan’s cell.

“Hey, Stan. Just wondered where you are, if you’re on your way.”

“Horse wasn’t there. I’m on my way to Hazelwood now.”

I sputtered and asked him how that could be, because I had been there, walking up and down the aisle, since 9:30.

That’s when I got mad.

The rest of what Stan said, as nearly as I can remember, was that he had looked into the barn and saw that Midnight’s stall was empty. He saw a bunch of kids in the arena (all the campers) and a few horses tied up in the aisle, but that was all, and so he left. One of those horses was probably Midnight.

I asked him when he had been there, and he said, “Fifteen or twenty minutes ago.”

I believe I said I was sorry, and probably said I wished he had given me a call, because I was right there. It’s hard to remember, since everything had gotten pretty red and hazy. Stan started to check his schedule, but the traffic light changed, he said. I told him not to try to reschedule while he was driving, but to give me a call when he had a chance and let me know. I was furious, and I do believe I hung up pretty abruptly.

Anyway. Neither Sally nor Elsa remembered seeing anyone looking for Midnight. They both said something about a green truck quite a while before. Whether or not Stan’s truck is green, I have no idea. It might have been Stan, but if so, he was early, and didn’t park where he normally does. Actually, I now wonder if he even got out of his truck. That didn't occur to me earlier. It was raining, after all.

So I call Midnight's owner, pissed as hell, and tell him I'm DONE with Stan, that I'm really mad, that I'm never gonna speak to Stan again, etc., etc….. Midnight's owner, laughing, says, “Get over it. Talk to him, and let me know what he says.” Shit, says I. When pigs fly. And off I drove to the rescue ranch, my next appointment.

Anyway. Later this afternoon, when I left the ranch (where there's no cell phone service most of the time), there’s a message from Stan rescheduling to next Wednesday. After giving the date and the time, he says, “You can’t expect me to mess up my schedule for one horse. No one has to be there, as long as the horse is in his stall.” He still sounds mad, but with maybe a twinge of defensiveness.

He’s correct. I absolutely agree about his schedule, and I can see his point. After fretting about this incident all the way home from the ranch, I think I understand a little better what happened.

There seems to be a difference in the assumptions here, one that tracks pretty well with male and female ways of thinking. Logical, rational fact agrees with Stan: appointment at 10, no horse in stall, end of story. A more relational point of view has a different take: appointment at 10, no horse in stall. That’s odd. Let’s give the client a quick call and see if there’s some mix-up. Thirty seconds later, client appears. Appointment holds, horse is shod, regularly scheduled programming continues.

Do I sound pissed? Actually, I think I’m more disappointed than anything else. I enjoy hanging out with Stan. He's a gentle soul with a sometimes curmudgeonly persona (he would agree with that assessment, by the way). Kinda like Midnight himself: stubborn, opinionated, doesn’t tolerate fools. Lots of knowledge and experience and more than a thing or two that I can learn from him.

From Stan’s perspective, though, it might go more like this: It’s raining. Traffic is rotten, I hate shoeing horses in the rain, got a lot on my mind. Been out twice to this barn recently, and the experiences with the horses weren't great. Well, just dandy, look there: Midnight isn’t in his stall. That crazy woman probably forgot to keep him in. Forget this, I’m outta here.

And I can’t really say I blame him all that much. I would have done things differently, but OK.

Rats. So I’m not really mad any more. Not happy, but not mad. I’ll call Stan back tomorrow, on his voice mail, and apologize for Midnight not being in his stall. We’ll see how it goes from there. Definitely some hurt feelings on my part, though.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mare Energy

Recently I’ve been participating in a series of workshops facilitated by Epona-certified trainer Kelly R. out at the stable where she boards her three horses. The location is serene and peaceful, and the experiences I’ve had there with her horses have been so intriguing!

It’s difficult to put into words what happens between human and horse during one of these special encounters. To an untrained onlooker, nothing happens most of the time—it’s just a horse and a person standing around, or at most, walking around together in a pasture, arena, or round pen. But to the equine and human participants, it can be dramatic.

Here's an example:

In one exercise, our goal was just to experience an energetic connection with one of two horses grazing in a small pasture. We were to initiate the encounter by focusing our attention on the horse we chose to interact with, using a special breathing technique. Then we were to enter the pasture and move toward the horse. I chose Hope, the paint mare, because she and I hadn’t interacted much before that evening.

Hope noticed me as soon as I entered the pasture—I could feel her attention shift, and she lifted her head. I acknowledged her by pausing, exhaling, and lowering my head. When she relaxed, I moved forward again. This happened twice more as I encountered the boundaries of other energetic layers, which she signaled by momentarily shifting her focus back to me. Each time I was careful to acknowledge immediately and fully.

As I got closer—perhaps ten feet from her—I could actually feel her energy in my own body, much as I would with a person on whom I was doing energy work. Hope let me into her space with an acknowledgement of her own: once again she raised her head to look at me, gave a deep sigh through her nose, and returned to nibbling.

I moved close and touched her side, which she seemed to welcome. I could feel the bigness of her energy, so different than the human energy field. The energetic connection between us felt strong and clear.

Then the strange part started. Without thinking about it, I took a small step forward. At that same instant, Hope moved her leg forward. Odd, I thought; a coincidence. Then it happened again: at the same time I moved, she moved.

Was Hope copying my movements? I wondered. Could I make this happen? Nope. She didn’t move that time. But then when I stepped again without thinking about it, Hope stepped, too—and it wasn’t clear who initiated it. It was like we were dancing. Very strange, but very clear, and I had to smile. We “played” with this for a few moments.

Then I told her I was going to walk around in front of her, from her left side to her right side. The instant I started to move, she very pointedly and firmly moved her foot in front of me—it was her left front leg, and she actually moved it slightly toward me and out front, without actually shifting her body much at all. I swear she was saying, “No. Not yet, you don’t.” So I stopped, waited, and then moved again. Instantly, she moved her other foot out in front, in the same way.

By now I was really chuckling. She was managing my movements, without even raising her head from the grass she was so obviously enjoying. It was pretty funny, but her meaning was clear.

I mentally acknowledged to her that I had heard her message. Then, with no disagreement from Hope, I walked around to her other side. I stood for a moment, then crouched down in the grass and pulled a few blades. She turned her head to look at me, and then nodded her head vigorously as if to say, “Yes! You got the message!” She took a step in my direction, looked directly at me, and resumed grazing.

It was pretty amazing. After a while, I got up, thanked her, and walked back out of the pasture. Someone watching would not have seen anything but a woman hanging out with a grazing horse. Hope and I had a different experience entirely.

My sense of this encounter was that Hope was letting me know what horse energy—specifically mare energy—looked and felt like. Mares lead the herd, and I got to experience the how and why of it: Hope’s quiet but assertive energy, I sensed strongly, could be escalated quickly and expertly to the precise degree she needed to get her point across. And I got the message.

[Photo of Hope: AimingHigh Photography by Aimee Bilyeu (]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to Grazing

The last few days I’ve been mulling over a journal entry from some years back:

She who dances in the moonlight becomes the lady cloaked in sorrow. Dance the grief…. Oh God, let my heart be pierced, let my heart be opened so that joy may flow once more.
The entry is the record of an active imagination session, a waking dream, that occurred in the aftermath of an emotionally devastating relationship. The grief still haunts me, and there are days when I become pretty much nonfunctional because of it. Lately I can feel myself sliding back into that depression, just when I most need to be alert, alive, and aware of the excitement that a new direction in my life offers me.

Worse yet, this entry seems to represent a kind of pattern in my life. Not just the relationship itself, or its outcome, but the story. I am a closet drama queen. Well, in truth, my friends would probably dispute the “closet” part. I prefer the terms “high-strung,” or “sensitive,” but call it what you will: I seem to thrive on intense emotion, and what better way to keep it alive than by spinning it into the myth of my life?

So, I realize now, I tell myself these stories over and over again, like re-reading Jane Eyre or some other beloved, romantic book. The brave but beleaguered heroine faces poverty and despair, but ultimately triumphs over it all…. So satisfying to read. So uplifting, in fiction.

However, it’s not so uplifting when it’s your own life’s fictions that you’re re-telling. I’m finally starting to get bored with the plot, and it’s holding me back. But I’m having a terrible time changing my habits. It’s not so easy to let these kinds of stories go—not nearly as easy as putting down a book. I think I’m addicted to the melodrama.

I’ve recently been using Linda Kohanov’s The Way of the Horse, which accompanies a set of cards bearing gorgeous images of horses created by artist Kim McElroy. Like “angel cards” or the tarot, these “wisdom cards” allow one can do readings or get advice from the Guides by pulling a card or cards at random. Whether or not the cards one pulls are meaningful depends entirely on one’s point of view. As you might imagine, I use these types of tools pretty much every day.

This morning’s card was #19 in the Horse Wisdom set, “Back to Grazing,” which speaks of emotional agility and letting the story go. Horses live in the eternal present. They remember, of course; but they spend no time or energy re-living the past or worrying about a possible future. When they are frightened or angry, they react. When the moment is past, they let the emotion wash through them, and they return quietly to grazing.

If I could let my story go, I could simply experience the emotion that is actually present in the moment and not re-live the past and its destructive patterns. The story, alas, can just keep playing over and over in my mind, robbing me of peace and energy.

In point of fact, I am not cloaked in sorrow right this moment. Yes, there are times when that is true, and I can deal with those times. But for the most part, I am, in the moment, feeling quite fine, and am often joyful. So, as the Horse Ancestors might advise,

Let the story go, Kay. Let the grief wash through you, and get back to grazing. The world is a salad!

[Cross-posted on It's an Alchemical Life]