After reading Linda Kohanov's The Tao of Equus, I felt as if Linda had stood watch over my experiences with my horses. It became as vital as breath to know about this Equine Facilitated Learning world. In signing up for the Apprentice training at EPONA, I felt I had finally connected to what my life's work was building for till now.
I had spent the last 16 years in the cocoon of a home office, delivering my consulting work to a select group of clients. This provided me the luxury of a life style and schedule that allowed me to frequently go deep into emotional content and shadow work. It had been a few years since I was in an intensive group training setting and I was ready to share in a conscious, caring and committed to authentic communication community. I arrived with a full and wide-open heart.
Upon entering their Tucson ranch it was as if stepping into an entirely different universe. The expansive field of energy was palpable as surely as the sweet smell of sagebrush releasing into the sun. Feeling the empowered herd's energy field took my breath away. I felt the amazing available information these horses conveyed telepathically and its emotionally stirring power as I walked around the corrals. Tears began to fall and I didn't know why.
The Apprentices gathered in a circle that first morning to say our opening greetings. Several of us were in tearful response to the many heartfelt stories. There was a pervasive feeling of "coming home." For me, it was answering a Call.
Our first assignment was to go out and meet the herd and without touching, "read" with our inner hearing and our bodies any messages from the horses. As I rounded the corner to Noche's corral, he said as clear as any spoken language, "My work is done here, I am going to be leaving soon. Linda is not quite ready." I almost turned around to see if someone was behind me saying these words. And then he looked me in the eye, "It's up to you." But what was up to me?
This was so personal and exposing I did not feel I could share this in the circle afterwards, having only just met these people. It felt just too delicate a message. I chose to keep silent.
The second night in Tucson, I received some distressing news about a personal project that had blown apart causing a year's worth of work to disappear. Being in such a wide-open space the news landed hard. We gathered that next morning in our smaller circles, which began with sharing where we all were. I went first with tears already streaming. I just didn't think in this environment I would "pull it all together" and be upbeat, so I let myself be real among strangers.
Noche immediately came over having been known for his sensitivity to tears flowing and a love of water. With his acknowledging licking and chewing Noche stood witness to my sorrow, nodding from time to time, like in a gospel meeting. His energy field was wide and blanketing around me with unconditional love. Noche proceeded to convey telepathically and again in the clearest words, "Just let it go now."
I couldn't hold back anymore and broke down. I witnessed my human herd be challenged by my pain. I realized that we humans have a long way to go to match the level of honesty and open expression with emotional content as horses. Noche moved closer still and said, "It's time to trust, look how far I have come." I felt him show me in the wide-view this wonderful ranch he gets to live on and all the love he has now, at 34!
As I looked up with questioning eyes, he shook his head up and down saying, "Yes, you heard it right." And as simple as these words are on paper, I've come to discover, when a horse speaks, it lands in the heart so deeply.
I saw in flashes how I had lost my relationship to that profound trust I had had when creating the many large and small creations of my life, that only can come from a deep level of trust in Self and Spirit. Noche seemed to cover me in this energy of sage green color that brought everything back into balance. When I completed with my turn, I felt totally exposed to my circle, not what I was used to doing in public.
After that second day I felt this compelling force to get a picture of Noche that conveyed his grandeur. I had brought my camera to take some photographs of the desert and horses for my husband to see, but soon realized, I needed to chronicle this whole event of the yearlong training.
After one of the round pen sessions I witnessed with Noche, he was there in full presence and I heard the words, "Now." So I poked my head in through the bars and snapped the headshot I'd seen in my mind of him. Noche turned to walk away after the picture was taken and the person inside said to him, "Oh, you didn't like that." I slipped into self-doubt in that moment. Could I cause harm by taking a picture?
I had to just trust my instincts and what I was hearing. This was completely new territory for me. I have had to trust those inner voices as a student of metaphysics and in my shamanic practice, but these experiences have mostly been within a meditation or a journey form, not so much in an eyes open, conscious experience.
Being in the horse's field began to open me to this pure channel of telepathic communication. This was my emerging gateway into conscious, sensory wisdom.
In between weeks one and two I developed the photos and to my amazement, there were some fine shots of the desert splendor, our group, the other horses, Noche playing in the water and the special one of Noche's face. I made copies of these two in particular to give to Linda.
We all arrived at our second weeklong seminar, ready to deliver our One Day workshops. I brought the pictures with me, but full from the days work I'd forget to give them to Linda and took them back and forth to my B&B for two days in a row.
On Wednesday, I vowed to remember to give them to her. I handed her the frames first thing that morning. Linda exclaimed at how hard she's tried to get Noche's picture showing his star and ears forward. How she'd actually chased him around the ranch with the camera to get this shot. Animal photography is not always easy.
I thought, well this must have been what was "up to me."
This was the first workshop day, so there was a lot to attend to in supporting this group. Upon the closing of the final hour of the first group's workshop, Noche started to lie down. Horses don't lie down a lot and if they do take a nap it is usually with a sentry standing watch over them. And when an older horse starts to lie down it can mean trouble, illness or the dying process. The latter was the case in this situation.
Noche kept getting back up and moving about the ranch, saying his good-byes to each one of the herd. The vet had been called. And by his best friend Mary, he went down again. Linda was keeping close watch at this point. Then up again to come and lie down in front of the veranda of the teaching house where we all gathered in waiting word on his condition. As if to say, "Oh, I must say good-bye to all of you too."
In hushed tones, some were saying it was colic, some said he was dying. It was a little unclear for a bit there. He got up and went out to his back desert field.
Linda and the vet conferred about what was going on and what was needed. Linda asked that our group come out. At that moment, I didn't know if it was to support his healing from colic or to say good-bye. Not until I asked the vet did I know what was happening.
Being so wide-open, within this deeply feeling environment, the news struck through my heart like an arrow and almost took me to the ground. I couldn't control my crying. I was spinning. I had to ask one of the personal counselors for help holding me up. I was so lost in pain I couldn't understand it. I didn't understand the intensity. Then it hit me that I had not grieved for the loss of my precious horse, Abu. The floodgates opened that day.
Linda was amazing in her modeling the letting go of such a dear friend. She often said, "you might have a horse die on a day you have a workshop." I remember feeling dread of that possibility.
And, Linda was very gracious to share this intimate process with us and to include us in the manner she did. It was an immeasurable gift to me. A gift was given to everyone who stood witness.
Noche's journey to the Ancestors brought some profound moments like gems in a crown we were all graced to wear. His going around to each horse and saying his good-byes. By lying down before us, surrendered to us holding him one more time. In his taking Linda for their last walk in the desert. And when Mary called out to him whinnying as the vet administered his injection. Mary knew.
Noche, who disliked being touched much, certainly by veterinarians, showed the signs Linda needed to know without much effort, in a lowered head and the bloody fluid flowing, his readiness to leave was conveyed.
And as the night fell, the first star rose directly above Noche. His spirit could be seen lifting to the sky just as coyotes howled in the horizon. Noche's body bowed gracefully to his knees, and was gone.
Back into the teaching house, we gathered to listen to Linda and what she had to say. On an alter in the main teaching room, the pictures less than eight hours old in Linda's possession became the space holders honoring Noche.
Once back in my B&B room I collapsed on the bed without dinner to drift exhausted into sleep. Images began to float before my closed eyes of Noche as a young colt running with his mother. Then as a young horse to mature horse, some hard times, and then life with this one owner he really loved, a man with a floppy hat. He showed me his life at Epona and the many walks in the desert with Linda. Then sleep possessed me.
When I awoke that morning too early to rise yet, I was flooded with a poem. It had been about three years since my last poem, (sounds like a confession) so I let it come in.
The next day Linda was alone in the teaching room near the alter in quiet reflection and I shared about the images I had seen, she said, "Go look on the alter." In the night, a picture had been placed on the alter, of a man in a floppy hat, just like I'd seen in the vision. It was Steve, her husband. My body rushed with goose bumps as
Over the next few days we were able to go visit Noche's body and say our private good-byes before his burial. When I took my turn it was right before the man with the backhoe was to arrive to carve out the gravesite. I asked Linda if I could touch his body. Lying there with his head gently bowed and kneeling gracefully, I stroked his body and felt another wave of grieving take hold. I was overtaken in silent sadness and deep gratitude in the same moment. I didn't get to be with my sweet horse when he passed on and here in the burning desert sun I got to feel my horse's body through Noche's, and say good-bye to one of my teachers. When the backhoe man arrived he saw this person stroking the body and inquired if the Vet was on their way? He thought Noche was still alive. We all got to laugh about it afterwards. A silly release we all needed.
In the power of Noche's healing words and the gifts from his dying process, I've returned to my profound trust in myself. It is still with me, and deepening my way into the Mystery. Noche gave me that initiation into the heart of the horse.
It took awhile, but I have fully grieved for my sweet Abu.
I also learned from the painful fallout of holding onto sorrow too long. And, I learned the value of being authentic to ones self, even if there seems to be no agreement. At Epona, I fell into love with my "deep feeler-within." I learned to listen and trust what I hear from horses. And, I also witnessed the deep level need for personal work, to begin bridging the profound chasm within the human heart from so many years of denied feeling.
Cindy Jarrett, 2004
* There will be more healing stories chronicled over time on this page. Check back for more heart developments. *
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