This year is rife with fears about whatever one chooses to focus on, from viruses, politics, war, race issues – you name it. Lots of choices. For me, however, a long-standing fear I’ve wanted to overcome is being up close and personal in the presence of a 1000+ lb life form, namely horses.
Where this fear came from I can’t exactly say. I’ve loved horses since I was a kid. As a youngster I did a couple riding trails on horseback, but someone else was always in charge and I placed my trust in the human working the animal. To be with a horse directly, just me alone, that was an all together different story.
I have been attending acupressure, massage and communication courses for animals most of this year to help deflect the din and chaos of the world. Before the recent wildfires that choked the Willamette Valley I had several horse lessons with a wonderful trainer. She has shown me her equines up close, taught me about harnessing, how to walk safely with them in circles, in and out of stalls, and allowed me to shadow students working their horses in the arena so I could understand their personalities in action. But when they returned from fire evacuation some of them clearly suffered from the smoke and change in food. I offered to do some light acupressure and massage – free of charge and to the best of my current ability – in hopes of easing their suffering. She let me work with a gentle giant male who had the worst cough of the group, and a very bloated female who had ongoing diarrhea and gas.
“October 2020 will be about going into the darkness, into the dungeon, facing our fears and realizing we were protected all along,…” an astrologer recently said. That’s exactly how it felt for me this last Saturday, my first time alone in a stall with the male horse. I introduced myself, let him check me out, made sure we were energetically on the same page, then I nimbly began to feel along his spine for energetic pathways and acupressure points I could use to help support his immune system and lungs. I softly told him what I was up to and kept reassuring he was “a good boy”. No one else was in the stall – just me and this ginormous creature. I had met him before with the trainer so he wasn’t a total stranger, but now it was like meeting each other all over again. I felt very vulnerable in his presence, physically and emotionally. He didn’t like my backpack sitting in the stall and at one point during the session he picked it up with his teeth and tossed it several feet away, so I sat it outside the stall door. My heart raced. He had strong opinions about what he would and would not allow in his space. How grateful I was to not be a backpack in that moment. I was truly facing my fears of being hurt by a much larger being who is primal and reactive, as prey animals are. But every time the feeling crept in I would take a deep breath, collect myself and say, “I’ve been called here for a reason. I am safe.”
Halfway thru the session an innocent passer-byer turned off the barn lights not knowing I was in there working. It was daylight, but windy and gray out with hard rains. Something dropped, and the horse jumped a bit which startled me, which startled him, and I had to practice coo-ing and soft-talking him while my nervous system sparked with anxiety. We continued the session. Eventually someone turned the barn light back on. Occasionally I was forced look at my reference manual to make sure I was on the right acupressure point. He would softly lower his head and press his nose into the page, as if to survey and/or approve. I said, “Yes, we’re looking at lung points today.” He looked away and gazed at the neighbor horse through the door bars. I turned some more pages to find the immune boosting acupressure points. Once again, he pressed his nose into the page. I felt we were at ease together, and he understood my intentions.
By the end of the session he licked and softly chomped while his eyes relaxed. A barn worker stopped, looked in and said, “Awww, Max looks so much more relaxed now!” What relief! I had a witness to verify the work I had done from the heart, even as a complete newbie, was well received. He then walked over to his hay and began eating. This was my signal that he was done with our session.
The female was my second client and before entering the stall I was already being told by a nearby student, “She can be handful, moody and all, but then she’s a mare.” Hmm. I looked at the horse and mentally told her, “Don’t listen to that, you’re beautiful.” And she was, but clearly very bloated and distressed. Excessively wet piles of manure could be seen by the back wall. I gently eased myself in to her stall and noticed how much smaller she was compared to the male. Soon as my hand stroked her softly down the neck to her back she swiftly yanked her head to the left and chomped like she was ready to bite! OMG! My heart jumped. I had no intention of being bitten by a horse today (or any day). As it turned out, there really was no area on her body she would let me touch, outside of her neck, without threatening a bite. This little horse was deeply unhappy and uncomfortable. I could feel it in the heat radiating offer her head and neck, and by her stomach’s appearance.
As a licensed massage therapist for humans these last 16 years I have met people like her. They walk into the massage room all uptight, wearing a stern demeanor, flushed face, tightly pursed lips, darting eyes, and commanding way of telling me where they’re in pain and what kind of massage I’m going to give them. Those types of personalities used to spook me early on, but over time I’ve come to learn they’re simply in a lot of pain, physically and often emotionally. They have no tools for decompressing their stress levels, they have high demands, and the world has high demands of them. This is how I imagined the mare’s current state.
I test ran several soft strokes and acupressure points but she feigned a bite at me every time. “Fine,” I thought, “We’re moving to Plan B”.
Plan B was treat her off-body. The animal communication course has taught me that horses are extremely sensitive to touch, the bodywork pressure required on them is actually quite light, and they can read our energy fields like a book, which tells me they make great candidates for energy healing. Keeping my hand about one to two inches above her skin I stroked her auric field, the energy meridians, and intended laser-beamed energy to each of the necessary acupressure points, even if I couldn’t readily see them. She spent the entire session releasing gas and looking very upset every time it happened. Perhaps each bout of gas was accompanied by stomach pain or heat. But eventually she stopped nipping at me and her head got heavier and the gas releases slowed down, so I gently moved to her other side and repeated the process. Finally, she walked away from my touch, backed herself up to the wall and had a bowel movement. It wasn’t as messy as the ones prior, then she drank a lot of water. Her way of saying, “We’re done.” I thanked her from the heart for letting me in her space, physically and energetically, and watched her immediately get retrieved for a riding lesson. My heart sank a bit because I knew her tummy was still bloated. To my relief she was no longer gassy and seemed receptive to the riding tack the student applied.
The day ended with a feeling of success. I am still in training so everything that happened that day was a combination of knowledge acquired from working on humans, to the small animal acupressure course I completed, and a lot of intuition. No one knows how intense that experience was for me, how dangerous and new it all felt, and it took a while for it to really sink in that I faced my fears and was still alive and unharmed! Not only that, but I wasn’t exhausted after several hours of being at the barn. If anything I felt a renewed sense of purpose in life. That was also due to the fact the air was fresh and beautiful from the rainfall, the wide open fields and trees looked relieved to have water in the ground, and my heart was happy that the horses were happy and healthier, for now. They are very fine teachers, and I feel very blessed to have them in my life.
Link to artist’s oil painting: