(An article by Stephanie Fry written for "Speaker's Corner" of the Aug/Sept 2011 edition of Natural Horsemanship Magazine)
The more I learn about horses, the more I find there is to know. Barely a day goes by without them "blowing my socks off" with remarkable demonstrations of their nobility and generosity. Simply being in their presence almost inevitably results in feelings of wellbeing, and the potential quality of the bond that it is possible to forge between horse and human is nothing short of an extraordinary healing experience facilitating genuine and lasting personal growth.
That a partnership between humans (the ultimate predator) and horses (the ultimate prey animal) is possible at all is nothing short of a miracle. In order to increase their chances of survival, equines have evolved to function as individual parts of that larger organism, the herd, and are as such supremely sensitive to the slightest change in the emotional response and body language of both their fellow herd members and their predators. This is why they can read humans like a book and reflect back to us, with immediacy and absolute, unflinching honesty, feelings, barriers and psychological conditions we are not even aware of having.
The very moment I met my extraordinary first horse, a rainbow formed above us. I believed this to be significant in heralding how that encounter was to change both our lives beyond recognition. But it turns out that the association of rainbows with horses is far from unusual, especially at times when their owners are experiencing worry or distress or when a beloved horse passes on.
Rainbows feature in numerous photographs of horses auras (the electro-magnetic fields surrounding the physical bodies of all living things which modern digital cameras are able to pick up), and they are powerfully symbolic in many mythologies and belief systems throughout the ages.
In Christianity, the rainbow is a symbol of the Christ Himself, as well as a token of the covenant of grace between God and the Earth (Genesis 9: 13 - 16). The "Rainbow Children" or "Warriors of the Rainbow" of various Native American prophecies are the generation who come after destruction is wreaked on the planet by the White Man's greed. They are the ones who will restore the health of the natural world, sow justice, peace and harmony among the people and rekindle their reverence for the Great Spirit.
FULL CIRCLE: Beyond Partnership to Partnership Beyond
By Stephanie Fry
The moment I met my first partner, an extraordinary former racehorse by the name of Owen's Pride, a rainbow formed above us. He had 3 feet in his grave and the 4th on a banana peel. Over the years we developed constant mind-to-mind contact, and our relationship was to become such that people say they have never seen anything like it. If, at the time, I had understood his true spiritual standing and the plans he had for us I might have chickened out, so it was far better for me to look upon him as "just" a horse whom I had "rescued" from euthanasia. It was 1998, and my life would never be the same again.
I found myself persuading my husband to let me put all we had on the line and acquire a particular 30-acre smallholding so we could offer a home and a life worth living to horses with mental, emotional and physical problems. This soon turned into a last-resort rehabilitation facility. Then it became clear that the "rehabilitated" equine, when placed back into the same circumstances, was likely to revert, so we launched our Heaven for Horses project which focuses on offering people the experience of being with their horses in a completely different and mutually more rewarding way. Meanwhile, Owen had also tasked me with lecturing on The Spiritual Life of Animals as well as with writing a book chronicling our journey together.
In the wake of Valentine's Day I remembered an article I had read in passing a little while ago. It had appeared in one of our local, free equestrian magazines and was so irritatingly blighted with bad spelling, grammar and punctuation that I didn't dwell on it any further. Part of the message, however, stuck.
It was entitled: "Does Your Horse Show You Affection?" I would venture a guess that the resounding answer from most of us on this site would be: "Of course!" Having said that, the interest we generate when we are holding a carrot doesn't really count in this context. We are talking about affection for its own sake.
Horses are very touchy-feely with each other and, at times, also surprisingly intimate (as, for example, when they are sharing breath with one another) but never overly demonstrative in their loving displays. They have no hands, so the exchange happens mainly by means of body posturing, acknowledgment of the other and invitations to share personal space. Real intimacy ensues when the face, the muzzle and the mouth get involved.