I know. I know. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. And guess what? I’m not even going to talk about it. But it sure is a great play on words, don’t ya think? ;)
One of my intentions for the new year was to follow what would nurture my heart and soul. On that list was to volunteer at a local horse farm. It’s a special place here in Bend called Equine Outreach. They takes horses who have been abandoned, neglected, or abused. A group of amazing volunteers and staff work to rehabilitate those horses that can be, then put them up for adoption for loving homes, or allow them to stay there indefinitely, comfortably living out their lives surrounded by people who want nothing more for them to be cared for with the upmost respect and love.
I started volunteering late December. I really didn’t know a thing about horses when I started. Sure I’d been on a horse a time or two when I was a kid, but nothing like I’m doing now, cleaning pens, watering the horses, and learning how to interact with 1000 pound animals. It hasn’t ben intuitive, I can assure you.
From the reading I’ve done to help me understand these incredibly beautiful animals, I’ve learned that because they are prey animals, and we as humans are predator-types, they aren’t exactly trusting right off the bat. One of them could squash me like a bug, but they don’t think quite like that. You don’t approach a horse making eye contact. That’s aggression to them. I slowly walk up and place my fist out for them to smell. Only then do I try to rub their nose, chin, or neck. Often once they’ve sniffed me, they turn and walk away. Not interested. I’m not offended. We all like what we like and don’t like what we don’t.
I just move on to the next horse and try again. Because I’ve been going weekly, I think some of the horses are getting to know me. My voice, my scent, my energy. I’m always so appreciative when one of the horses sniffs my hand then actually wants more attention. They trust me just enough to go a little farther. I like that about them. You have to earn their trust. I know I’m trustworthy and have their safety at heart, but they might not. It’s that with with people too. Or should be. People need to earn your trust.
There’s a beautiful horse named Helen at the farm. She’s blind. She’s blind because her owner beat the crap out of her, whacking her across her face with I don’t know what, and blindness was the result. Can you imagine? Honestly, I just can’t.
So of course you have to earn Helen’s trust. She can only hear you and smell you. She doesn’t know if you get close if you’re going to reach out your hand and hurt her.
Today I walked up to Helen’s pen, called her name and said hello. I stood there calmly waiting to see what she might do. And to my utter amazement, she turned and slowly walked over to me. I placed my fist out for her to smell, which she did, then she just stood there, not turning away. Ever so slowly I opened my hand and gently caressed her nose. She stayed put. I reached a little higher and rubbed more of her nose. She didn’t move. I spoke to her in a calm, relaxed voice to let her know what a beautiful girl she was and to thank her for trusting me. Eventually she’d had enough and walked away. What an incredibly generous gift she gave me. Trust.
I don’t know why several months ago my heart was being pulled toward working with animals in some capacity. I don’t know why it’s horses right now. I did not see that coming.
But every time I go I know I’m gaining something incredibly valuable. I get to help take care of animals that weren’t cared for before, and I’m learning compassion on an incredibly deep level.
Honestly (and this is a reveal here), I need to learn how to be much more compassionate towards myself, and others too. It wasn’t until more recently that I realized compassion is not my strong suit and it could use a little attention. Actually, a lot of attention.
So as I follow where my heart is being pulled, I’m finding out it’s being pulled to teach me something I really need to learn. And you know what? It feels really damn awesome.
Where is your heart being pulled?
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Get Outside and Nurture Your Life