One of the best things about equine therapy is that it takes place more or less outside... either in a barn (which is technically inside but still kind of feels like you're outside) or out in the pastures. It is way better for me than trying to sit still on a couch in some dimly lit room. (You will never see my ADHD come out more than when I am sitting on a couch in a dimly lit room that is supposed to look like someone's living room or something, with a soft-spoken therapist sitting across from me. I literally cannot stop moving, plus sometimes I get this weird twitch in my eyes that always makes the soft-spoken therapist think I am about to cry, but I think it is really caused by the weird lighting and the stress from trying to sit still.)
The other day Julie (my equine therapy person) and I were out in the pasture where her new horse Buddy was hanging out with his friend Wiley. The pasture where we were is in back of the barn, and there is a pond, so the horses can just wander around and drink from the pond when they feel like it. Whenever Buddy and Wiley are out there together, they just walk around together, sometimes sort of jostling each other and sometimes playing by yanking on each other's halters or nudging each other. They remind me of two brothers "horsing" around. Wiley, who is older, would be the calm and responsible older brother, and Buddy would be the goofy little brother.
Usually we stay kind of far away from the horses, just to give them their space. If we do approach them we try to be quiet and still and just watch them, so that they can still do their own thing. But sometimes they will actually come running over to us. When they do, for some reason Wiley would always push up against me as he walked past. It reminded me of the way a cat will rub up against your legs.
(Wiley is the brown one and Buddy is the whiteish one. I love Buddy's white hair and dark main... he's so pretty, isn't he?)
Lately I had been thinking a lot about Native American spirituality, and how they were so close to nature. In the Native Americans' lifestyle, they were actually an equal part of nature and they lived in harmony with it. Whereas the Europeans who eventually took over felt like they needed power and control over everything and everyone and caused a lot of destruction.
Julie asked if I wanted to try a visualization exercise about animal totems. Just as she said that, a crane swooped down and landed by the pond! That was pretty cool. The crane actually stayed around for a long time and seemed to be looking for food.
Then we sat down by the edge of the pond. We were in a spot that was pretty far away from the horses, and our view of them was mostly blocked by some large plants. I wasn't sure if the visualization thing would work, because I am not always good at focusing my mind. I was closing my eyes and I was supposed to picture myself being in a beautiful meadow.
And then suddenly I could see it... and Wiley was in it!
I sort of refocused on the meadow to see if I was just remembering Wiley because I had just seen him. But he was definitely in the meadow, standing calmly and grazing, with an orange butterfly flying around him.
Wiley stayed with me through the whole exercise, which involved walking down a path, and stopping to look in a river (which Wiley took a drink out of) and then climbing a mountain (Wiley waited at the bottom, because horses are not great at rock climbing!)
And then I was supposed to visualize an animal appearing. As Julie told me to visualize an animal (It could be any animal, you just have to see which one comes to mind without trying or anything.) What I saw was a wolf! I was a little surprised by this because I had never thought of a wolf, but then again, it makes sense, considering my connection with dogs.
Just then Julie told me to open my eyes, because as soon as she had said to visualize an animal, the horses had suddenly started running towards us! We stood up so they wouldn't trample us. But they actually were heading directly for us, and they stopped when they got to us. They had very purposefully decided to come visit us. And Wiley came right up to me and sort of nudged me with his head,. This was the first time he had let me pet him, except for when he just ran past and pushed against me. He nudged me and sort of nodded his head (which horses sometimes do when they are happy I think) and I swear on everything, I could feel him kind of chuckling, like the two of us were in on something.
I was so happy and excited when I told Julie, "Wiley was there! Wiley was in my visualization!"
At first I wondered why Wiley had appeared but not Buddy, since I know Buddy better. But I thought it was probably because Wiley is older and wiser, while Buddy is more of a playful youngster.
The horses stayed near us for the rest of the time, until I had to go. As we were walking back up to the barn, we also saw a red-tailed hawk! It felt like all sorts of members of nature were connecting with me that day.
I am sure all of this makes sense to some of you, and seems just crazy to others. That's okay... we all have different beliefs. And to me, this was a very special experience!
In many cultures' beliefs, including Native Americans, each animal has its own messages and "medicine" that it brings when it appears to you, either in a dream, a visualization, or real life. I have some books on the topic, and after I got home I looked them up. One of the things a horse symbolizes is the need for emotional freedom to move on in life. (That makes a lot of sense to me!) It also symbolizes movement, travel, new journeys, and discovering your own freedom and power in life. Plus, when you are faced with a decision, a horse totem can help you figure things out. Does that explain my life lately, or what? I feel like Wiley appeared in my vision not only to connect with me personally, but to represent horse medicine.
I also looked up the wolf and the butterfly that appeared in my vision, plus the crane and hawk that appeared in real life. Here's what I found out.
Wolf - Making firm emotional attachments, and trusting your insight and gut instinct. Listening to your feelings and thoughts and intuition. Breathing new life into your life rituals. Find a new path or a new journey, and take control of your life. Having a loyal sense of family and community. (All very relevant to my life right now!)
Butterfly - Transition, change. growth, and transformation. Butterflies add color and joy to your life, and remind you not to take things so seriously.
Crane - Using your past as a source of strength for the present. Finding balance in your life. Trusting your own wisdom.
Red-tailed hawk - Finding balance and finding your true purpose. Moving toward your soul purpose in a more dynamic way. A need to be open to new things. Helping teach others new things.
So... are the animals speaking to me, or what!??!?!? I think I'd better listen!
If you look closely at Wiley in this one, you can totally see he is smiling! ;)
What about you? Do you have any spirit animals or animal totems?