I was born more horse than human. My first word was “horse”, I neighed and cantered more than walking, and much to my mother’s mortification, I would not come to her even in public unless she called me by a horse name like “Trigger” or “Silver”. We were an Army family, so we moved frequently, and my father in his wisdom refused to buy me a horse until he retired. In my perception, though, this was cruelty, and I cried myself to sleep over it many a night. However, in hindsight it was a blessing, for I poured over any horse book I could find, and I was like a sponge for any horse movies on the silver screen. I spent most of my waking moments immersed in an inner world populated by sentient horses, alternating between being one of the herd and being a human who lived with them.
In addition, I was born with a deep connection to Nature, and I could hear and speak to the animals. My parents did not understand this. In fact, it frightened them, and their reaction was to punish me whenever it would come up. As a result, I consciously buried my ability, yet unconsciously stayed attuned. As I got older, I would badger my parents into taking me to hack stables, or in my teens, to 4-H meetings where I would soak up every bit of equestrian knowledge. When the glorious day finally arrived that I did get my first horse, I instinctively knew that he was much more the teacher than any books or a 4-H Leader could be.
My lack of lessons actually stood me in good stead. I was blessed to live at a time when Northern Virginia was still wide open country, and we horse girls would gallop across the fields jumping anything that got in our way. We raced up the median strips of the still-under-construction I-495, and we explored deer trails in surrounding woods. Once I got lost while out riding bareback, and it took me 7 hours to find my way back! My horse of that time had as much of an exploring nature as I, and had no interest in taking me back to the barn like the horses in the movies always did! So my early experiences weren’t dictated in a ring. They had no conditions on them other than common sense, and we all pretty much listened to our horses when they made their side of things clear. I continued to study and read anything I could get my hands on, and then try out what I read on my horse. Each of them was very clear about what worked and what didn’t, and I continued to listen. All the way to coming in second in a big national competition and being invited to train with and become a member of the United States Equestrian Three Day Event Team!
By this time I had two young children and lived in the mountains of VA with my husband. We were pretty much isolated from the sport I chose of Three Day Eventing. In these competitions, my horse (The Gray Goose) and I would do dressage (like the compulsory figures in figure skating) the first day, speed and endurance (like a motor cross course on horseback) the second, and show jumping the third day. Though I had basically no instruction, I had instinct--and oil drums and locust posts which I used as obstacles. These I moved around our hilly property and used to train my horse and I how to cope with the competitive questions we would be asked. This sport is dangerous. The jumps are solid and formidable, and if you make a mistake, you can die. But oh the Glory of flying over what seemed impossible and soaring into my dreams! The thrumming hooves, the enormous power flowing into me from The Gray Goose, and then the lift off into the air—truly we were flying without wings. When we were out there on course, galloping into the wind and weather, our hearts, minds, and souls beat as one. In those moments, there was no division between horse and human, and I felt whole.
Picture: Gray at Rayanella.
We competed for 11 years, 6 of those at the International Level. We had the honor of competing for the US in England, Germany, Holland, and Australia. We thrilled to the wonders, and Gray became a very comfortable frequent flyer! Some of the people watching us noticed that we had a bond that went beyond the norm. They began to realize that maybe there was another way to relate to horses and ask them to work as partners rather than in a slave and master paradigm. Gray began to get a fan club. Along the way, we won the National Championships at the Rolex competition in Lexington, KY.
Picture: Galloping on steeplechase at Rolex.
We won the individual and team bronze medals at the World Championships in Germany, and were alternates for the 1984 Olympics.
Picture: 2 Bronze WC medals, 1982.
Gray had a formal retirement ceremony at Rolex at the age of 18. And when he died with his head in my lap at the age of 30, I had him cremated and buried the ashes in another public ceremony at his beloved KY Horse Park in Lexington.
Before he passed, however, he spent several years mentoring my current horse, Gideon Goodheart. Gideon is the descendent of two mares I brought over from Ireland, and is distantly related to Gray. Gray was present at his birth, and he made sure that Gideon knew how to take care of me before he moved on.
Picture: Gray and Gideon, 2000.
Much has changed in ensuing years. I was divorced after 20 years of marriage, my beloved daughter was abducted and missing for 4 months before her bones were literally tripped over by a hunter out in the WV woods. I had a terrible car wreck that resulted in a life-changing near death experience, and I’ve recovered from brain trauma. I have watched my son grow into a loving, wise, and talented young man. I have recovered from deep depression, dysfunctional living, and the false paradigms and conditionings of my youth. At 60, I no longer fly over fences. Instead, Gideon and I dance in the art of Dressage and together we fly through inner spaces as we support others in emotional healing.
The love these horses share with me goes beyond description. When I won those bronze medals, I had two broken transverse processes in my back from a fall before the competition. Where one man from Switzerland had already died that day, Gray carried me over those solid fences swiftly yet very carefully. He knew that I had lost the support of my left side and was clinging to his mane for balance. He made sure that we crossed that finish line safely. When I was inconsolable after my daughter’s death, Gray was a quiet and constant presence in my mind, steady as a rock and just as solid to cling to. When I came back from living with my parents for a while after my car accident, Gray was patient with my unsteady balance and emotions, and with his joyful greetings and bright spirit gave me the encouragement I needed to make my way back to normalcy while living on my own.
Gray taught Gideon everything he knew about me—how to carry me safely, and how to be steady when I was not. How to support me with humor or nuzzles when I was feeling down, and how to broaden my world by making sure I learned new things in response to him being honest about what he needed. When I was at the lowest point of my life, Gideon found the way to kick me out of the deep emotional hole where I was self-destructing. On one fateful day, he had had enough of my self-pity, suppressed anger, and self-loathing. In the middle of a successful training session, he suddenly bolted and tossed me off his back in a spectacular way, cracking my femur and necessitating knee surgery. This resulted in forcing me to look at how I was living, read lots of self-help books in the time I was healing, and make the decision to truly change my life.
Picture: Kim and Gideon.
The result of that decision is the recent completion a two year Spiritual Life Coaching course. During these studies, Gideon would constantly reinforce any breakthroughs I had by changing his own behavior to match mine. Together, we now have more tools to support people in their efforts to reclaim the Truth of their lives. As always, I continue to be a student of Life, and of the horses who come into my presence. I know without any doubt that they are Divine Agents, sent here to hold the space of our Authenticity for us, and act as our guides in rediscovering the Truth. I am happy to say that I am now living the life of peace and Love that I once knew as a tiny child and have now claimed as an adult. Above all, as a Wonder junkie, I keep on choosing to live the Joy and Beauty of a Radiant life!
Picture: Joyful Kim.
— — —