Many of you know me as a horse person. It’s true—my favorite days are often those spent at the barn or in the dressage ring, caring for and riding my two horses Shawnee and Kodiak. But sometimes I have frustrating days where I just don’t understand my horses, and I can’t get through to them. For instance, Kodiak, the young one, is very pushy and strong-willed. And I admit it: At times I’ve been a complete pushover when working with him. I wanted things to change.
So imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity recently to work with Dean Voigt, a very talented horse trainer and clinician who trained with Ray Hunt, a pioneer in natural horsemanship. Voigt is an old-fashioned cowboy and a true natural when working with horses, and I now think of him as real-life “horse whisperer.” His approach is “using communication rather than intimidation to achieve positive changes in preparing a horse to accept the saddle and a rider.” And it works!
Voigt has taught me many helpful strategies over the past several months (we now work together once every four to six weeks), but here are three lessons that stand out in particular. Keep in mind these lessons have helped me not just with my horses, but also with my Reiki business and life in general:
1. The problem isn’t always what you think. As I mentioned earlier, my horse Kodiak is dominant, strong and willful; he often doesn’t listen to me. He can be so feisty sometimes that I almost stop breathing. My instincts have always been, “He’s being bad!” but luckily Voigt set me straight. After working with Kodiak, he said, “Your horse has a very high play drive. If you can make what you do with him a game—make it fun—he will do anything for you.” I took those words to heart and now when Kodiak challenges me or gets high energy, instead of fearing him I reframe it in my mind as respectfully playing with each other. Now I’ll smile and say, “Oh, do you want to play today?” and channel his energy in a positive way. Voigt helped me realize that Kodiak wasn’t being mean; he just wanted to play. Now that I understand the intention behind his strength and energy, I can finally enjoy it (and make strides we couldn’t before).
2. Remember the important role emotions play. Again and again, Voigt has pointed out to me (and to the other participants at the barn) that a lot of the problems we have with our horses have to do with emotions, either ours or those of our horse: fear, frustration and confusion, for example. Voigt has shown us that once you can heal that emotional part, then everything else will come together. He helps you to realize what’s really going on so you can move past it. He’s kind of like a therapist in that way.
3. Create a state of being that is peaceful and calm. Voigt gets results by achieving this in the ring, and it’s also something I’ve noticed in my work with animals and Reiki. When I watch Voigt work with the horses, I can see that he understands the language of energy and speaks it to our horses. He’ll stand there and barely move his pinkie, and the horse will know exactly what he was saying.
I saw him with some really fearful horses once and he stood there really calm, like a rock. No matter what the animals were doing, he didn’t react to it. He was just calm, quiet and gentle. And within 30 seconds, these horses were like, well, he’s not scared, so why am I expending all this energy? And then they came over and stood with him. And that’s what we do with Reiki: How do we bring our meditation and calmness to every moment, even when the animal is being difficult?
I always say, “Be Reiki with your animal; don’t DO Reiki to your animal.” That’s why Voigt is so successful. He creates a state of being that is peaceful and calm, and that really heals any problem he has with an animal. His presence is very much a healing presence.
Horsey friends, what life lesson have you learned from working with your horses?