When I was in my mid-thirties, I visited a friend who had moved to New Mexico. I was entranced by the colors and the vast openness of the desert, having lived in the towering, close canyons of New York City for over ten years. My marriage was ending, and the future often seemed like a dark abyss stretching in front of me. Spending time outdoors, in a land where the horizon appeared to go on forever and the sky was a constant spectacle of Technicolor glory was definitely very healing to my battered soul.
“Do you want to go horse-back riding?” my friend asked one morning. I had started riding horses around the time that I learned to walk, but after moving to New York, it had been at least fifteen years since I had been on a horse. Eagerly, I agreed. We stopped long enough for me to buy a pair of cowboy boots, and next thing I knew, I was sitting on a horse, no helmet, staring out at the wide-open spaces. It felt like I had come home as I settled into the worn old saddle and picked up the reins. We made our way into one of the arroyos, the dried riverbeds of soft sand, and our guide asked me if I wanted to “let ‘er go”. The horse and I took off, with no destination and no need to stop until we didn’t want to run anymore. I felt the wind flying around me with tears streaming down my cheeks, while pure joy flooded through me. There was a moment when it felt like we were soaring through the sky.
Okay, I said to myself when we finally stopped, there needs to be more horse in my life.
And now, so many years later, with many unforgettable adventures with horses under my belt, we are entering 2014, the Year of the Horse. I’ve been wondering what this might mean for my life and for the rest of us on this planet. So, I decided to look into the significance of the horse in different cultures: In the Far East, the Year of the Horse allows for safe travel, passage into the unknown, and because it is called “the Year of the Green Wood Horse”, it is supposed to bring more cooperation and compassion. For the Irish, the Celtic horse goddess, Epona, is the one who controls the circle of life, death, rebirth. They believe that the horse is our companion on the journey when it is time to move on. The Native Americans see the horse as the bridge to help carry human beings between what is wild and unknown and the spirit knowledge that can be used to benefit the tribe. The Sufis find power in the horse being grounded to the earth while also reaching up into the freedom of the winds and the sky. In my own backyard, Silk and Siete tell me that while we are getting older and slowing down, we still need to kick up our heels, take care of one another and enjoy each other’s company.
I am looking forward to 2014 with an optimism that I haven’t felt about the New Year in quite some time. My high hopes for the Year of the Horse are that the spirit of generosity and giving that is beginning to take hold will blossom into unprecedented acts of kindness. Perhaps we will actually allow ourselves to be carried on the wind into a new direction of rebirth that will show more respect for Mother Earth and will benefit our collective tribe. There’s no way to predict how it will all go. In any event, I intend to continue to enjoy the wild ride, and I welcome everyone to join hands and hold on to each other along the way. Happy Year of the Horse!