These women from all parts of the US and Europe arrived mid-week of
their community building inner journey process, well practiced in
supporting and nurturing each other. Compassionately, they looked
inward to reality check emotionally, mentally, physically, and
spiritually. Under the dense umbrella formed by ancient mesquite
trees surrounding AIM HIGH' s small dressage arena, the AIA horses
frolicked in the sprinklers.
Magic and Mystery unfolded as these horses helped us examine the
relationship of our inner realm; interior psyche's feelings, thoughts,
emotions, to outwardly expressed behaviors as reflected (mirrored) by
the horses and group members. After our safety agreements and
centering exercise, we moved into the heart scanning - mutual choosing
interactive work with the herd. Twenty minutes of mindful search
light of the heart meditation and most participants had clearly formed
After a brief safety discussion, we reviewed the basic principles of
the energy field surrounding all sentient beings. First we practiced
feeling our own field, then that of other group members, and then the
horses. Healthy horses have huge easily recognizable fields. Like big
old trees, these are the animals with whom to practice soft eyes
seeing. Good times are dusk or early dawn.
We engaged in the AIA con su permiso exercise learning to invite
ourselves into the field of the horse and listen. This practice
facilitates our learning more about ourselves, the horse, and others.
One participant, I'll call her Lolly, was exploring Rama's energy
field. She was open and receptive, consciously releasing
expectations. Lolly intended to learn from Rama as she consciously
filtered her thoughts, feelings, and emotions through the lens of her
After a few moments of reverent exploration, Lolly said to Rama's
safety support person, Leslie, "What is this smell of hash, marijuana
on her chest?"
Leslie responded, wisely, "I don't know. We'll need to ask Barbara".
Lolly replied, "OK, and let's also ask her about the markings, those
hieroglyphics on her hoof".
Leslie answered, "OK, What markings?" Leslie is seeing an ordinary
horse hoof. "What do you see?, she questions.
Lolly responds, "Evidence of severe trauma through water and death".
Lolly 's words are emphatic. "Huge water trauma!"
I want to interject that we are in Tucson, a desert city in southern
Arizona with twice yearly monsoon season. Rama is a 23 year old AQHA
mare who came into my life as a five year old. Details of that story
are told elsewhere. When she entered my life, she was being trained
and shown second level dressage. Bred in Oklahoma, the dealer/trainer
had originally brought her to Tucson for a wealthy client's teenager.
After a box lunch under the trees, some of us went for a brief walk
around the nearby lake. Leslie and Lolly are eager to question me
about Rama's history. We've reached the point on the lake path where
looking west down the bone dry Tanque Verde river bed we see the barn
roof and corrals for TROT. Therapeutic Riding of Tucson, Inc.,
co-founded by myself and best friend, Nancy McGibbon, in 1974, this
traditional riding program is devoted to equine
facilitated activities for people with disabilities
seeking functional improvement with the help of horses.
Lolly asks me about the smell of hash on Rama's chest. The hair on my
arms and neck raise in affirmation truth spoken alert. My hairs
remain tingly and vibrating as both Lolly and Leslie report their
experiences of reading Rama's field with the con su permiso exercise.
Others have gathered around us as our group listens to Lolly's
My response, " years and years ago during her first year in Tucson,
Rama was in the care of a troubled teen. Depressed and suicidal, she
burned Rama 's chest with a marijuana toke. When the mare's coat is
show clipped or in deep summer, it appears as if her chest has been
wire cut. These are really burn marks. The dealer/trainer
re-possessed Rama. She was being successfully shown first and second
level dressage when I entered the picture some years later".
"Whew", responds the group. "You smelled that in the field!"
Lolly makes a disgusted sound and waves her arm gesturing us to move
on. She asks me about the severe water trauma and death she perceives
pictured on Rama's left front hoof.
My whole body trembles slightly as energy runs up and down my spine.
Bumps raised on my arms and neck, I visibly shake. Energy is pulsing
through my cells. My backbone feels intense heat.
Years ago RAMA worked at TROT as their (HPOT) horse.
With her classical training, she was comfortable in side reins being
ground driven by the horse professional.
Back in 1993, Gigi resided at TROT in the caretaker cottage. At that
time, she served as Program Head Riding Instructor and Barn Manager.
One storm dark night she was awakened by restless nickers and much
stall banging. Secure behind her stemmed flood walled yard, she was
shocked to feel and see rapidly rising water covered the ground.
Enormous effort was required to push open her solid gate. Slogging
through the rapids of water she pushed at the corral gates to free the
horses. First out from her alpha mare stall position, Rama kept up
her incessant nickering as she circled the stable yard. Rama's
nickers continued to collect the herd in the open yard. Gigi
struggled to push open the remaining gates freeing fourteen mares and
As Gigi grabbed her mane, stout 16 hand RAMA took to swimming in the
swirling chest deep flood waters. Gigi clung to her withers kicking
along side as they moved down the TROT drive and out onto Woodland
road. Rama's head well up, she continued to call the herd with her
nickers. Glancing back at the endless rising water surging through
the land carrying buildings, good sized trees, and herself and the
horses, Gigi saw the rest of the herd fall in behind them.
As they neared high ground, Al-Marah's farm trucks beamed lights and
life affirming help. Farm apprentices and staff formed a comforting
circle and the open doors of the trailers waited. The "never thought
we would need emergency flood evacuation plan" had been triggered by a
worried Al-Marah farm manger listening to late night weather report
and flood alerts.
Wearing nothing but their wet coats of hair the herd followed Rama's
trumpeting call as she hopped into the first trailer. The rest
practically loaded themselves.
Later in the shelter of the Al-Marah covered schooling ring, while the
herd rolled in the deep footing, cropped grass hay, and shook off the
experience, one of the older mares developed stress colic. A
particular favorite of Rama's, she couldn't be saved.
Lolly's "read" of extreme trauma through water and a death from her
perception of hieroglyphics on Ram's left front hoof was highly
accurate. I 'm tearing up, feeling humbled with deep awe and
appreciation for the depth I experience in Rama. I offer a spoken
prayer of gratitude for the sacred privilege of being her designated
steward, her primary caretaker.
Memories continue my tears. We return to the rest of the group. TROT
lost 3 acres of ground, a port a stall shed barn, and one horse that
night. But for the bravery and courage of Gigi and Rama, it might
have been much worse.
My awareness sharpened. My sensitivity heightened. I sensed our
group shift to the realm of the sacred and a palpable attitude of
reverence prevailed. We prepared for the afternoon's exercise of
congruent message sending in the round ring.
During this phase of AIA's equine facilitated experiential process
work, participants actively engage their senses with purpose and
intention to examine their interior feelings as they observe the
equine facilitated gestalt's in the round ring. The circle is
intentionally perceived as sacred space where the dynamics of
relationship and communication are both expressed, practiced,
experienced and witnessed. The gate into the circle serves as lintel,
space between one and another - reality, awareness, consciousness.
With each gestalt's completion, participants are invited to the rail
to share experiences. Witnesses check out their perceptions with the
phrase, " When I see you, _________I feel________. Was or is this
true for you?"
One AIA herd member, a handsome bay Arab, Dundee worked in AIA
sessions years ago at Chapel Rock in Prescott. His story as "sighted
guide" is told in the AIA Handbook of EEL. Now, a successful
endurance racer, his athletic body fitted for the long haul of desert
and mountain trails, he appeared to slip easily into his former role
facilitating equine experiential learning.
Essentially round ring psychodrama offering poignant gestalts, mini-
snapshots of an individual's habitual, generally unconscious, and
preconscious version of inward reality, feelings fueled, that appear
to not "match" outward expressed behavior. There is a felt perceptual
"disconnect" . Our intuition tells us something is "off", not
It is a premise in AIA work that horses do 'read' our minds. Mind as
located in every cell of our body, and defined and illustrated in the
seminal book, Molecules of Emotion, by Candice Pert, Ph.D. The horse
knows we feel fear. The horse feels most uncomfortable when this
reading of us is incongruent - meaning we don't know we are afraid.
It is this perceived unconsciousness of our internal feelings, that
creates uneasy and sometimes dangerous behaviors in horses. This same
mechanism influences the behaviors of people.
A highly intuitive equine facilitator such as Dundee allowed to freely
express mirroring behaviors - aspects of self in the identified
ndividual - gifts the participants with "felt" internal insights.
The observing witnesses seated outside the ring simultaneously focus
inward scanning their feelings while actively practicing soft eyes
viewing through the perceptual lens of their hearts.
The charismatic Dundee worked individually with several different
participants, clearly demonstrating the AIA mirroring principle.
Dundee is master facilitator expressing different behaviors and
energetic qualities as evoked by a particular participant's clarity of
intention tied to focus and congruency. The challenge becomes
conscious awareness of what picture your front brain is sending. Is
the energy felt inside matching the energy of the expressed behaviors?
At one point Dundee picked up the longe wand in his teeth to waggle it
at a participant who appeared lethargic and without purpose. So shut
down and closed off she did not know how she felt or what she
wanted.. Psychoanalytic theory offers the maxim that without movement
(energetically) psychic blocks are stuck. Frozen and locked behind
defense mechanisms, psyche is cut off from consciousness.
Comically, Dundee offered Melanie movement. "Not clear, I'll longe
you", his behavior seemed to 'say'.
Melanie first laughs and then questions, "What is he doing?"
"It appears he want's to longe you", "Get Moving"., "You help him
move", Melanie's witness gallery was full of suggestions.
Ann, standing next to Melanie providing safety support, suggested
"breathe, center, look inside. What do you want?"
Long pause. "I'm not used to asking myself what I want. I think I
want to play".
"Don't think!", coaches Ann. "Feel".
Short pause. Emphatically, "I WANT TO PLAY!" Dundee pricked his ears
and eyed Melanie.
Ann taught her how to move her body and the wand to play a game of cut
the cow with Dundee. Soon all three were huffing and puffing.
Especially the humans who were smiling and laughing. Dundee was
snorting, blowing, and short hopping with his tail arched high over
his back doing the "Arabian, I' m cool" dance.
As our day together drew to a close, the 9/11 theme of death and
letting go on many levels expressed. My dawning recognition
internally of it being time to allow treasured VARGAS his transition
moved into my conscious awareness. I'm losing the battle on pain
management and it is time to help him leave. He's made it
abundantly clear that his Huge Heart and Indomitable Spirit are
available to me and his precious soul mate, daughter Kelly. He needs
freedom from a pain wracked body, crippled with high ring bone. It is
time to honor our mutual agreement to help him leave.
We discovered time for one more round ring gestalt before our
completion circle. Lolly requested a breathe with interaction with
Rama in the round ring. Approached in her stall, resting after lunch,
Rama indicated willingness. Leslie helped Rama move around to gently
warm up stiff joints and facilitate circulation flow. She agreed to
remain in the ring as Rama's safety support advocate. Lolly requested
me to come with her as safety support.
Jointly attuned in purpose, we entered the gate, portal to intentional
awareness. Sensing the field, we slowly moved into connection with
Leslie, herself standing just on the periphery of Rama's solid vibrant
field. Then in unison we reverently stepped into Rama's space. I
abruptly tear up and "hear feel " her saying, "It's time to help
Vargas go. You must allow him freedom from pain. His Spirit remains
available. He has other dventures - without a body!
My sobs are wrenched from my gut. I turned to Leslie and Lolly.
Both are openly crying. Nodding affirmatively, they have 'heard felt'
this message. I turned to the witnesses, and verbalized the message of
release. "It is time to let VARGAS go."
At our collective acknowledgment, Rama reached out with her neck and
her large head scooped Lolly into her chest. Similar to the movement
mares make to draw foals into close protection. In response to a
witness query, "Rama is mothering Lolly", Ann said from the
In the next moment, the Extraordinary happened. Forty five years of
being with horses and I've never seen or heard this behavior. Rama
arched her neck, like the swan of the water rescue story, so far I
feared she might come off the ground with her front feet. Her large
head moved up and down repeatedly as she coughed up an eerie sustained
human cry. Tears flowed freely from both her eyes dashing onto
Leslie's hands. The sounds and up and down head movements continued
with the tears.
Time stopped. Silence. Stillness.
Dazed, our group moved into hug each other and Rama. Slowly we made
our way to the fence. Rama accompanied us. There was deep awestruck
silence. I glanced at Ann. Her mouth and eyes appeared equally wide.
"What was that?", someone said.
"Some 40 years with horses and I've never heard or seen the likes",
In our completion circle I said, " The gift I take with me today is my
willingness to believe the unbelievable. To truly live and dwell in
the realm of Possibility. I've experienced a day of Mystery and
Miracles. Thank you All! Thank you Rama!"
Bkr/10.02 Tucson, AZ