Learning to love requires us to drop our own agenda in order to see another soul's view.
The soul of a wild horse is much different than their domestic cousins, as its rooted in the eternal chain of nature. It is common human mentality that in order to "break" a horse we destroy this link.
Or can we instead find a way to understand and accept our differences?
My first year of horse ownership was a bumpy, uncertain, scary journey. I often wondered about my foolhardy, impulsive decision to be responsible for Raycen, a sweet-natured but unruly mustang colt. He was a yearling who was born in the wild. His herd had been rounded up and brought to a wild horse sanctuary, in the hopes that horse lovers would adopt them. Through a network of caring people who fostered Raycen and his herd brother, I was introduced to this playful, intelligent dark bay mustang.
In a turn of events that resulted in him losing his foster home, I agreed to take ownership of him. It was a decision that I had to make quickly. Through the first few months, it became clear that I hadn't fully thought through the notion of taking on a previously wild, young and very lightly "handled" horse when I was an inexperienced horse owner. I hadn't found a strong support network at this point so I felt all alone as how to "tame" his wild impulses in order to care for him.
Together, our inexperience and lack of connection made for trying, scary interchanges. Yet, as his owner I had to be able to handle him in order to properly care for him. For example, he had to hold still while the farrier worked on his feet. But he was uncomfortable with human hands on him and he would rear back and kick. The farrier would ask me to hold him still, yet Raycen had no more love or trust in me than a stranger. I struggled to handle him and our time together was becoming unsafe for the both of us.
There is a saying in the horse world, "Green plus green equals black and blue." It certainly was true in our situation. He was a "green" horse and I was a very inexperienced, "green" horse owner. Before something really bad happened, I knew that we need training.
Others provided many opinions on how this should be done. These training sessions typically centered around "showing him who's boss" a power struggle I was unprepared for both physically and ethically. I didn't want a "broke" horse, one who had been beaten, bullied and bridled to the point that he no longer resisted... whose spirit no longer existed within his living body because humans have "trained" it out. I wanted to understand my horse from the inside, so that we could make a real connection.
I wanted to understand his wild soul.
A dear friend had recommended that I read a book ,"Naked Liberty" by Carolyn Resnick. She was also the creator of "The Waterhole Rituals" a technique to connect with your horse by understanding and relating with them in a natural herd dynamic. This was groundbreaking in the horse world, and the kind of relationship I desired with Raycen.
I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend with Carolyn and the wonderful folks at Return to Freedom wild horse sanctuary in San Luis Obispo, California. The primary purpose was to watch wild horses in as close to natural setting as possible and to watch Carolyn work with a few of the "adoptable" horses in order to understand her techniques.
On the first day, I introduced myself to the other (human) participants. I described my uncertain relationship with my mustang, expressing that I may not be his "forever" human. I was unsure we had any connection at all.
The weekend was magical. We traveled "safari-style" in ATV's across the 1,000 acre sanctuary in search of the different herds and bands. In the morning, they could be found by the watering holes, in the afternoon on top of the hills where the breezes kept the flies away. Wild horse herds travel miles of territory daily which keeps them healthy (much healthier, naturally, than domestic horses contained to small lots or pens or worse, inside a barn stall).
When we found a group of horses, we were allowed to get out of the protection of the ATV to hang out in the grassy field several paces from the furthest perimeter of the herd. We were advised that in order to stay safe, we may not reach out or approach the horses because as wild animals their impulse to protect was very strong. We were honored beyond words, when occasionally a courageous horse would approach one of us for brief exchanges. They had no other motivation to do so other than to seek connection with an unfamiliar being.
Their natural cycles and rhythm of life felt peaceful, yet the herd was animated in their constant harmonizing of relationships. Stallions defended their mares, the mares chose their mates, the herd protected the young and old. Through body language, snorts and squeals, the cacophony of communication was amusing and fascinating.
The whole experience was painfully beautiful and insightful.
The last trip of the weekend was a dusty, bumpy trip to the top of a rocky crest. It was chilly with a heavy mist shrouding the landscape. We found the herd and stopped a respectful distance to share the moment with them. At this time a dark bay mare approached me.
A Message, Channeled
She stood in front of me for about 20 minutes, a very long time in this setting. I received a distinct message from her. It was, "Give Me A Chance." I quickly realized she channeled this message from Raycen, my mustang, which was an answer to my doubt that we had any kind of future together.
"Give me a chance"... to understand what happened to me. Where is my herd, my mother, my family? My land, where our ancestors have traveled for hundreds of years?"
Suddenly it all made sense, as I was able to see the situation from a wild mustang's point of view. I realized that Raycen was only recently "tamed" but his memories are rooted in the wild.
"Give me a chance... to mourn the loss of freedom, the loss of my malehood, the loss of my life as I knew it."
He had been recently gelded, which was supposed to eliminate the hormones flowing through his veins but had not stopped his desires. The psyche of a stallion was still within him but the limitations of domestication frustrated him. As a result, he was kept away from the mares at the boarding facility. Separated in an unnatural way for a wild horse.
Frustration, alienation - no wonder he was confused and scared, and rightfully so, maybe a bit angry and as a result acted up and acted out! He wanted OUT! Back to his previous life, back to his birth land, and away from domestic horses (who have a fraction of the spirit of their wild cousins), away from humans and the prisons we call pastures.
With this newfound understanding, my soul wept for my colt. He was meant to be out on the range playing out the eternal dance of nature, fighting for mare's attention, protecting his family, creating offspring that links his DNA to eternity.
"Give me a chance"... echoed through my heart all the way home after that poignant weekend. How could I have considered finding a new human for Raycen? Where would I find someone compassionate to his fractured wild soul?
Upon my return, I went to see my horse. As I approached him, I answered his request with my own, "Give me a chance to understand you. Give me a chance to love you, to respect you and care for you. I promise I will."
That was the first time that Raycen allowed me close enough to him that I could put my arms around his neck in a brief, but heartfelt embrace. ~Kat