Our friend and trainer Maureen Dunn has been working with our formerly feral mare, Grace, full time for many months. Feral in the way that we couldn’t put a halter on her, couldn’t get near her, took extra precautions to care for her to keep ourselves safe. She spooked at any sudden movements within her personal space typically with a lightning speed spin and kick. It was clear to most of us that some human had broken her trust, and very badly.
When Maureen showed up to work with her I remember seeing her in Grace’s pasture, just sitting there, waiting. She’d show up day after day with patience and a gentle heart, observing her from a distance until Grace accepted her presence a little more each day.
One day Grace came over and laid down near Maureen. If you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with horses you may not understand what a beautiful breakthrough that was. A horse is incredibly vulnerable when they lay down from a survival and evolutionary point of view. For her to lay down near this human was a truly authentic sign that she felt safe with her.
Grace’s growth has been awe inspiring to witness. She is now a well-adjusted, friendly, sweet mare who in most ways is unflappable these days. Much of her growth and trust I attribute to Maureen’s slow approach and meeting Grace exactly where she was without judgment, without pressure. Without her own agenda.
The other day we were enjoying an early sign of spring, warmer weather, sunshine, a quiet day outside with the horses. Maureen had Grace on a long line and was encouraging her to explore puddles and mud, new terrain for Grace. She seemed to be doing fine, and a few of us found ourselves relaxing while Grace grazed. Caitlyn noticed a leaf in Grace’s tail, and when she went to casually pull it out Grace spooked.
It occurred to us that most of her training has taken place in the indoor arena over the winter months, that being outdoors exposed to the elements, the wind, some unknowns around her brought up some old stuff we thought was healed in her. It occurred to us that as humans the same is often true, a feeling of “I thought I was over that” when we all of a sudden find ourselves in the unknown.
Old feelings and patterns can emerge when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar arena. We must be gentle with ourselves as we navigate new waters and settle into new areas of vulnerability. Healing happens on a spiral, up and up, and sometimes back down a little. That doesn’t mean the healing hasn’t happened.
Remember that being harsh with ourselves for being who we are and feeling what we feel creates suffering. Grace spooked and went right back to grazing. She didn’t criticize herself for having an old spook moment. It happened and she moved on.
If we can meet ourselves exactly where we are without pressure, without an agenda, perhaps we too can settle back into ourselves from a place of patience and compassion and go back to grazing.
It’s okay to spook. It’s also okay to move on.