I discovered that Equine Gentling were asking for volunteers to help with the horses and families visiting via a Facebook post that a friend had put up. I enquired and a few weeks later, I was lucky enough to be able to go and meet Dan Corbin, the charity founder and his herd.
My love for horses had started as a young child but after about 10 had begun to wane. The last time I sat astride a horse was when I was 21 and I realised that the fear’free’ approach I had as a child was suddenly very fear’ful’ as an adult. The horse refused to move and all the people in the yard looked miniature, like ants because it suddenly felt like I was on the top of Nelson’s column. How the hell had I managed this when I was younger? The horse eventually broke into a fast trot and then a canter.. and it was at this point that I thought all of my teeth were going to fall out because I couldn’t for the life of me, appear to keep my mouth shut so I was chattering like some sort of grotesque skeleton. It was terrifying.. the stirrups seems to want to get as far away from my feet as possible and I literally just held on to the saddle with the reins in my (so tightly gripped, that they were practically cyanosed) hands. I think even the hat slid down so that I could barely see. This was not the horse riding experience I remembered. At. All. This was like an incredibly bad Thelwell experience.
In contrast, from about 6 – 10 years old, I moved about the horses with ease. I was obsessed in those early years. I drew, wrote about and dreamt about horses. I longed for a horse. So much so I decided to invent Star, my imaginary horse. He was great. Very low cost and I never fell off. He still exists, out in the paddock over there.. If you can’t see him, you clearly aren’t looking hard enough.
Horses were (along with cats), at a time when I was changing schools, moving from county to county, dealing with elements of neglect and trauma, bullying and abuse, my place of safety. I rode when I could, which was infrequent and I sat for many lonely hours, reading and imagining about the horse I would have. Creating Star was possibly the beginning of the end for horses and I. My mum unceremoniously blew his cover at a children’s party we were at. The kids there couldn’t stand me as it was, so discovering I had been lying about his existence was another piece of ammunition in their arsenal. Along with Speccy Four Eyes or whatever I was called, I was now known as a liar.
As an adult I took my daughter to have a riding lesson and as we watched, I decided that I wouldn’t take her anymore. The bits in their mouths pulled back to control their heads, the sharp, hateful kicks against their ribs to spur them on and the loud, brash bellows of the riding instructors bullying these beautiful creatures to react to their every whim. It made me feel sick. I made a point there and then that I wouldn’t sit on a horse again and that I wouldn’t take my children to riding lessons again.
Yesterday was my second visit. I have spoken to Dan about the work he does and how the horses he has there have been referred to him because they were considered dangerous or there had been elements of abuse in their lives. If you consider that a hard metal bit is put into their mouths and used to control them, one might agree that abuse has occurred to every bridle wearing, ridden horse. Families visit for therapy sessions and Dan works with children and adults who have different mental health and learning needs. The therapy is a two way process for both animals. Humans and horses.
I had offered to give the horses Reiki. As a trained practitioner in reiki for 15 years I had also completed a days training with a local equine reiki practitioner and I knew of the massive benefits for horses that had suffered trauma, neglect and abuse.
Bonnie was the closest to me. A 17 year old mare who is not brilliant around other horses but likes being with humans. I made a faux pas immediately. I went to touch her nose. Dan explained why horses don’t appreciate this. It’s to do with their field of vision and the fact that the hand disappears once it gets to a certain point and they then just feel a pressure on their nose or head, seemingly out of nowhere and which takes them by surprise. He advised to start by touching her on the shoulder. I placed both of my hands on her and she continued to stand. No bolting, kicking and I didn’t get bitten… this seemed like a good thing..
We continued to stand there, she shifted and I immediately thought that my time was up, she had had enough. But she edged closer to me. Her muscles twitching constantly under my hands. I tentatively moved up towards her neck and she drew in still more, our heads were so close that I was able to gently rest mine against hers. She stayed there. She started to itch her nose against my arm and it appeared she must be scratching it but Dan later explained that she was nuzzling into me. It was a form of affection. A few minutes passed and she shifted again and once more I presumed she was going to move away but she didn’t. Instead she moved her head around so that she was on the other side of me. My right arm passed under her neck and either side of her neck, the energy continue to flow through my hands. Her head started to relax and she began to press into my shoulder, our heads resting against each other. I could feel her head dropping as if she was falling asleep. As though in a dance we moved again and as I pulled away, I looked at her eyes. In her left eye, a tear had formed and slowly it ran down the length of her nose. I turned to Dan who was intermittently watching us from his chair and I said in what felt like rather a silly way, “she has a tear, that’s from the wind or something right?”. I can’t remember his reply verbatim, but it was something along the lines of, “no, horses can cry, she will be releasing”. As I type, my eyes fill up once more. I laid my head back against her neck and together we stood there. Tears falling down my face as I felt the most amazing healing process pass back and forth between us.
And it was at that moment that it felt like I had come home.