It was a hot summer day early in my career when I met Melissa, one of my first equine guided coaching clients. Melissa was a slim, gentle woman in her mid-40s. She told me, 10 years ago, she had hated nature. She had wanted the world to be covered in concrete and for people to have no hair. The thought of animals and bugs and grass and trees had irritated her. However, after a complete life transformation that saw her leave an unfulfilling corporate career and a 17-year marriage, Melissa had reconnected to another side of herself. She learned that nature inspired her and made her feel peaceful. She was developing a new relationship with the natural world. Although Melissa had very little experience with horses and animals in general, she was open to what they could teach her.
I asked Melissa what her intention was for the session. She said she was open, curious, and wanted to gain more awareness about herself. Here’s how it showed up with the horses.
With her intention set, we made our way up to the barn, where we began with an exercise called Meet the Herd. All six-herd members were in their stalls inside the barn, and Melissa was going to have the chance to meet and connect with them. While merely observing the horses in silence and without touching, she was to note her impressions using all her senses and her body awareness: colours, emotions, words, sounds, and so on. I asked her to pay attention to her body, her thoughts, her senses and her intuition as she met with each horse. Then I asked her to choose a horse that she most resonated with, that she felt was calling to work with her and had wisdom to offer her today.
As Melissa started the exercise, I noticed that she was moving quickly from horse to horse. But as time went on, I saw her relaxing and spending more time with each horse. When I asked her which horse she wanted to work with, Melissa told me that she had most resonated with Rosa and wanted to work with her. When I asked why, she said that she appreciated Rosa’s gentleness, beauty, and soft way.
I knew Rosa well. She was a stunningly beautiful grey mare who could at the same time be quite a bully. She wanted what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to assert her strength.
Our next stop was the round pen. I haltered Rosa and began walking the hundred metres towards the round pen. As we approached, Rosa stopped dead in her tracks, planted her feet, and didn’t want to move any farther. In my head, I thought to myself, Oh geez, how am I going to explain this? What kind of horsewoman am I? I can’t even get this horse into the round pen. Then I took a deep breath and trusted that there was a message in this for Melissa. I asked her whether this was a usual occurrence for her. She said yes, that it brought up a feeling of frustration and that she just wanted to get on with it.
I asked Melissa to do an exercise where she would lead Rosa around the arena from the pylon at point A to the pylon at point B. I passed the lead rope to Melissa, and Rosa began dragging her all over the arena. Melissa was simply going along with it. She was allowing Rosa to lead her. It appeared as though Rosa had taken over and that Melissa didn’t have a say in anything that was going on.
I walked over to them and took the lead rope from Melissa, asking her whether this reminded her of anything in her life. She said yes. She was allowing herself to get swayed by what everyone else wanted her to do. She didn’t feel grounded or rooted in herself and was being pulled all over the place by her kids, her ex-husband, her parents, her clients. She was trying to be everything for everyone and was forgetting about herself in the process.
Rosa was being pushy and a little jumpy, so I asked Melissa to step aside while I held Rosa with my feet firmly on the ground. I stood there, rooted and grounded. Rosa could do whatever she wanted. She could jitter and move around, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was standing still, feet firmly planted. Eventually, Rosa settled and stood right beside me.
What Melissa realized was that she was getting hooked into everyone else’s drama and life. She was allowing other people’s beliefs, behaviours, and ideas to distract her from herself. She was buying into their stuff, had no boundaries, and felt pulled in all directions.
Melissa learned from Rosa that she could be grounded and rooted in herself regardless of what other people were doing. It was okay for them to be uncomfortable with their feelings, and it was okay for her to stand there like a rock while they had their own experience instead of feeding into it or trying everything in her power to make them comfortable at her expense. This was a huge “Aha!” for Melissa.
A year after her session, Melissa told me how this experience with Rosa had really helped her. Rosa had taught her the power of being true to herself. She was different in her relationships. She was okay with saying no to her kids, and she became comfortable with the discomfort of their discontent. She was okay about saying no to people who weren’t her ideal clients and drained her energy.