From Darkness to Light

In my Horse Wisdom for Writers workshop, the horses help writers get down to telling their real stories. Not necessarily the pretty ones, but the ones that need to be told. We do an exercise in the round pen where we ask each participant to take a turn standing in the center with a horse at liberty and talk about what they are burning to write about. Once they get clear about that, they are to free ask the horse to move forward as a metaphor for getting their story out onto the page and into the world.  In one class, several people had worked with Desi, a lovely gray Arabian mare, and Desi had done her job of reflecting back to each writer whether she was interested in what they had to say or not. She showed each writer how well they extended their energy to move her out—or not. After the first four people went, we retired Desi and brought George, a solidly built Appaloosa gelding, into the ring.

Marie had been sitting in her chair observing the others with her arms folded.  She wasn’t sure what she had been thinking when she signed up for this class. What could she learn from a horse anyway? What had just taken place with the others looked like a lot of mumbo jumbo to her.  Now it was her turn.

Standing in the round pen with George, Marie talked about love and a wedding. She spoke of singing birds and the beauty of nature. These are the things she said she was burning to write about. But her body was rigid. Her eyes were strained.  Her energy was tentative and contracted.  As she spoke of lovely things, George, standing right there in front of her and looking her square in the eye, took a big pee. Then Desi, who was still in the larger arena being held by an assistant, also took a pee.

When we work with the horses as guides to learning, we observe everything—what’s going on with the person and what’s going on with the horse. Often a horse peeing is just that and nothing more. But we also know that horses won’t hold on to energy that wants to be discharged. Sometimes they will roll when a person is holding on to something stressful, sometimes they will shake themselves off, and sometimes they will pee. Usually the person has no idea something within them is “off.” I asked, “Marie, what are you pissed about?”

Startled at this seemingly off-the-wall question, she hesitated.  “I don’t want to go there,” she replied looking at the ground.  But the question touched a place in her that was authentic, raw and ready to be touched. “I know you don’t want to go there, and you don’t have to talk about it out loud, but what you don’t want to go to is the real stuff. Will you let yourself be with what is coming up for you?” She whispered, “Yes.”

I knew that it was not time to have Marie move George. Instead My co-facilitator and I asked the others to hold a safe space for woman and horse.  “Would you be willing,” I asked Marie, “to just stand in the round pen with George and listen to him—with your heart?” She nodded.  In silence we all held the space for several minutes while Marie and George looked into each other’s’ eyes. Tears flowed quietly down Marie’s cheeks.

We did not find out what it was that Marie connected with that day. She needed time to let it in. As the weeks went by, she began to share about the rape she thought she had already handled. She shared how it seemed such a coincidence we chose a gelding (male horse) for her to work with. She spoke of seeing in his eyes the possibility of healing and maybe even healing others. And she knew she couldn’t tell the stories of light she so wanted to tell without telling her story of terror and darkness.  

As she began to share with the others, another woman told us that she had been raped, too. We had conversations about healing, and empowerment of women and speaking our truth. Marie wrote an extraordinary piece that brought us into the heart of her experience, and made us think about what a raped woman feels when all we may see of her ordeal is a headline in the newspaper.  

When we listen to the wisdom of the horses and honor their ways of knowing, miracles of transformation happen. Now I have colleagues all over the US, in Canada, Scotland, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Latin America who, by listening to the enduring wisdom of the horse, help people reconnect with what has heart and meaning. There have been inquiries about apprenticeships from as far away as the Middle East, Uruguay and Australia. People all over the world are finding that riding, showing, buying and selling horses is not necessarily all there is. They have seen that no matter what results people seek in coming to the horses, they leave touched by something soulful that they recognize in their heart of hearts, but cannot always name.

Lynn Baskfield, owner of SpiritDance Coaching, is a Minnesota based equine guided coach and educator doing individual coaching, retreats, and group workshops for spirited midlife women (and older) around the world. She is also conducting a yearlong Apprenticeship Program in Australia starting March, 2015 for coaches and horse professionals who want to become qualified Equine Guided Coaches.


© Lynn Baskfield 2014