Friday, February 1, 2008
Women and Horses
“What is it about women and horses?” I am often asked. I certainly don’t intend to speak for all women who love these amazing four-legged creatures, but I can tell you why they have captivated me. It started when I was just a baby. My mother pushed me in a stroller every day to the farm down the road so I could squeal and laugh with delight as the horses poked their noses through the fence rails.
When I was a little kid, sitting up high on a horse’s back, surveying the world made me feel like I was really in charge of something. It gave me confidence in myself that this huge powerful animal listened to me and did what I asked. In fact, it still does.
As a grown-up, after fifteen years of not riding a horse, I visited friends in New Mexico and went for a trail ride. Just smelling and touching a horse again made me deliriously happy. We rode down into the arroyos, dried up river beds that run for miles in the desert. The flat sandy soil was perfectly smooth. “Okay, let’s go!” the guide called, and my horse took off. Even though I had cantered and galloped my way through childhood, it was the first time that I had ever ridden as fast as the horse could go without any destination or need to stop. We were flying. There were no motors, no noise of a machine, only the wind and the sound of the horse’s hooves on the soft ground. Mostly, I heard the two of us breathing in rhythm. When the horse got tired, we stopped. I wanted more.
Years later, when I was boarding Silk and Siete near my house while I worked day and night in a pressure-cooker job, the scent of my horses saved my sanity. I’d race to the barn to see the girls in the morning before going to the office. After rubbing their favorite itchy spots, my hands would be covered with the sweet smell of horse. For the rest of the day, I’d hold my fingers up to my nose when I’d get aggravated or stressed out. The scent of Silk and Siete would ground me and remind me of “the real me”.
I believe that as a woman, I identify with horses because I too have that “prey instinct”. Granted I’ve never been attacked by a mountain lion. Still, after years of living in New York City, I know I’ve experienced the same feelings of caution and fear of predators while riding in an elevator alone with a strange man or walking through a parking garage by myself to get to my car. I aspire to build my intuition and my gut instincts to be as finely tuned as Silk’s.
Shambhala Buddhists’ use the phrase “windhorse energy”. “Wind” is the strength, power and exuberance to carry yourself beyond self-concern. “Horse” is the courage to ride over obstacles and achieve what you intend. The first time I heard about “windhorse energy”, I recognized it was the gift that my horses offer to me. They help me to be more than I ever believe I can be. So that’s why this woman loves horses.