I am struggling to find words that can aptly describe what it is like to be a pupil of a herd of horses but I will do my best to try. You see, that’s simply all the horses require of me, an openness to the lessons that they have the wisdom to impart and the generosity to share. When I stand amongst these incredibly insightful, sensitive creatures I am drawn to remembering what they have historically sacrificed in service to the human race, it is beyond comprehension.
This week, I entered a realm that was altogether magical in so far as I had the experience of being chosen, not for a netball team or a talent contest or a job or a campaign, those angsts that can diminish our sense of worth or identity but instead chosen simply to ‘be’. Not for my skills or my abilities or my looks or my status, chosen simply for being ‘me’. Not for what I could contribute or what I could achieve, not for personal gain nor collective wealth, not for what I have or who I used to be for none of that matters to her. You see, she is free from those trappings and shackles that hold us and question our rights to devour the moment purely for its own sake without striving to prove or to sustain or to deliver or succeed. She is a soul who lives in the moment and it is within that moment that I was invited.
Time stands still when I am with them, I neither incessantly count nor struggle for courage, the gremlins that delight in pursuing and chastising are silenced as I stand amongst my friends, friends who use no words, friends who sense and feel and know without moving to hide it, ignore it or fix it. It is here where acceptance is a given either with the nod of a head or the quiet continuation of calmly grazing beside me, it does not need to be overtly demonstrative, it is reflective of those friendships that command nothing in return, that accept us as we are and that remain through seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow.
I now know how it feels to be alongside a creature who encourages and teases out a latent child who is finding her feet again long after the demarcation lines were blurred by grief and burn out and loss. For it is in this pasture that I heard my own laughter again, not contrived or pressured but laughter for its own sake because that is the only true expression of the emotion that I felt, there in a field, chatting amongst the herd and rabbits and forest greenery to a horse who chose to listen to it and generate a feeling of pleasure and freedom for doing absolutely nothing.
This is Fleur, she is beautiful and strong and funny and independent and in a field of clover and buttercups she chose ‘me’. She led me over a line drawn in the dirt because she knew that without her gentle coaxing I would risk remaining in limbo, caught between the desire to move on and the fear of failing to do so. She nuzzled and cajoled and presented and performed and she led me out of my grey world and into her light. We hugged and we talked and we complimented and leant into one another, sharing secrets that I knew she could keep, that she had respected. And unbeknown to me, in a far corner of the forest undergrowth stood a deer, watching over us, stable and calm and reassured.
When asked if a deer held any symbolic significance to me I was able to tell the therapy leader that the only source of comfort that would ease the mental torment of my mum experiencing dementia was to visit the deer every day, to watch them grazing and to see them leaping. Such was the significance of the deer that I have one in my garden as a memorial to my parents. Only this week I had spoken out loud to my mum asking her for a sign that she was ok and watching over me during a particular period of change and challenge. Yesterday, two days after my equine therapy, we walked with the dog in a Forest area known as the German Cemetery, where war dead lie in restful surroundings. Over in the far left corner we saw a solitary deer, no herd, no company, she watched and waited and when she was ready, as we walked with our dog down a tree lined lane, she ran alongside us, leaping the heathers and clearing the fern. As she overtook us, she stopped in her tracks, turned to look at us, paused a while and then disappeared into the clearing.
There are mysteries in life that we may never understand but I am on a journey that is not only restoring my faith in the universe but equally restoring my faith in myself.
Her name is ‘Fleur’ and she is my friend, a friend of the highest calibre and she is warming my heart from the inside.