People often don’t understand what I mean when I say, I listen to my horses. Many think I’m talking about energetic methods to accomplish what horsepeople usually want: Get the horse to think that my idea is the best idea.
But that’s not what I mean at all. When I say, I listen to my horses, I mean that I listen, no matter what. Even when the answer is No. Even when it hugely inconveniences me. When it goes against what I want. Or when it directly opposes my agenda, or my idea. Why?
Firstly, I honestly do not believe that because I’m human, and financially responsible for my herd, that I am justified to occupy the position of dictator. I’m not saying that other people should believe what I believe. You do you. Many feel I’m absolutely bonkers. Others feel it’s important to listen to their horse, to honor them as a fully sentient being, until it comes to their hooves, or their healthcare. Then the dictator comes out, ‘for their own good.’ Again, no judgment. Each of us has to listen to our own gut. That is the most important thing. For me, I believe it is the horse’s sovereign choice whether they suffer pain or disability, or choose to die. I will not force treatment on a horse without their consent, no matter what.
The second reason I listen to my horses, no matter what, is because it is far more interesting to do so. It’s often not easier, or necessarily more enjoyable, but it takes me into magical realms. It takes me into the core of my being, my beliefs, my triggers, my blind spots, my saboteurs. Horse as a spiritual path.
I want to communicate clearly on this point, so that you understand the story that follows. Which from the outside may look like just an enormous, pointless shit-show. But let’s just roll with this, and see where we end up.
Our plan was to move two more horses up to the Singing Horse Ranch this weekend, before winter snow made the trip dangerous. My husband Ian is back from the UK – where he’s been supporting our son Hugo on his soccer journey – they both returned just before the double vax mandate kicked in. Whew!
So we planned the trip for when Ian was released from the 2-week quarantine, as he likes driving a truck and horse trailer for 7 hours and I most certainly do not! I was very relieved at the prospect of only having 3 horses here in rainy, muddy Langley for the winter. In fact, the last time I had gone to see the horses, I was so pissed off and fed up with the shit, mud, wet, cold that I only stayed an hour and came home, grumbling the entire time.
Now that we have this DRY 160-acre paradise, where the horses are SO happy – it’s mid November and they are still foraging, no hay required – it feels even more unbearable to be here. However, as my last 2 trailer-loading trips of moving Posa, Xadaa and then Cobra to the ranch were 3 hours each of mayhem and frustration, I literally had trailer-loading PTSD.
Trailer trauma #1
Now, I will take responsibility for my role in the trailer trauma with Xadaa and Posa. Because the week previous, their mamas, Kaliah and Siyone, had told me twice that the fillies would be going to the ranch. But each time I responded with some version of, “But they’re still nursing! They need to wean themselves first. I am NOT separating nursing foals from their mamas.” I recalled how Juno – at age 4 – had weaned himself 6 months before making the trip to Kesia’s with Dad and Uncle Jax. That felt like the right order of things to me. At age 3, both fillies were still nursing numerous times a day.
Well, you can imagine what happened on trailer loading day. Posa and Xadaa went right in, at the very beginning, no trouble. I then asserted my idea that their mamas had to go too. I can imagine the horses looking at each other, heaving a big sigh, and saying, “Ok she needs to do this the hard way, here we go…” And thus ensued 3 hours of trailer loading madness with all 8 horses on and off the trailer, bucking, kicking, leaping to get out the trailer as the next horse barged towards it, and so on. At no point was there an option or indication that yes, these 2 or 3 horses wanted to go and would stay put long enough for me to close the doors.
After 3 hours of mayhem, I finally surrendered my agenda, and was willing to take WHATEVER horses would get on the damn trailer!! At which point, Xadaa calmly walked into the back stall and I closed the dividing door as she munched happily away on the hay. Two minutes later, Posa walked into the second box stall and stood there calmly as we closed both trailer rear doors. As Ian and I drove away, Aude and Cobra ran alongside the trailer as we drove down the barn road. But their mamas, Kaliah and Siyone, stayed at the barn, calmly munching on hay from the slowfeeders. Giving me 100% reinforcement that THIS is what was meant to be, and the BEST outcome for all involved. Gah.
I sat in the truck shaking and sweating, pondering what had happened and slowly coming to the realization that I was the cause of the fiasco. Because instead of listening to the horses, I had a firm agenda/belief about nursing/weaning that I was unwilling to surrender. So in this process of ongoing co-creation with the herd, I can have it easy, or I can have it hard. My choice.
Of course, when we arrived at the ranch, and watched the girls blossom into even more incredible beings, we fully understood the horses’ wisdom. The girls needed and wanted this difficult initiation experience. The first few days were really hard for them, and Montaro occasionally pushed them as only a true Sensei can. But we literally watched their metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly before our eyes, over the course of the next week. Yes, they were ready. And the timing was perfect. As their mamas had told me.
Trailer trauma #2
The next 3 hours of trailer-loading hell took place almost a month later. This time, it was Ian who had the firm agenda: “We must get as many horses to the ranch, as soon as possible, so let’s try to get 3 on if we can.” Of course, I had dialogued with the horses during the week and told them what was happening, I’d asked them who was going and was alert to any signs. But I hadn’t received any messages about who was ready or willing to go.
The first horses in the hay arena (also the trailer loading arena) were Cobra and Makah. Cobra went on and off the trailer easily, several times, but Makah would not get on. Cue musical horses… the next 2 hours were spent letting every variation and combination of horses ‘practice’ with the trailer. At one point, I said to Ian, “Cobra is the only one who wants to get on the trailer.” And Ian responded, “I’m not driving all that way for just one horse! We have to take at least two.” So we kept trying.
Once again, Cobra got on the trailer. So I closed the middle door and then tried to see which other horse would now load. At one point, I was so frustrated, I even set up a chute for Makah and pressured him from behind with a long whip – not touching him, just waving in the air. Then all of a sudden, I came to my senses, “What am I doing?? You don’t want to go!” I opened the gate so he could leave. Makah has been on that trailer over 20 times – he has NO issues with the trailer. His intense resistance was a message – although he was willing to role-play in this drama of co-creation, there was no way in hell he was going to the ranch.
By this point, I’d been not-loading-horses for 3 hours. I turned to Ian and said, “Let’s just take Cobra! I have no idea what these horses are doing and WHY they don’t want to go to the ranch, but at least we’ll have one less horse here!” I also had a bunch of arena panels stacked and waiting to be taken up to the ranch, so Ian was mollified that by loading all the panels into the second stall, the trip would be worth it for him. We tied and bungee-corded the panels as tight as possible to reduce rattling for Cobra. But I’m sure he had a rough, very noisy trip nonetheless. Thank goodness he’s a tough guy.
As we pulled into the ranch, it was dusk, but light enough that Cobra could see the incredible land and mountains stretched out before him. I swear as soon as he stepped off the trailer and filled his eyes with the land, he went half wild again. It was an instant transformation throughout his energy and physical body.
When we let him out with the herd the next day, the two girls, Xadaa and Posa, were overjoyed to have their Uncle Cobra back! They immediately separated from Montaro and Juno into a little herd of three, with Xadaa and Posa following Cobra everywhere. Ah, now it was doubly apparent why the girls had to come on their own first! It took Cobra about 5 days to feel confident enough in the lower pastures, near the house, to begin venturing out when Montaro invited him. It was a full two weeks before he would range the property with Montaro and Juno. After that, we began to see the herd gelling as a herd of five and mixing/mingling randomly.
I was struck again by the realization that us humans have no idea of the complexities or rhythm of herd dynamics. In the last 7 years, there has never been a time where the horses have been wrong. Every single decision they’ve made, that I haven’t understood, or I’ve argued against, has made perfect sense in hindsight.
We took possession of the ranch mid-August. Our first priority, was to get Montaro and Juno (and Jax if he wanted to come – he didn’t) trailered from Kesia’s place. Meanwhile, BC was experiencing the highest number of forest fires on record. Highways were often closed, extensive detours were required, some regions were shut down completely. We knew that Montaro had to be there first, not only because he told me so, but because I didn’t feel the other horses would be safe without Montaro there. I didn’t want to have Aude and Zorra (for example) at the ranch alone on 160 acres of wilderness with bears, cougar, lynx, wolves and coyotes. My 20′ trailer could only move 3 horses loose, or 2 horses in each box stall, per trip.
Once Montaro got there, we could begin moving the other horses from Langley. Well the next 2-3 months were an absolute gong show of raging fires and my truck breaking down, covid-delayed parts not arriving, my truck breaking again… So it took us over 2 months to move the next few horses.
By mid-November, the upper reaches of the mountain roads were already covered with snow. But this weekend promised a rare warm spell, so the snow was supposed to melt, leaving us clear roads for two days, before the temperatures dropped again. Ian was out of quarantine, my truck was released from the shop 3 days prior, so this was our last chance to move two more horses to the ranch – a brief window of auspicious opportunity.
Signs and symbols
I asked Juliet if she could meet us at the barn Friday morning to help me load the horses. By this point, I was wondering if I was the problem – the main reason the last two trailer loading experiences had been so difficult? Perhaps if Juliet was there, I could even just walk away, and let her load the horses and dialogue with them. Perhaps my energy, or stress, or expectations were blocking the horses and making everything so damn hard each time.
I also told Ian we had to get the trailer into position the day before – so that he wasn’t stressed in the morning, and the horses would have time to settle down and look at it all night. Here’s where the signs and symbols began…
I had told Ian we had get the trailer to the barn by 1pm on Thursday so he would have enough daylight to back the trailer down the long, narrow barn road. He seemed unconcerned and we did not get there until 3:30 pm. This gave him 1 hour of daylight. My cousin Katrina – who works in environmental clean-up/remediation and has experience driving trailers etc – came with us. By 4:30 pm it was dark, pouring rain, and neither Ian nor Katrina had managed to get the trailer more than 2/3 down the barn road. And there were now large ruts in two places, making it even more difficult.
We decided to come early the next day, fill in the ruts with gravel and place boards down, and Ian would also have full visibility in daylight. As we were preparing to leave the house Friday morning (I had packed the car the night before) my keys disappeared from my desk. Ian swore he hadn’t touched them, neither had Katrina, and all the kids were still asleep. It wasn’t critical as we had a spare set of truck keys, but it was extremely bizarre how they could just disappear, when I had seen/confirmed they were there, in their usual spot, the night before.
About 5 minutes later, I walked into the kitchen, and there were my keys, in plain view on the kitchen island. I don’t have a messy kitchen island, it’s white granite, and there were maybe 3 other objects on it. My keys were very easy to spot. And we all confirmed we had not seen them there before.
Then we were ready to get in the car and go, and Ian couldn’t find his man bag (wallet, keys, etc). Again, he had put it in it’s usual spot at the top of the coat closet (Ian and I are very organized) the night before. And no one had touched it since. What the heck?? He found it about 5 minutes later in the mudroom at the other end of the house. He swore he didn’t put it there, and none of us had touched it.
I’m paying attention. But I’m also not getting any “abort mission” sign that’s strong enough for me to call off the trip.
As my cousin Katrina drove Ian and I to the barn (we had left the truck hooked up to the trailer), I discussed these weird occurrences with them, and mused over the fact that none of us had gotten any clear direction or message from the horses about the trip today, or who was planning to get on the trailer…
Katrina and Ian then went to work, filling in the ruts and trying to back the trailer closer to the hay/loading arena. I finished spreading shavings and hooking up the hay nets. By the time Juliet arrived, half an hour later, the trailer was still not in position. We usually back the trailer right up to the hay arena like this:
Ian has backed the trailer down this road at least four times previously, but for some reason, neither he nor Katrina could get the trailer closer than 2/3 of the way to the hay arena. By this time, Zorra and Makah were in the hay arena, ready for loading. Finally, I said, “Just leave the trailer there and we’ll bring them down the barn road.” Both Zo and Makah have been out on the barn road numerous times and feel comfortable there.
The whole week previously, I had told the horses that we were not going to play musical horses again on this day. I told them whoever wanted to go, needed to be the first 2 into the hay arena and they would be the ones going. When I arrived that morning, Zo was waiting at the arena gate. I let her in and Makah immediately headed towards the gate. Siyone was actually closer to the gate, but she walked away and Makah walked in. There we go.
The trailer was all set up with shavings, hay nets and feed dishes. Both Zo and Makah had been in the trailer dozens of times before. So I walked away and left Juliet to it. Katrina left to go pick up her mum and pack her car for the ranch.
The dance begins
I went for a little walk and then sat in the truck with Ian. Several times we heard/felt horse hooves in the trailer. After 45 minutes or so, I felt I should go out to Juliet. As I opened my truck door, she came around the trailer – asking me to come back as she felt Makah needed a bit of pressure from behind to help him move all the way into the trailer.
Well, we spent the next 1.5 hours dancing with Zorra and Makah, as they took turns approaching the trailer, putting both front legs in the trailer – even staying there with 2 legs up for a few minutes, then backing out. Rinse, repeat. We tried no pressure, a little bit of pressure, lots of pressure – any amount of pressure got us a “Hell no!” from Makah. Zo just ignored mild pressure, then rebelled at medium to strong pressure (the whip waving behind her). We tried Zo haltered and unhaltered.
At one point, both Juliet and I were in the trailer in meditative state. We had created this oasis of calm, centered energy. Zorra was at the entrance and then stepped both front feet in the trailer. The three of us were enveloped in waves of bliss. It was a beautiful, magical interlude. Then Zo backed out, walked 5 feet down the barn road, and looked back at us with soft, loving eyes. That’s when I knew for sure. No one was going to the ranch. Zorra and Makah had chosen to dance with us on this day, but neither had ever had any intention of getting on that trailer.
I called my cousin, Katrina, to let her know the horses had refused to load and we weren’t going to the ranch, and she said, “Oh darn. That’s a shame. I had a dream last night, where the horses told me no one was going and not to pressure them.”
“But I didn’t want to say anything,” she continued, “I didn’t want to put any bad vibes out there… what if my dream was wrong? I couldn’t be sure.”
Katrina also had not packed up her car after leaving the barn, because she didn’t think we’d be going to the ranch. When I relayed this new information to Juliet, she said, “I feel this was an opportunity for Katrina to begin working with the herd, an initiation. I remember them doing this to me in the beginning. Telling me things to see if I would feel confident to say it aloud, or share what I heard. It is like a process of coming into your voice and place in the whole. The herd will give you opportunities to be the voice of discernment, so that you learn that your voice is important and needs to be shared.”
Ah. Well that makes perfect sense. But what else…? Almost three hours of trailer-loading, plus 2 hours the night before, all in pouring rain and cold. If there’s one thing I know about the universe/horses it’s that it’s rarely ever just about one thing. They are big on multi-tasking.
During our dance with the horses and the trailer, at some point Juliet had also mused to me, “There is some mirroring energy for Zorra and I right now; about finding the courage to step into the unknown, and trusting that you have the courage and the strength to do the hard things that will be necessary to get you where you want to go. Sitting in indecision just stops all forward movement.”
We could both feel an aspect of Zorra that really wanted to go to the ranch, really wanted to be with Montaro and the girls (Xadaa and Posa) but there were other aspects that were stopping her from moving forward. Juliet felt this was mirroring her feelings and behaviour recently in her own life.
I felt the same dichotomy in Makah. Part of him wanted to go to the big, beautiful land at the ranch. To wrestle with Cobra and Juno again. But another part of him really liked it here. He had a good life, loved this land, and had a loving herd around him.
When I sent a trailer to pick up Makah from the rescue 3 years ago, he got on immediately and without a backward glance. He’d been kept in a tiny pen, separated from his herd, on a dirt lot. There was no hesitation to leave that place and come down to 30 acres of grass and trees. It was not so clear-cut this time.
After I called it quits and put Makah and Zo back in with the herd, Juliet was talking with Ian on the barn road, when Ian’s dead maternal grandmother showed up. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Juliet also works as a healing intuitive and medium.
Ian had been debating whether to go back to the UK at the end of the month, as that was the deadline for him and Hugo to leave Canada without having the experimental gene therapy jab. We both felt it was Ian’s karmic contract to support Hugo in his soccer career, but as the world descends ever deeper into dictatorship, Ian wondered if it was worth it. Or if Hugo would even get to play much before getting locked down again.
Grandmother Margaret appeared on the barn road and told Ian that he should go to London. That he would do better there, as it is much more free of covid-oppression than Canada. That Ian is very affected by his environment, so he will feel better in London.
Juliet also felt that Makah had been mirroring Ian and Hugo’s dilemma during the trailer dance, “For Makah it was about trusting and believing that what is out there for him is actually better than what he currently has.” Interestingly, Hugo has always had a very strong connection with Makah. The first time Hugo met Makah-Mahpee, he hung out with him for a while and then turned to me and said, “You know he’s a Power Horse, right?” Yep.
After the previous trailer trip, when only Cobra would go, I asked the herd what was going on. We finally have this gorgeous, perfect space and environment for them, why were they delaying? They asked me, “When are you going to the ranch?” I couldn’t answer them.
Kaliah said to me, “I came from that land. Why did I allow myself to be captured, just to go back there again? I came here to teach.” And Kaliah teaches through video, and directing Juliet and I to do certain things, dictating poems and writings to me… Kaliah needs to be where I am. I’m her hands and voice.
Interestingly, by the time we were done and pulling the empty trailer home, Ian said to me, “I think it has to be 5 here and 5 there, to balance the energies. I think they also know how much support you need here, with me gone. And 3 horses would not be enough. We have to trust them.”
Keep in mind, Ian had been pushing the hardest to move all the horses to the ranch. Paying for both locations seemed ridiculous to him, and our landlord in Langley had recently asked for an increase in payment. “We’re paying double!” Ian had said, “Just get them all to the ranch!”
“When are you going to the ranch?” the horses kept asking me. There are still too many moving pieces for me to give them an answer. I believe the remaining five horses want to go to the ranch, but they won’t go without me. And so the dance continues. Juliet summed it up beautifully:
“It was a dynamic interaction of clear intents and asks, with boundaries expressed on all sides in a healthy dance. I actually think it was a super healthy experience. You had a clear intent: The first two horses that come in, no back and forth. They responded, consistent with the two horses that both told me they wanted to go. Then we danced and listened to each other, had a dialogue and learned. And also had the wisdom to notice when the dance and dialogue was done and it was simply not going to happen. We could have pushed agendas, we could have tried to make things happen. It was a visceral experience of dancing in co-creation, with the will of each participant having equal input and influx into the matrix. And was it a failure? No. We had a different outcome but it was not the wrong outcome. It was simply the outcome we all created together.”
The next morning, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is an immensely talented healing-facilitator, with huge giftings to offer the world. I’ve known her for years and watched her repeatedly block and sabotage her development and offerings. Her situation was like a mirror of the trailer dance we’d just been through with Makah and Zo. When is she just going to get on the damn trailer?
The horse trailer can be seen as a metaphor for life… representing our vehicle for moving forward in life, or venturing into uncharted territory, or new adventures, or being willing to simply BE our unique frequency on this planet. As Juliet says,
“No one else can get you on the trailer. You have to get on yourself. People who love you can stand in the trailer and fill it with love and peace and safety, and you still may not be able to get on. That could be a timing issue, that could be feeling the collective energy, it could be that you are simply not ready…”
And so it is.
Would we have learned/experienced any of this, if I had just set up a chute and ran them onto the trailer? Of course we humans can force, manipulate, cajole, or train horses to do what we want, when we want it. That is not hard to do.
But if I’m willing to step out into the unknown, to surrender to uncertainty, to trust and strengthen my intuition, to listen to dream guidance, to follow the signs and symbols around me, to give up my fear of losing control, to truly listen to my horse… I get to co-create a far more magical reality.
I get to dance with energies and the co-creative process of life itself. Everything goes to a much deeper level. I’m in. I will go through the hassle, the fatigue, the cold and rain, I will give up my fears and learn to BE in the maelstrom of a life well lived.
UPDATE: Well yet more confirmation of horse wisdom… I published this post Saturday night. And the day we would have driven back home from the ranch (Sunday), BC experienced freak storms and multiple highway closures due to massive mudslides, flooding, etc. My daughter and her boyfriend were driving home from his cabin (same route) that day and a 5 hour journey took over 10 hours. Highways kept being closed and vehicles re-routed, as new sections collapsed. She was one of the lucky who made it through, as now entire towns are cut off with no power. Some people we knew got swept away and killed as the mudslides took their cars over the sides of the mountains. See the Comments section below for pictures of the disasters the horses stopped us from experiencing…