Today on the blog I want to share with you a story that happened 15 years ago about a very special horse.
In about 2006 I wanted to study to be a vet, so I did some programs and work experience and very quickly learnt that I did not have it in me to be a vet - it just broke my heart too much. So I decided to study my next big love - horses.
"How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language that is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul." ― Frances Hodgson Burnett
I did a two year Horse Management Diploma and after completing it I went out to country NSW to work on a horse farm. Let's just say it was not a good experience overall - however, there was something very good that came out of such a negative experience - as I met a very special horse whose actions impacted me in a meaningful way.
Following my dreams, I excitedly arrived at the horse farm. I was instantly disappointed as I was greeted by a pretentious yet gruff bloke who was dressed in RM Williams from head to toe and made it very clear that I was not welcome.
Instead of listening to my intuition, which told me to get back in my car fast and drive back home to Sydney, I decided to ignore my feeling of angst, and I unpacked my car and moved into my new home.
My alarm went off at five am the next morning. I excitedly jumped out of bed, ready to meet my new horse-loving co-workers that worked on the farm. As I walked up to the stables, my heart sank because instead of being met by fellow horse enthusiasts, I had five tough and gruff men waiting for me. They greeted me with an eye roll– no hello, no eye contact, and not even a slight smile. Instead, they just ordered me into the truck. My first day was awful—it was full of intimidation, yelling, and aggression. By the end of the week, I could see it was not going to get any better; it was very clear that no one wanted me there.
Even though I allowed these men to make me doubt my own ability and knowledge with horses, I somehow found enough strength to come back for another week. Little did I know that this week was going to have a meaningful impact on my life.
As I started on my daily duties of feeding and health checking the horses, I heard a lot of screaming and cursing in the paddock across from me. I looked up to see one of the male workers, who was my direct supervisor, on the motorbike bike trying to catch one of the mares, but she would not have it. She was well known on the farm to be virtually impossible to catch.
The paddocks at the farm were each twenty acres in size and had twenty horses in it—you needed a motorbike in order to round up the horses into the small adjoining round yard in order to catch and handle them.
As I was minding my own business, going about my daily duties for the day, I heard my name scream across the paddock. “Claire, get over here now and catch this horse or else.” To be honest I was nervous at the thought of what he meant by “or else”.
I made my way over to the paddock, feeling completely sick and vulnerable – as to how was I supposed to catch any horse when I hadn’t yet been given a motorbike to round up the horses. He was clearly setting me up to fail - it was uncomfortably transparent what his agenda was.
It was twenty acres, twenty horses, a screaming intimidating bloke, and me. There was just no way this was going to end well. To make matters worse, when I made my way across to him he demanded that I catch Lilliet, a big spirited mare who also happened to be the one mare on the entire farm who was the hardest of all to catch. She was so hard to catch, that I witness the week prior 3 [supposedly experienced] blokes on motorbikes spend 45 minutes trying to catch her.
Here I was, about to walk into 20 acres with no tools to catch her - I didn't even have a lead rope on me.
I cautiously walked into the paddock, all the mares and foals looked up from what they were doing and slowly made their way over to me. I was greeted by all twenty horses, all staring at me with curiosity, wondering what I was going to do next.
They stood in a line across from me. Then I saw Lilliet. She was third last in the line, standing proud with her foal by her side. She looked a little different to what she normally looked, she was eyeing me off but had a gentleness about her. I felt she knew that it was her that I needed.
Starting at the opposite end from where Lilliet was standing, one by one, I slowly walked down the row of horses. As I got closer to her, I expected her to bolt, but she stood there just watching my every slow and intentional move.
As much as I breathed and tried to stay calm, I kept thinking that at any minute she’ll run, but she didn’t. I was about one meter away from her, and I gently put my hand out for her to sniff. I was then able to move in closer and pat her nose, then having every intention to gently grab her halter. Once again I was expecting her to run, but she didn’t. In fact, she did the most amazing thing: she took a deep breath in and stepped toward me—she came forward and gave herself to me freely.
This was the most spirited mare on the farm, the hardest to near impossible to catch, and at that moment, it was like she just knew that I needed her.
Once I had a hold of her halter, I gave her a warm stroke of appreciation on her nose. She took a deep sigh; her energy relaxed me and melted my heart. I thanked her, and we walked together to the round yard where the male supervisor watched on.
I said goodbye to her and the farm that day. I left that farm feeling empowered, knowing I was able to catch the one horse by hand that those tough men had trouble catching together on their motorbikes.
I am not sure the reason why she allowed me to catch her that day, however one thing remains certain- that mare gave me a gift that day—she gave me strength and confidence in my ability and in myself. She also reinforced my long-held belief that when working with horses you can not demand their respect - you must earn it.
Over my years working and playing alongside horses, I have learned some valuable life lessons. Here are a few:
+ The intent is more powerful than words. You may say or do all the right things, but if it doesn’t come from the heart, it means nothing. You may not know the right things to say, but if your intent is genuine, then it means the world.
+ Energy we transmit is everything. We may not speak the same language; however, I understand you through the energy you send. Give me time to understand. Take it slow, and give me the time and space to understand what it is that you want from me.
+ Trust in me. Trust that I will give you what you need; you just have to take the time to understand me. You may have a preconceived idea about what I may do, but it doesn’t mean I will do it. So, please, don’t judge me.
+ Keep an open mind. The next time you are mean to me, remember I am bigger than you. I could kick or strike you, but I choose not to because I understand that you are just trying to do your best with what you know.
+ When judgement arises seek clarity. The next time you scold me for being uncooperative or lazy, get curious about why I am like that. I am sure it is just because we have a misunderstanding. Let’s get clear about each other and peel back the layers slowly, ensuring that no misunderstandings happen.
+ Serve others. When someone is having a bad day, show some kindness and find a way to uplift them.
+ Acknowledge others. I see you. I feel you. I hear you – that is the greatest gift you can give to another.
I hope my little horse story warms your heart just a little as you go about your day. Maybe it will remind you of a time an animal touched your heart in some special way.
I would like to leave you with this quote that just makes my heart smile;
"He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to." ― Laura Adams Armer
Enjoy your day wherever you are, doing whatever you have planned. Remember don't overthink it, just follow joy and walk to the song in your heart.