Restoring Connection

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Connection and disconnection is the foundation of the relationship with our horses. Few things feel better than a horse-human bond which is absolutely synchronized, when you both can read each other’s minds and body language. This bond is the lifeblood behind every aspect of our partnership with horses.  It’s what inspires us and motivates to progress through the inevitable challenges.

A disconnection provides an uncomfortable contrast. Did I do something “wrong”? Maybe the horse is having a bad day or we’re not in tune with ourselves. It’s nothing personal and horses are forgiving.

But something juicy lurks in the space between a connected time and a disconnection; the phase during actively seeking re-connection.  Patience yields clarity and fertile ground.  Disconnections become opportunities for growth, although it won’t feel that way at the time.

I’ve recently gone though a disconnection with Maestro.  He is a horse who OWNS his human, and in the best of ways.  Some might call him demanding, but I know him as my true love.  For six years, Maestro has been my equal and my teacher.  You can imagine how confused and sad I’ve been feeling since our bond dismantled in progressively less-subtle ways over the last few months.  Something was underneath this feeling. Maestro was trying to communicate with me that something wasn’t right.

Rather suddenly, Maestro didn’t want to be groomed. He was grumpy.  He kept “asking” to work in-hand except shortly after starting the work, he’d shut down.  Learning the origin of this pattern is where the adventure started.

I started by trying to understand Maestro’s point of view.  I don’t believe in horses being labeled as stubborn, too smart, lazy, obstinate, or with training issues.  Neither do I believe in dominance or submission theories. I handle my herd differently by asking them, “show me your truth.”

Maestro did show me his symptoms, in high definition, in everything we did together. We’ve been practicing Connected Groundwork, a type of in-hand work designed to help build his core strength and self-carriage.  Recently, he was having trouble with his focus and he had little energy.  His back legs were like concrete.  He got frustrated and finally, we simply stopped trying.  Just asking Maestro to go forward felt heavy.  His eyes showed unhappiness. The tension around his nostrils and the wrinkles in his lips illustrated his discomfort.   Was I not being light enough?  Was my own self-carriage off? I checked every box and made sure I wasn’t creating an unwilling horse.  Maestro was always so willing.

I encouraged him to move forward in a variety of humane ways.  Treats didn’t work.

One step, lurch… one more step, stop…. bull doze forward, stop.  Both of us were discouraged. Thanking him for trying and putting him back in the pasture felt like a cop-out.  A vet friend of mine came out and watched him move, did an exam and took blood. Everything was normal.  She thought he looked great other than being out of condition and therefore lacking muscle. I talked with another vet about his symptoms and she said a similar thing.

But something was just not right. Maestro was still the herd leader, moving well, eating, drinking, eliminating normally, etc.  but he his fitness had been been diminishing ever so slightly for the past few months.  I just could not get muscle on him.  Maybe it was our low protein, albeit organic hay.  I supplemented with a higher protein grass hay and added additional alfalfa.  I increased his groceries and tweaked his vitamins/minerals.  I gave him a prebiotic liquid and aloe juice for good measure. Given his stress, he needed digestive tract support.  I couldn’t describe what I was seeing,  It was just a feeling I had;  something is not right.

I suspected my feeling was similar to a mother’s instinct about her child when something’s amiss but the doctor says “fine.”  I wanted to trust the vets, but Maestro was showing me otherwise, and I trusted him.

First, I removed the excuse, “he always does that” which gave me the freedom to see patterns and imbalances.  I went through old notes and interviewed his past owner.  I studied his veterinary records learned about his lineage.

Horses show us only to what depth we are able to see, if we are persistent and continue to listen.  Maestro magnified his symptoms and made sure I saw them.  The details became vivid, bold and highlighted.  I took notes and told him what I saw.  My list included: 1. not right since kidney colic 11 months ago 2. dislikes being groomed 3.muscle tension in back and hindquarters 4.stands camped out 5. muscle atrophy 6.depression 7. muscle tension worse with confinement  8. exercise intolerance 9. weakness in hind end 10. grumpiness 11. symptoms worse when fed too much starch.

Maestro was being crystal clear.  His voice came through his patterns. He looked at me when each symptom had been acknowledged.  The wrinkles in his eyelids, the way he held his head, the way he stood, the way he relieved himself, the way he ate and drank, the way he held his feet for trimming, all meant something.  Through the details, I saw his truth.

I didn’t have an answer but i had a lot of notes.  All I could do was continue to listen and learn. The vets and the blood work had said he was fine, after all.

“Hearing” Maestro made him peaceful and it relieved some of his symptoms.  He became more engaged and interactive during this process, which encouraged me to keep getting to the root of whatever this was. I thanked him for continuing to work with me and guide me through this maze.  My notes became voluminous as more questions popped up.  I promised  I’d keep digging.

Part Two; What does Maestro reveal?  What ended up helping him?  He is horse who is actively finding a way to help me understand his perspective. Clues are all along the way if only we take the time to observe and listen.

Do you have a similar story to share?  I’d love to hear it.  Please send an email to me at:



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  1. looking forward to part two from you and maestro…

    • Thanks Kate, sorry for the tardy reply! Maestro’s part two is hatching….and it’s no surprise considering what he reminded me of in the recent blog about “What is a healer?” His story will come soon, I promise! I so appreciate your kindness and support all along the way. You are a gem.

  2. I so appreciate your mindful and caring approach. Your methods to “stay connected in the disconnection” and “seek to understand with fresh eyes” are useful in all relationships. Thank you, Lizzy! Can’t wait to hear Part Two!

    • Hi Suzy, Thank you so much for your kind words and your feedback. Yes, the horse have taught me so much about relationships. It’s something I think we are all learning forever as we walk the Earth! Part two is hatching, and in a very surprising way (well, not completely if you read the latest blog titled: “What is a Healer?”) I appreciate your support!

  3. Kimberly A Tencich says:

    I too am looking forward to art 2. Perhaps he is nudging himself, and you, in a new undiscovered direction of sorts?

    • Sorry for the tardy reply, Kimberly! Part two is coming soon…the horses are governing what comes out when and it’s a bit chaotic but I’m learning to go with the flow and trust that their messages are worth sharing-which they totally are! 🙂 Thank you for your readership and your comments. And YES you are right, he did nudge me in a new direction of sorts 🙂

  4. Rhonda stoup says:

    thank you as always, Lizzy, for making me stop and remember horses communicate so much. I need to slow down, stop and listen with my mind and soul. The old adage, “Never Assume”, is always the best path. Rhonda

    • Thank you Rhonda 🙂 You have always done such a great job communicating with your horses. I remember our earliest meeting with Mel and Sydney and just being in awe of how in tune you were with them. It’s HARD to slow down sometimes, isn’t it? Our horses create opportunities for us to stop and listen to them. They open our hearts to our natural rhythm, like the heartbeat of the earth.

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