Horses Healing Healers workshop with Win Simon and Dr. Florian Birkmayer, Albuquerque, NM
I went to the Horses Healing Healers workshop in part for my mother. She had always loved horses and, at her request, we spread her ashes in a pasture with horses. I thought that I could call her in to share an experience that would have had great meaning for her.
I am psychically connected to horses as well through the horsehair fiddle that I built and play. But it was not until the workshop introduction that I learned some of the qualities of horses that make working with them for healing so unique and valuable. So unique and valuable that the archetype of the wounded healer is a centaur, Chiron.
Horses are powerful prey animals. Like other vigilant prey, their side-placed eyes enable a field of vision that extends almost 180 degrees. They have an intense awareness of their surroundings (including what is behind them) and the quality of energy around them. That horses allow us – potential predators – in their midst is a choice.
Horses’ hearts radiate out much further than human hearts. An average human requires about 5 watts per hour to pump the heart whereas a horse heart can generate up to 65 watts per hour. Being in the presence of a horse means being enveloped in heart energy.
The workshop group would experience the profundity of that energy. We were directed to sit near the fence and observe the horses to get a feel for which one each of us would like to work with. One of the horses stopped eating grass with the others, stared intently at me then walked over to the fence in front of me. That horse was not indifferent; he signaled that we had something in common and that we had something to offer each other. He chose me.
All the horses at Win Simon’s ranch had led challenged or abused lives before Win took them in. This horse that selected me, a handsome Missouri fox trotter, had been overworked to the point where he had debilitating leg injuries. He, and the other horses there, are themselves wounded healers.
Given their physicality and sensitivity, horses inspire a recalibration. They greet each other (and humans they feel comfortable with) by sharing breath, a literal inspiration. Taking a cue from this horse custom, our first exercise was to breathe in unison with the horse. Pressed against his side, I felt the movement of his belly and matched my inhale and exhale with his. This was one of many subtle agreements that day. The seemingly simple action of leading a horse on a rope, for instance, calls for an equilibrium between clarity of intention and surrender of will – a balance I needed to come to with myself and with the horse. Our first attempts had me encouraging and tugging while the horse calmly and resolutely continued to graze.
That afternoon, the horse and I walked in alignment around a circle to enact a collective ritual based on a medicine wheel. He seemed to understand what needed to be done. Dropping small stones around the wheel, I unloaded a huge emotional weight. Rituals gain strength from the directed energy and dynamic of a group and in this case, it was through a singularity of me and the horse that I realized the inadequacy of an often-used phrase– performing a ritual. I was being carried by the ritual rather than carrying it out. Perhaps it was the heart energy of the horse encouraging me to radiate further. Perhaps it was the majestic New Mexico landscape allowing space for emotions to magnify. In any case, there in the dirt of the pasture, with a rope in my hand and a horse by my side, I let go.