It was so hard to see her when they brought her to Returning Glory. So many bones. So much anger. Eyes seem to shut out the world. She just wanted to be left alone – even from those who had “loved” her. I did not see any affection between horse or human?
With these who were donating Birdie, we discussed her journey. They so enjoyed her performances and how she looked under saddle. And Birdie enjoyed the competition, too. But . . . the enjoyment never offered rest to a horse giving it her all.
The “love” changed when they took her to a competition and the veterinarian asked to see her. Something did not look balanced to his trained eyes. His advice – give her 3-6 months rest – this horse was in no condition to compete. Her front hooves needed special attention because of her hoof structure and the constant impact from jumping and running competitive trails. She hurt – every joint in her giving body was screaming for rest. But the “love” could not do that. The time. The attention. The money. This was not in their plan. It did not offer enjoyment to them.
So, a God-connection was made and Birdie was donated to Returning Glory. Again, the bones, the pain, were the only pieces of her that I saw and I was not happy. I was not a rescue organization. I knew the potentially long journey ahead. I held my heart close so I would not feel. I was protecting my heart by telling myself I was called to help hurting human hearts. But, quickly, the ‘God’ part of the connection reminded me this was a hurting heart.
So, the journey began.
The “God-connection” continued. He began connecting my heart to hers. He began connecting others’ hearts to her who would provide the time and finances needed to help this horse whose body contained pain and painful memories.
She became SELAH. Her past was going to slowly be removed by speaking SELAH over her. This word is Hebrew and used in the Bible, but the meaning is a mystery. However, it is used in places where is seems to indicate a “pause of contemplation”. She will be given a pause to heal physically and in her memories.
With all the pain she held I had experts come to help in their specialty area. One expert did not want to begin the process with Selah because she saw the pain in EVERY part of her body. How to begin? Where to begin?
Then the reality – why begin?
All left and I alone was left with pain. Down to the pasture to the benches under the tree. Why ?!?!??? Why did You have this horse come here when there was no hope???? The pain and the anger spilled.
The reasoning struggled forward and I came to the conclusion her Creator must have known I would not let her suffer with no hope of healing. I resolved. I must find the “love” to help end the constant pain in yet another.
But maybe one more try?
I had one more expert I had not yet tried. The call. The hope. He was the one who had helped my body of pain often. He had past experiences of helping other horses. He came carrying hope. He deposited hope when I thought there was none. He found the emotional pain stuck in her body. He helped her body release the pain and exchange with the possibility of better.
My resolve changed. Now I could go forward with the other experts – x-rays for hooves – continued chiropractic for structural changes – herbs for inside help. And then just good old fashion nutrition and rest and quiet pastures.
The journey continues.
Every time I am with Selah – I rub those areas where memories hold pain – I let her know it is ok to be a horse with pain memories – we slowly rub out the pain – hoping memory changes produce body changes.
Hope fights. The deepness of her eyes peeking for better.
And now – a year later – hope won in Selah’s journey. As I rub, searching her eyes for indication of pain, I FIND NONE. I breathe deep, smiling at the One who brought her here for her healing and not her ending.
And now – she is ready to help other hearts as they walk into hope through pain memories.
Topaz – beautiful – golden. Someday, I hope I can tell you how she came into my life and became a part of Returning Glory. But today I will tell you how she became very insecure in the season of inconsistency and our journey back to security together.
She had given a lot of herself to hearts who came out to the ranch. She gave anxious hearts quiet into trust. She brought humility to hearts that were too-bold. She extended a hug to hearts lonely. They were all different and she had to focus deep to help. But in the midst of all that inconsistency from others in their woundedness, she lost inner security. She had gotten many different forms of input. Different feel, different information, different way to be. In struggling to please each special heart, she lost her foundational training and in that she lost security.
Topaz has always been a joy to ride, one of the smoothest trots and lopes you could ask for. We have gone on many a trail ride together – though not perfect she always gives her all. One particular memory I have is going through deep deep mud on a trail. My concern as we moved forward through this mess soon change to joy! She was working seriously hard to bring each foot up out of the mud to keep my ride smooth – her back stayed steady. My heart loved her more for that effort for me.
But after this demanding season, I had a young girl ride her. My back and hip have not been able to give the horses what they need for a good supporting ride, so I found help. As this excited young lady, with all her athleticism, rode Topaz around the arena at the walk, the soft quiet trot and the ‘I don’t think so’ lope, I watched as Topaz became more and more difficult to ride. This was supposed to help her become confident again in all that she knew how to do. But that was not happening. Topaz was struggling. The soft trot became choppy. The request for the lope became a fight. She was resisting the turns, wanting desperately to go back to the gate. She was bringing her head down to get behind the bit. It was not going well – headed in the wrong direction for what Topaz needed. It had always been easy to get her bend with a gentle touch of her side – but now too hard a request was needed, if it was even gotten then. She seemed to just be done – a new rider was again an inconsistent feel – inconsistent in relationship.
So today I knew we needed to spend some quiet time together – rebuild consistency. We knew each other well – years of riding together – years of being by her side as she helped kiddos. It did take reassuring to get her up the back pasture and away from the herd, but we finally were in the barn. I wanted to groom her and quiet her to observe all the places of insecurity within that body and mind. I was saddened and a little surprised. Just standing in the barn with me seemed stressful to her. Her head would pop this way and that – anxious about what could be coming in the door – worried because she could not see the other horses. This year had been hard on her.
I invited her head to lower to get those feel good endorphins flowing. I asked for the bend to bring her attention back to me. I rubbed her ears. Massaged her gums to release more endorphins. Remind her of how we can relax and enjoy. Anything and everything I could think of to help her – help this one who gave away all her help and was left empty and anxious.
A big sigh. Blinking of eyes. Head lowering. Licking and chewing in the processing. She was struggling her way back into security.
I let her go to empty. I asked too much of her without filling. But now, after far too long, we were going back to the security of consistency.
The consistency that holds security.
Gary was gone hunting for a week and I was home enjoying the horses.
Having my quiet time with the horses’ Creator I was able to just worship with no one able to hear this voice – only my Creator. I was enjoying the time. But a fight began. My thoughts kept going to Mark Rashid, a horse trainer in CO. I asked God to please keep my thoughts with Him – I tend to stray so easily. But those thoughts were persistent! I began to wonder if I was being directed to Mark’s web site. So . . . I followed those “straying” thoughts.
Pulled up the web site and asked – “now what?”. With no clarity I decided I would just check if Mark may have horses for sale, he rarely does. But always fun to dream of another magnificent horse added to our herd.
Surprise! I found myself looking at this beautiful white horse Mark was selling. A rare find! I was shocked at the dream picture I was seeing. I emailed quickly to say I was interested in a purchase.
What was I doing? Just like that – checking on another horse?
Gary had mentioned many times that it would be fun to have a white horse – like a cavalry horse. And now there I was – looking right at one – all trained and ready by an amazing trainer, Mark Rashid.
The worship time changed. My mind was going a million miles an hour wondering if this really was reality. I pondered this all for another day then – Gary came home.
I showed him a picture of Pi on the cover of one of Mark’s books and mentioned with a grin that I thought we needed to buy this horse. He was shocked and just grinned. I told him the journey and his grin turned to a pondering smile. He called Mark and Pi became ours. So many more details to the story but . . .
Pi was gentle. Pi was beautiful. Pi was sold because touring the country for clinics was so hard on him and Mark loved him too much to keep asking that of him. Pi arrived at Returning Glory a few weeks later – delivered by Mark because he wanted to ok Pi’s new home.
I knew Pi had melanoma cancer bumps under his tail – typical for white/gray horses. That did not bother me a bit – I now loved him – he was truly a gift from our Creator.
In one of our first classes with Pi he stood in the arena in the bubble of sunlight, a picture was taken and this glorious light showed up, confirming from his Creator that he was special.
10 short years of amazing time together. He took care of my heart. My heart could stay quiet with him. Other horses challenged my heart often – Pi seemed to know I needed to enjoy with no challenge. He continually offered his quiet.
It took awhile . . . I could not find words to say “good bye” with my heart.
I was headed down the pasture on the tractor to check for downed limbs. I had to look through the red buds going forward – I had to catch my breath – the bright pink flowers framed his grave way down the hill and the beauty tears at my heart. I will so miss him when quiet horse-heart time is needed. I will so miss feeling his quiet. I will so miss experiencing his quiet.
He was laid there in the muddy mess of January, but now red buds surround precious memories and in the beauty I can painfully say “good bye”.
It was my “Thursday” RoundPen session with MrBuddy and Roxanne was working with me on techniques to continue building my relationship with this horse, with the eventual goal of him wanting to come to me. At the end of the hour we had accomplished some of the steps. Roxanne then asked me if I was “successful”. Always feeling like these are trick questions, I was hesitant in answering. I thought for a moment, “well, he didn’t come in to me but he did some of the things we worked on”. She sent me home with homework, “before you come back next week, meditate on your definition of “success”.
Next week arrived, with my thoughts on the meaning of “success” I went to the pasture to halter MrBuddy. Back in the round pen, Roxanne told me that today I would be working with MrBuddy alone while she observed from the viewing area. It is always a bit unnerving for me to have someone watch and critique my actions but I followed her instruction and trusted that God was leading. What happens when you leave a performance driven person alone with a performance driven horse? Well, that is where God wrote in the dirt and made Himself very real to me.
Roxanne had told me to “just spend time” with MrBuddy and do what I thought would help him want to come in. Well, give this girl a playbook of rules and I’m going to follow them to the “T”. But with no rules? Now what do I do? Reflecting back on my “Thursday” instruction, I began to initiate those actions, which were met with Roxanne asking me why I was choosing to do what I was doing (2 or 3 times). This set me on a course of frustration because I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do (no rules!). Later understanding the she just wanted me to check in with my heart. Meanwhile, MrBuddy is just running in circles like a robot. I threw up my white flag and stopped what I was doing. Roxanne met me in the dirt, we closed our eyes and prayed, reflecting on instances in my life that triggered this performance driven mentality. Not realizing the whole time I was standing surrendered in prayer, my submitted posture drew MrBuddy to me. I looked up, with MrBuddy’s eyes looking right into mine. Not ever, at any point, in anything that I had tried to do in my own strength, could I draw MrBuddy to me. But now, there he was, eye-to-eye, in a very relaxed non-threatened posture, ears and tail relaxed and all 4 hooves squared up. I stood there in amazement as a tear rolled down my cheek. I quietly asked Roxanne, “what does he want me to do?” “Don’t you understand, Julie, that’s just it, he doesn’t want you to do anything. God doesn’t want you to do anything. When you took the pressure off of MrBuddy and yourself to perform – that’s when he/He met you!”
I tried to absorb as much of the peace as I could in that moment that was emanating off of both of our surrendered spirits and capture it in my mind and my heart. Even now I reflect on it when I lose my peace and try to operate in my own strength. The moment doesn’t end there… I began to ramble on about the “stuff’ going on in my life. Roxanne stopped me and asked me to look at where Mr. Buddy was. He had backed away and started running in circles again. He felt my performance tension again. Desperately wanting that peaceful “God” moment back, I tried to surrender and draw him back in, he came only half way back to me this time. In my times of struggle since that special “God” moment, I catch myself in my frustration and try to surrender my will and draw to God, because I know, in that moment, God will draw to me.
God met me that day in a very dramatic way. Feeling completely unthreatened, I looked deep into MrBuddy’s waiting brown eyes and gazed upon the throne of God, experiencing my Father’s peace and unconditional love – without works, without performance. A moment I’ll not ever forget!
With much love and gratitude for the servant’s hearts of Gary and Roxanne and “the herd” of Returning Glory,