Horse Healing from Elto

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Elto is my wise man of sorts who has taught me so much about healing! He’s a 26 year young Nevada mustang who has been in my life as an extraordinary teacher since 2004.  He’s earned “Master Teacher” status in my book!

The biggest gift Elto has shared with me this far has been about perspective. He’s changed how I see things with regards to healing and animals.  His lesson has formed the foundation of my current perception of how to support animals in their healing.

He taught me how to “show up.”

Time travel back to 2005, I was an Equine Touch student and was practicing the sequences of the bodywork method.  I had each step memorized and not a whole lot of “feel” at that stage. Evaluating horses and finding their painful areas was my favorite part because I learned to see through the lameness. The fascia and muscle had their own way of communicating to my very beginner hands. My brain had the process in a semi-congealed state and I needed practice!

Elto stood in the cross ties as I stood back with my hands on my hips.  My right hand pressed against my chin as my brow furrowed in the depths of concentration. Where should I start?

Analysis paralysis. 

He was a high mileage teenage ranch horse at the time. His trail-tired body had lots of “jewelry” and imperfections that caught my eye. I found everything “wrong.”  The rest of the horse attached to the issues didn’t enter my mind.

I studied his stance and thought…

I wonder how I can help him to be more sound. His left hip is cocked in a funny way. Does he need the chiropractor? His right front is pointed slightly forward.  Is his ringbone flaring up? His back seems tense and a bit hollow. Am I trimming his feet correctly? They seem maybe a bit off. Is my saddle causing back trouble? Is he metabolic? He sure is overweight.”

In that zone of a total lack of awareness, I put my hand on Elto’s shoulder. No, I didn’t even ask for permission! My inner critic is cringing as I write this. How rude was that to assume I could touch him and evaluate him like this? We all start somewhere.

I recall saying something like, “You poor thing, you look so uncomfortable! Am I not doing enough for you to stay sound? What’s going on? Are you really this lame?  This body work is really going to help.”

Elto bit me!

And he didn’t let go. HIs incisors held a generous roll of flesh just above my belt line. He was always so gentle and certainly, he’d never nipped me before. I thought we were friends. What was going on?

I was too shocked to yelp or push him away. My muffin top was at the mercy of his jaws. He twisted his neck enough to torque his grip a bit more. Like a kid being grabbed by the ear, I was a receptive listener. Anything to get out of his jaws.

If I wriggled away, the bite became more insistent, but he never chomped down.  The pressure never increased over about two minutes. My face had no color in it, I’m sure and I was eager to see what this was all about.

“Elto, what’s going on?”

After a long pause, I realized something big. I didn’t ask Elto how he was doing. I assumed he was in pain. I found everything wrong with him and I did not ask what was working for him.  I wanted to fix the problems my limited vision could see. I never even asked permission to approach him, never mind do an assessment or bodywork!

I had clearly assumed too much and apologized for my very limited perspective and asked him to show me what I needed to learn.

He released at that moment.

I stopped looking for what was “wrong” and stopped trying to “fix” Elto.

I chose not to give energy to his “broken-ness.” Instead, I stayed in a neutral frame of mind and simply acknowledged what he was showing me through his stance, body language, energy and how I felt around him.

My brain jumped in frequently. I so badly wanted to identify what was wrong! Prove my learning! It made me feel right when I could find something wrong.  My ego was satisfied because it validated what I knew in my brain.

The problem was, this limited my heart’s receptivity to Elto’s voice. And it muted my hand’s ability to listen to his body. Without his engagement, how far could healing go? Never mind our relationship.  It meant the horse did not engage in the process and did not grant permission for me to do anything with him.

The respectful alternative.

If I could wait and ask Elto to show me what was working for him, I had a willing participant.  He knew I was listening and that I was interested in HIS perspective.  After all, it was HIS body and he knew better than anyone what was working and what was in need of balance.

It made him softer, more engaged and able to receive me in his world. He was wide open and our bond grew. Over time, he would show me how well he was doing. I stopped seeing faults and started seeing little things that amazed me. The issues that needed help were always brought to my attention when he was ready. When he needed something, he came to me, showed me the area that was of concern and the invitation to help was set. I had permission and it was on his terms.

Animals are so willing to teach us if we respect them. 

They’re in the driver’s seat. After all, it’s their body and they’re on their own path just as we are. Finding a balance within the relationship means being willing to see the whole picture. Then, asking permission to approach, touch, address the issue, carries us a long way in that relationship.

Contrast this option to what I did with Elto back in 2005 when he made me see his point of view. It’s quite the difference!

Yes, there are times we need to help them sooner than later, like in an emergency. Taking a second to see what’s working and the bigger picture pays off. Horses are very willing to work with us in those uncomfortable situations. The same ideas apply and we can be respectful while still listening to them and asking permission.

We are the stewards and have the honor of caring for them.

With respect and trust they always show us their beauty and their wounds. They ask for help very willingly once they know we do not see it as a fault or weakness.  Horses and most other animals seek wholeness, balance, ease and the option that feels “better.”

If we are willing to be just a little bit patient and ask permission to see from their perspective, I find that it eases the whole situation between human and horse.

I’ve partnered with the Animal Wellness Summit and am presenting this Saturday, November 18th on the topic of healing with animals.  I’m sharing what the animals have taught me so you can apply it to your own fur family. Would you be my guest?

Here’s the link to sign up and yes, there are free options to listen in:

special thanks to Kate Zimmerman Photography for these lovely images of Elto and Gaia

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