Visiting a horse ranch and finding healing there
I got the chance to visit a horse ranch yesterday. And I can’t stop thinking about it.
This is a ranch where horses are boarded, some of them rescues. And they also have a type of somatic therapy that they work on the horses with. Therapy to help with aches, pains, injuries, and arthritis.
I am a volunteer at our local zoo observe the elephants there. Part of the Behavior Observation Team. The somatic practicioner who has worked with horses for decades has, for a while, also become very interested in elephants. Serendipity/the Universe caused us to meet.
I booked a session with this practitioner for myself first, since she also works with humans. I wanted to experience some of what I might then talk to the staff at the zoo about as possibilities for our elephants. And I jumped at the chance, when she offered it, to watch her work with horses at this ranch. And I have begun the process of hopefully facilitating her meeting the zookeepers that I work with to see what might be possible.
All that set aside, as I drove into the ranch (thank God for Waze and GPS- but that is another story), I could feel my shoulders drop. I tend to raise them almost up to the level of my ears without even being aware of it. How often we carry stress around with us in our bodies, so much so that it feels normal.
I began to take deeper breaths. Various horses, a donkey, a mule, and several dogs were all around me. All curious about me and not shy about showing their curiosity. Coming up close to get a sniff to determine if I may be friend or foe, and if I may happen to have any treats on me. How open they are, how clearly they communicate and make a decision about you. How much of an honor when they accept you.
Tilly, the donkey, was quite forward in demanding attention and pets, rubs, and back scratches. She is not shy, I was told. Rather the opposite! And I love how direct she was with her wants and needs. No hesitation or need for translation there.
And then there was Maggie. A beautiful horse who the owner of the ranch warned me about. She, I was informed, could be very skittish and shy about allowing others to approach her.
I was also told that all of these lovely animals right in front of me, especially the donkey and mule, loved ear rubs.
To give you a bit of my resume with this skill set, I have lived with cats who loved ear rubs and who taught me the best way to give those. And I have interacted with dogs who also helped train me in the basics of this service that I could provide for them.
Why not try it with these amazing animals right in front of me, I thought. So, the first was Tilly. Success! Ear rubs received and accepted. More demanded.
I noticed that Maggie was hovering close by.
I thought, why not offer this to her and see what happens? After a bit, she came even closer, and I slowly put my hand up to her left ear. She didn’t immediately move away. I moved my hand a bit closer and started to rub her ear ever so gently.
To my utter delight and surprise, she moved her head in closer and took full advantage! I was over the moon! She stood there, leaning closer into me. I reached for her other ear, and began gently rubbing that as well. Maggie and I were face to face, her eyes closing a bit, as this magical interaction continued. What a gift! I felt like I was in heaven.
Kathy, the owner, was amazed. “You have the touch”, she said. “That doesn’t happen with everyone!” I couldn’t have been more thrilled. And honored to have Maggie’s trust for that moment in time. We connected.
Isn’t that what we are all looking for, those moments of deep connection? Moments that can take us by surprise. Moments that can bring the deepest of joy. I notice the importance of these moments more and more as I continue on this path of aging. These moments can mean so much. These moments that may have gone unnoticed earlier in my life.
And that moment was exactly what I needed. Maybe Maggie too.
The day before that horrendous video of the beating of the young man in Memphis had been released to the public. Haunting images that kept replaying in my head. Images that we do need to remember and pay attention to so that we can work to change the wounds and violence all around us.
These incidents are traumatic, for all of us. Unspeakable pain for the families and friends of that poor young man. And trauma for the rest of us seeing what happened, over and over and over again. The pain that we humans can inflict on each other. The indescribable horror of watching a life taken, a family and community shaken, a country in shock. So much violence. So much pain. So much horror. So much deep and inconsolable grief.
We need to be present to this. And all the horrors and suffering in the world. Its people, its creatures, its climate and plants and air. Existence itself.
And to keep moving on, we also need to find ways to get a bit of solace and comfort from it all. A breath between the constant barrage of pain. A connection to the earth, to its inhabitants, to each other. A breath to enable us to carry on and keep going. To get grounded and more centered again. So we can keep working to do better.
Maggie, that very special horse, gave me that gift. And allowed me to give her the gift of some touch and connection.
We never know where these gifts and connections will come from. We only need stay open to them, to drink and breathe them in as the sacred gifts that they are. To keep healing. So that we can keep also trying to give healing to others and our world. One moment, one breath, one ear rub at a time.