In The Eyes of A Horse

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I was nervous. All I could think about were the many people he had hurt. Would I be next?

As he approached, I realized I was in his world now. My fate was literally up to him. Would he give any kind of a warning? Would he chase me off? Would he change his mind and attack? Whatever his decision, I was powerless to stop him.

Like so many mustangs, Charlie was taken from his home. Indiscriminately rounded up, he found himself in a holding pen. Waiting.

Perhaps he was there for weeks, months, maybe even years, the days bleeding together in a life of confinement. Until one day, he was rescued, given a second chance. His new life was to be as a trail horse and an example of what was possible, a partnership between human and mustang. Just one problem, no one told Charlie.

After years of training and many well-intentioned trainers, Charlie didn’t become the trail horse he was intended to be. Instead he was relegated to a small paddock. Alone. Many highly qualified horsemen had worked with him, some Charlie liked, some not so much. But he wasn’t interested in their new life. He had only one goal, freedom. He fought through his training, even hurt people along the way. The humans he faced weren’t always kind. Some had made progress with him, but his resistance was so intense and total that it was decided he was too unpredictable to be put on the string. So once again, he was in a holding pen of sorts… waiting.

I met him 2 years later, still in the holding pen. I was tasked with the responsibility of bringing him around as best I could. I began working with him, doing some basic exercises, just to get an idea of what I was working with. He seemed kind enough, willing, but when I pushed him just a little, asked him to do more than he desired, he turned towards me, squared up, ears forward, and charged.

Charlie wasn’t playing. He clearly showed me that, despite my best intentions, he didn’t trust me any more than all the other humans trying to shape him, trying to train him, trying to change him. He wanted me out and he wasn’t going to compromise. I dove out of the way, just avoiding getting trampled. Quickly I jumped to my feet, knees shaking. I wanted to leave the paddock, but knew for Charlie’s sake, I had to end on a good note. I regained my composure, slowly approached him, stroked his head for a brief moment, and then, feeling I had found some small but significant success, left him in peace.

I had heard all the stories about the infamous mustang that wouldn’t be tamed and was excited at the opportunity to work with him. But I realized, at that moment, if I really wanted to help him, more training wasn’t the answer. What he really needed was his freedom.

So I began a campaign to set Charlie free. It took 2 more years and a great deal of diligence and persistence, but I found him a home. Everyone was more than happy to let him go. I felt after all he had gone through, all he had fought for, he had earned his freedom and they agreed.

His release went smoothly and eventually he found his place in a new herd. After years of struggle and resilience he was free once again.

So there I was, only a few short months later, standing on a hill, in a field… his field. Charlie’s approach was rhythmic, confident, and deliberate. I didn’t know what he would do, but retreating was not the answer. I had to stay and face whatever he had in store for me.

He brought his nose to mine, smelled me at first, and then began sharing breath. Grateful, I returned the favor, spending a moment, cheek to cheek with this majestic being. Looking into his eye, I was surprised at what I found. I did not see the anger, the pain, the resentment, nor that for which he was so well known, revenge. Instead, I saw gentleness, gratitude, and peace.

Charlie wasn’t living in the past. He was completely present, living this moment, sharing the moment with me. It was a lesson I would never forget. I often hear people say they are attracted to horses for many reasons – the power, the beauty, the excitement, the freedom. But I think they are draw for much deeper reasons, reasons they might not even be aware of.

For me, gazing into the eye of the horse is looking into the eye of God. I am looking at the Divine Presence in us all and it is staring right back at me, asking nothing of me but simply to be. Expecting nothing of me but my authenticity; to put the burden of all my thoughts, feelings, fears, ambitions and distractions down and see who I truly am. This is an invitation to open my heart and be present in this moment.

The experience people have sought for eons through religion and spiritual practices I have in one moment with a horse. As the conduit of that Divine Spirit our equine partners can give a young girl the acceptance and partnership she longs for. It can heal a young child from the isolation of autism. It can give a felon hope, helping him to see a better way. It can revive the passions of a woman who has lived her entire life in quiet desperation. All of this without words, without demands, without persuasion. The true power of the horse is not in its hooves, its power and its speed, but its love and compassion, its presence and its unconditional acceptance.

I am often reminded of Charlie and that day on the hill. He could have done anything. He could have exacted his revenge, revenge for all the suffering he endured, revenge for the brothers and sisters he would never see again, revenge for the freedom and the life stripped from him. Instead, Charlie chose life. Charlie chose forgiveness…

Charlie chose love.

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About the author

Anna Twinney

Anna is the founder of Reach Out to Horses®, based in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado. As an internationally respected Natural Horsemanship Clinician and Trainer, Animal Communicator and Reiki Master she travels the world teaching the art of creating a trust-based partnership between Humans, Horses and all Animal Companions. www.reachouttohorses.com

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