I had the good fortune to live on a horse ranch in the Arizona desert between 2007-2009. I mucked out their stalls every morning around 7am, and it was a fantastic start to my day. Why? Because those horses taught me so much about life, relationships and myself. On a daily basis, they helped me to connect with my authentic self, in a way humans don’t easily do.

You see the thing about horses is that they are not self-conscious; they don’t care what you think about them. They don’t project their minds forwards, worrying about what’s going to happen in the future, neither do they hark back to past events, living in a state of regret, remorse or resentment. No, horses are fully in the present moment, and by definition fully present to whoever is standing next to them.

But here’s the thing. Horses have the most powerful impact when you allow yourself to be fully authentic and connected with yourself and your true feelings around them. If you are afraid of horses, but try to hide to hide this fear, they will pick it up in an instant and reflect it back to you in some way. Similarly, if you express what you’re feeling in the moment, they will respond appropriately.

Let me give you an example. Soon after arriving in Arizona to study Equine Therapy, the approach of using horses for therapeutic purposes, I met and fell in a crazy sort of love with a guy. The relationship was like a firework – it burned bright and fast for a short time, then sputtered to a sad death as quickly as it started.  

One particular morning, when I was feeling incredibly low and sad at the breakdown of this relationship, I dragged myself reluctantly to the horses’ stalls for my daily mucking duties.

One horse I had made a connection with from the very start, was aptly named Sweetheart, because she was truly the most gentle and affectionate horse I had ever come across. We used to practice meditation together, I kid you not, by breathing into each others’ noses. I loved doing that with her. It always calmed me down.

So on this particular morning, as I walked into her Stall, my heart was heavy with grief. As always, Sweetheart ambled up to me and nuzzled my chest. My tears came instantly, and I started to sob, a gut-wrenching sob that came from deep within me. All the while, Sweetheart was very still. While I cried, she gently rested her head on my shoulder. I threw my arms around her neck, and continued to sob into her warm and comforting neck. She did not move. She just remained still allowing me to express all the hurt and pain I had in that moment. Eventually my tears lessened and as they did, she moved her head very gently to face me; it was almost as if she knew that my crying was over and wanted to connect with me face to face.

I dropped my arms from her neck and walked to the end of her stall, and sat on the ground with my face in my hands. She very gently walked up behind me, and nuzzled my back, as if to soothe me and began to lick my back. In that moment, I felt like her foal, comforted and protected. There was no judgement, no comment, just pure love, from one sentient being to another.

I remember this day often and it heartens me each time I call it to mind. I learned that when I am present and true to my feelings and allow them to be, I am held and carried through by Life. On this particular day, Life showed up as Sweetheart.  

Horses really know about connection – they are connected by being authentic in each moment, whoever they are with. They are connected with their own truth, without judgement or self-consciousness.

The next day, when I went in to muck Sweetheart’s stall, there was absolutely no difference in her attitude towards me; she did not view me any differently to any other day. It was as if the experience of the day before had never happened. Together, we were in the present moment once again.

Have the Courage to Connect with all that you are. Choose wisely who you share your true feelings with. Not all may hold you in the same non-judgemental way Sweetheart did with me. But there is always someone who will, horse or human. You are not alone in this vast and amazing world.