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The Gift of Animals

The title of this blog post came to me as I experienced the joy of seeing this photo for the first time.

I often catch myself thinking about how much easier I find relating to animals versus other humans. I am sure a lot of you can relate to the experience of being able to feel most like yourself in the presence of your horses, or your other pets. I know I do.

When I spend time with Ike and Fara, I discover long moments of what it feels like to be totally myself. I don't feel like I need to hide anything or 'be' anything. I view them as my family, in the truest sense of the word. It is hard to describe the comfort I sense just being in their presence and tending to their needs.

Sometimes when I am feeling mixed up, I like to park myself on top of their hay net or on a dry patch of grass near where they are eating and just let myself go. I tell them how my day is going, or try to express what I am going through. I also have conversations with them about things that bother me, or ideas that excite and fascinate me. I always feel held in their company, and the act of verbalizing my inner world to them is therapeutic. Indeed, I call this practice "Verbal Journalling"; I let myself speak out-loud whatever thoughts come to mind. (As a side note, I actually find the car a perfect place to do this when the pasture is not convenient). Verbal journalling is a really helpful tool when I feel angry or annoyed, and the charge of my emotions need an outlet. I find this practice becomes amplified when I do it in the presence of my horses. The awareness that someone else is hearing you, non-judgementally, feels deeply settling.

I feel like the reason I 'invented' verbal journalling for myself is because I find that when I journal on paper I can end up winding myself into a tighter ball than when I started. But when you speak out loud, you can't always keep track of what you already said and I find that liberating. It doesn't have to make sense, or flow logically. And once it is spoken, it lives and dies in that very moment without a trace. You can just ramble in countless directions, and the energetic release that comes through physically talking has a profound effect. Sometimes you don't need someone to respond to you or even understand what you're going through - this is what I find to be a pitfall of human communication: we are chronic 'fixers'.

I think what a lot of us are looking for is just to know that someone else knows what we are going through - so we don't feel like we have to carry and manage our load in the darkness. Expressing ourselves in an unadulterated way shines a light on the parts of our experience that feel confusing, sticky, uncomfortable and weird, and thus help us hold and navigate those pieces with more confidence, bravery and compassion. How relieving is it to know that someone else knows that part of you? It has a way of bringing life into a manageable balance.

All this is to say that I feel a profound gratitude towards my horses for their endless generosity in lending an ear. What I love about horses, too, is that they are expert boundary setters. That is why I let them come to me (or stay away from me) when I come to talk to them. Fara usually comes over and will bite me on the foot and walk away, as if to say "Okay mom, I hear you, it's not that bad"; it always brings a smile to my face. There is nothing like humour to re-ground you into the truth that things will be ok (and often already are). Horses are embodied reminders of being present: "Don't sweat the small stuff".

As humans we have a tendency of getting lost in all of the minor details, and can talk to one another about them for hours, digging ourselves an ever deeper hole. Horses remind us of the bigger picture, the natural tides of life, and anchor us into what it means to simply be alive, moment to moment. No future, no past. Just now, together.

This Christmas, I hope to fully enjoy that gift. Perhaps my New Year's resolution will be to try to cultivate that sense of supported flow more in my connections with other humans. For now though, you can find me in the hay and under the sun shooting the breeze with my little beans. 😊

Happy holidays everyone, and best wishes for a healthy 2022.



This post is written in dedication to Sootfoot, who passed unexpectedly on December 17th, 2021. He lived a big, bold life and his wise and loving spirit was one of the best gifts my family has ever received. We miss you and love you dearly, Sooty.

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