Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
-- Mary Oliver
As my husband Bill and I drove north from Albuquerque on Interstate 25, the city receded into the arms of the Sandia Mountain Range, majestic and silent to the east. The freeway cut through vast open country as we climbed steadily to the turnoff that took us onto the winding roads and hairpin turns leading up to Chris’s place. I marveled at the beauty of the high desert dotted with junipers and pinons. As we drove up to the house, I noticed a couple of horses nearby and assumed they were Chris’s.*
I had gotten to know Chris in an online coaching class we were both taking, but we had never met in person. After greeting each other like old friends, Chris lamented “You just missed the wild horses that came through here.”
What? Those were wild horses?! My heart leapt. We scurried to the French doors that looked out on the open range, the Jemez Mountains, Los Alamos and Santa Fe from the living room, but the horses had disappeared. Oh, well. I had seen them. I felt honored to have had just a glimpse. I didn't know at the time the place was called Mustang Mesa.
When I inquired about the wild horses, Chris told about the small band that roamed the area. Some people loved them and wanted to preserve their right to roam. Others hated them and felt they were a nuisance to be contained or gotten rid of. Eventually, after a morning of easy conversation and shared stories, it was time to go out and meet Rudy and Tomcat, Chris’s horses. Well really, Chris’s husband’s horses. Chris usually only went as far as the paddock fence.
Between the house and the paddock, I asked Chris if he’d like to experience a horse coaching session. Talking about equine guided coaching is one thing. Experiencing it is another. And given that Chris had been a leadership trainer himself, and was going through significant changes in his life, a session would offer an experience of the work as well as practical responses to the whispers of his soul. He took me up on it.
First, I asked if I could enter the paddock and meet the horses. Chris said sure. I greeted them and let them know who I was and I what I was doing there. Rudy, a sorrel gelding ancient in body and soul, connected sweetly, then retreated into his shed letting me know he was not interested in working that day. Then I went to Tomcat, a curious tobiano paint still furry with winter coat. He stepped forward with interest. He’d be Chris’s coach.
As soon as Chris entered the paddock, the session began. Both butts faced us, Rudy’s with his head in his shed, and Tomcat, just out there bold as day, with his big horse butt mooning us. I couldn’t help but ask Chris, “What are your “big buts” as you go through this transition? As Chris considered this question, the energy shifted, and both horses moved. We walked into Tomcat’s area. Tomcat went partway into his shed, head in, butt out.
Chris quickly picked up on how the horses had shifted. On his own he recognized that he was only “part way in” to listening to his heart. As he continued to explore what called him and what held him back, Tomcat went all the way into the shed. He stayed in there for a long while. Chris and I took a walk around the paddock, no horse to be seen. As we conversed, and Chris kept moving closer to describing work that has heart and meaning for him, the metaphor of Tomcat out of sight in the shed changed:
“What keeps you in the closet?” I asked. Bingo.
Chris is deeply intuitive. He can see and feel subtle energy shifts. He has developed skills in the healing arts. He has done a great deal of personal work and learning around health, well-being, self-expression, values, and living openly as a gay man, He’s worked in corporate much of his life with a high degree of success. He’s not there anymore. This transition has put him face to face with how scary it is to honor his gifts--and his gut. He’d like to create a business that offers the kind of guidance, direction and support to other gay men that he had not been able to find. What keeps him in the closet is fear of haters. Fear of openly claiming his place in the world. Fear of being judged a failure.
We began to walk. As we approached the shed, Tomcat came out and greeted Chris. He stood before him, curious and affirming. He worked with Chris’s root chakra, then went to his heart. Chris went deeper into his truth about what called to him in life and what held him back. After some time, as often happens when a client gets something at a deep level, Tomcat seemingly sensed the lesson was learned, and he turned to go. Chris and I took another walk around the paddock, Chris embodying his soul’s call. When we turned back toward the horse shed, Tomcat was still outside, looking back at Chris.
And incredibly, there on the property were the wild horses that roam the open land, gathered to witness and affirm; first one, then another, then another until all six were assembled. As Chris went even deeper into his heart, they lingered by the paddock, present to his soul’s longing. bringing their attuned energy before they ambled off after his aha moments.
Not only was this visit an affirmation for Chris. It was, for me, an honor that I will never forget. I have no words, really. I have experienced many times in other sessions how domestic horses that are seemingly not a part of a session are drawn in and participate as teachers and coaches. This experience with the wild horses touched my deepest heart. It humbled me. I knew the rightness of my work. It brought me to a visceral understanding of the immense energy field that resonates around horses, and the clarity afforded to these beings who participated with us at complete liberty. I noticed the difference between the horses in the paddocks, perhaps dulled a bit by their confines, and the pulsating naturalness of those visitors. That is something I’ll contemplate for a long time. I felt it, but I can’t fully describe it.
Along with the profound honor of the wild horse visit, they brought powerful metaphors. Chris’s desire is for a “herd” that he can serve and where he has a place. His fear is that if he declares himself, there will be haters. The wild horses in this area embody both. They travel in solid circles. They have each other’s backs. They watch for each other’s well-being and survival. There are many humans who wish them to thrive and survive. They are also opposed, hated, wished away.
The clearer we are about who we are, the more likely there will be both. I ask this question of myself and all of us: What is it to say "Yes!" to our one wild and precious life? Do we dare?
*This story is used with Chris's permission.