What have I learned from a horse? That’s a question I was asked this week. Having had the pleasure of working alongside them as my partners in coaching, I have seen them give so many clients insight and answers. Many times, the lesson or the message from the horse grows deeper when the client goes home and processes what they’ve felt or seen.
What have I learned about myself from a horse? Many, many things. One of my first lessons was in 2014, early in my recovery. I was two years sober and had just started in the Touched by a HorseÒ (TBAHÒ) Equine Gestalt CoachingÒ program. As students, we are coached by Melisa Pearce, the founder of TBAH. I was sitting with her in a coaching session discussing my sobriety. What I missed about drinking. How I missed the fun girl I used to be. That life seemed so serious now. How drinking allowed me to be crazy, funny, and loud. I felt that recovery meant that I couldn’t have fun anymore. If life wasn’t any fun, was I going to be able to stay sober? Would I always feel like I would need the “power of a buzz” to feel comfortable laughing and enjoying myself again?
Melisa thought these were great questions to ask a horse. So, I went into the round pen with the horse on free liberty, meaning with no halter or lead rope. This gives the horse a chance to be free to walk around, be next to me, or stay as far away as he wanted to be. I did not walk up to the horse and ask him the question, “Will I ever have fun again, sober?” No. Melisa asked me instead to have the two sides of myself have a conversation with each other. Kathy the drinking girl and Kathy the sober girl. I was fed questions like “What did I like about the drinking girl?” and “What did I like best about the sober girl?” A long pole was put down in the round pen. I walked back and forth from one side of the pole to the other. On one side of the pole I was Kathy the drinking girl. And on the other side, Kathy the sober girl. At first it seemed like I was talking to an invisible entity across the pole. After going back and forth talking to each side of myself and being fully in the moment, I did not feel like I was talking to an empty space. I felt listened to. The horse was listening, too. I didn’t notice at first, but the horse was walking with me back and forth. He was standing with me and supporting me.
Then, as I was standing as drinking Kathy having a great conversation with the sober side, the horse put his forehead on my back and gave me a huge push. Over the pole I went. . .landing on the sober side! He clearly said, “You don’t belong on this drunk side, girl. Your heart is in recovery. Get over there, stay there, and find your joy!”
I will never forget what it felt like to be so boldly pushed to the sober side of that pole. I had started feeling uncomfortable talking as a drinking Kathy. Later, after I had time to work through that moment in my mind, I realized that my journey in recovery is where I, Kathy, my heart, soul, and mind wanted to be. This experience helped me focus on sober Kathy, to let go of the drinking girl, and start working on finding joy and excitement in sobriety. To stop focusing on the fact that I can’t drink and begin in earnest focusing on the fact that I am sober.
That day in the round pen I realized that I wasn’t missing the alcoholic Kathy. I was happy with who I was becoming. The horse saw into my heart’s desires and I was able to literally take the nudge from a horse to believe in my power. I had within myself the ability to be joyful and humorous again. I knew that now my job was to work on ways to bring out my fun side. The horse was able to literally knock some sense in me that day. Melisa gave her word that she and the horses would have me laughing, finding my joy, and being true to myself before long. And they have!
I am ever grateful for the wisdom of the horse that day. Our horses are waiting in the barn to teach you lessons from your heart. Make yourself a priority and we will see you in the barn