“What is it that you do?” the woman asked as she pulled her saddle off one horse and slung it up onto another.
I was brushing Cowboy, a horse I partnered with in my work as an Equine Gestalt Coach at a beautiful Arizona ranch.
“I help women follow their dreams. Women who’ve lost time because of dysfunctional relationships, addiction, sexual abuse… that kind of trauma,” I said.
“Wow. That sounds amazing… That kind of work would really be good for Phantom, if you’d like to try her,” she said. She’s the grey mare next to the palomino paint.”
The name unsettled me. Phantom. A scary ghost…an illusion… I didn’t want to be in another relationship with someone scary.
I opened the gate of her paddock. “Hi Phanny.” She leaned in as I rubbed her ears. Doesn’t seem phantom-ish to me. I felt happy to get to know this sweet girl.
She haltered easily, and we walked down the dirt road, past tall saguaros and spiny desert brush. A rabbit darted out and she spooked, nostrils blowing, her head high and eyes wide. I stopped, taking deep breaths, and encouraged her to pause with me. “It’s ok, Phanny. Just a little bird.” I imagined roots anchoring me to the ground, tethering us to the center of Mother Earth. My goal was to help her find her calm. A minute passed before her head dropped, signaling relaxation. We began our walk again. Soon a car approached. Again, her head shot up, nostrils flared, neck tense.
Horses are prey animals. They sense danger miles away, and this 1,500 pound muscled athlete was tense and alert, ready to spring into flight-mode at any moment. I kept myself aware of her high energy, while concentrating on keeping mine low, relaxing my face and shoulders with each exhalation, showing her how to plug into the calm. She pranced up the side of the embankment, a few feet above me. Not safe! I brought her down the incline and stopped, pausing to breathe till she blew out and released. We were both ready for this high-anxiety “walk” to be done.
I knew Phanny couldn’t work with clients. Not until her anxious energy was worked out, and that was a ways off, if ever. In addition to working with Phanny on the ground whenever I wanted, her owner said I could ride her any time. Granted full access to this amazing horse with the opportunity to learn from the two of them—the owner a professional trainer and Phanny, pro-trained since birth—felt like a gift from the Universe.
Phanny and I built up a routine several days a week, walking and stopping to breathe. The purpose was relaxation and connection. Over a month’s time she became more relaxed in general, though still spooked occasionally. Her entire body tensed in an instant, head high and alert, eyes wide, nostrils flared, body quivering. I can relate.
Phanny is my mirror. As a rape survivor, in addition to surviving a 12-year abusive relationship, I know the fear of someone behind me and not being able to get away. I know what it feels like to look okay on the outside, yet be a gut-wrenching, tight mass of nerves on the inside. I too used to feel afraid to leave my safe space and venture out into the world. I too have walked with my eyes wide open and my body tense. I too have been scared to the edge of reason.
I also know how wonderful it feels to breathe deep and let anxiety melt away. It is a learned skill that feels like pure magic. I can quickly bring calm to my body, even in a potentially dangerous or scary situation. Learning to do this was a miracle. Phanny reminds me of all this.
When I encouraged her to relax, I remembered how much fear ran my life for many, many years. And like her, my fear had paralyzed me. This anxious, beautiful horse reminded me how far I have moved beyond fear and towards a full and beautiful life.
Two months after I started working with Phanny, she moved with her owner to their new ranch. I missed her and was thrilled to receive a text from her owner a month later.
“Hi-just been thinking of you! Fanny is a changed horse. I’ve noticed she has way less anxiety. Thanks for working with her. She is far more ok in her horsey self. I owe that to you! Thank you for all the time you spent with her.”
An upwelling of happiness flooded my heart. Having helped this equine being and at the same time be validated for my efforts and abilities was more than I expected. Such a gift! I was overjoyed. My life’s passion has always been to make difference in the lives of animals, and now, as a survivor of much trauma, in the lives of other women who have survived similar experiences too.
Gestalt, horses, breath work, mindfulness, meditation, and a feeling of connectedness to Source have helped me see the world from a different perspective. No longer do I view life from the place of victimization or fear, but from a place of awareness, empowerment and calm. It is part of my own personal journey, and I have been recalibrated from the inside out.
If you can relate, or would like to know more about how the horses and I can help you on your own personal journey to leave fear behind and embrace a full life, please call me for a complimentary chat. No time limit, no expectations of any kind. Just a one-on-one about what brought you here, where you would like to see yourself, and how to get there. I offer you a safe place to ask questions or share your experience.