3 Days & 41 Horses Later
At 50 years old, as a business and life coach, and a growth and transformation junkie, I have had my share of transformational experiences. I have read more than my quota of self-help books, I have gone through years of therapy in my teens and early twenties. I have practiced meditation and did a deep dive into understanding the Enneagram personality types. I have facilitated and attended retreats about leadership, relationships, embodiment, energetics, communication, Enneagram, happiness, meditation, Buddhism, female archetypes, shadow work, transformation, life visioning, and more. I am certified as an Integral Coach, a Leadership Embodiment Coach, and also a Transformative Coach.
Yes, I have learned and even changed more than most people I know. So when I signed up for the equine experience retreat last October, I was excited to be on a retreat with horses, but I also thought… what else is there to for me to see?
And then this happened: 3 days retreating, 41 rescue horses, 100 acres, 11 attendees, 2 facilitators (one of which was my partner Brad Gallup. Yes, that is his last name, and he does facilitate transformation in people through experiences with horses. Go figure.), and one 650-pound potbellied pig named Sir Frances Bacon, with a sense of humor.
Those 3 days and 41 horses touched me to the core of my being.
I grew up horseback riding at summer camp, and since meeting Brad nearly 2 years ago, I have been spending more and more time with these majestic giants. I would say I have a healthy respect (sometimes slight intimidation) for them, and have always been curious and interested in learning more about them.
Out in the pastures with the 41 equines, somewhere between watching, waiting, approaching, centering, connecting, letting go of expectations, loving with no agenda, and staying curious in the moment… the horses leaned in, they let go, and they included us in their tribe.
In the quiet and the spaciousness amongst the herd, magic happened. I felt the beating of their enormous hearts as I stood quietly close by and their breath gently washed over my neck and arm. I did my best to stand still, when they suddenly and exuberantly galloped by within inches of me, my heart pounding, yet remembering to stay centered as a flurry of dust spun all around.
To be with a horse, not to mention a heard of 41 horses, you have to be totally and completely present. You have to be clear with where you stand and where you intend to go. You have to let them know what you want, with clear, grounded, and humble conviction. Humble, because it is not about you. And it is not about the horse either. It is about being willing to stand knowing who you are and who they are, and stay curious to how they respond. Willing to meet them in the moment; asking this 1000-pound animal to join up with you on a journey. A journey with no expectation, a foundation of trust and understanding, and the quality of curiosity. To do this, one must be present. One must be at peace in who they are.
When I arrived in that place, the magic that unfolded was beyond anything I have felt, known, or even imagined.
I learned to be clear with what I needed of them in the moment. And they became more settled in that clarity. They rested and offered their love. And we each got more curious, less attached, allowing more and more magic to unfold as we journeyed together.
What happened over the 3-day retreat was magical. What has happened since has been unanticipated and life changing. It is not something I will soon forget.
Brad and I returned to our home in Kelseyville, late that Sunday after the retreat, tired, quiet, and feeling surprisingly settled. We both felt something deeper, truer, different. Although words did not need to be spoken, we knew something was different from our time with the horses.
Horses move and live by energy, not by thought, as us humans do. Waves of energy move them. It comes and it goes. They move. They settle. They rest. Then something moves them again, for as prey animals, they must always be aware of their environment to stay safe. They make no story about any of it. They just move by what moves them. It is us humans that create stories.
After that 3 days with the horses, I have less story. I feel the waves of energy coming and going. I am more connected to the moment and so much more open in my heart. I feel more creative and inspired. I feel at peace. I feel more in love… with Brad, with life, with possibility.
It has been 5 months since the equine experience retreat. In that time, there have been more “storms” show up our lives than we can even count. And with each one, I find I am better able to let the storm come, do what needs to be done, then let it go, and let the sky clear again. Knowing who I am and where I am going. No expectations. Just curiosity, and a grounded confidence that when the storm comes, if I say present and curious, I will always know what to do in the moment, and I can always handle what comes.
Eventually the storm will pass, the dust will settle, and the sky will be clear again. Staying grounded and curious, the horses will settle, and invite you to connect with their enormous beating hearts, showing us that love is the only constant.
My chattering mind is chattering less. I have taken a long journey, the 18 inches from my head into my heart. And it is there, that I know all things are possible. And magic is all around.