Whispering by Duncan Holmes

My day with the horses was stimulating. Maybe not quite the right word, but going in as a skeptic, I left believing that whatever we did had merit—and without doubt offered much for me to mull in my relationship with my world.

Evelyn and Sandra, the ladies who ran the day, hope to develop their program into something much bigger, involving corporate clients and others who may be interested in learning more about themselves; by getting close to these creatures that with their animal wisdom might be catalysts for change, and open us up a bit to help us understand ourselves, make more out of life by the lessons they have ‘whispered’ to us. If it all sounds a bit magical, it is. But we talk to our pets and plants and feel their vibes. Bigger creatures, bigger vibes? The subject of a longer discussion at some other time.

Six of us were involved, on a lovely spread in cleared forestland high above the Fraser Valley, where the air is clear and the mountain scenery goes on forever. There were three horses—Chiron, a young gelding who still believes he is a stallion, and has many lessons yet to learn about growing up; Cricket, a young quarterhorse who loves to be loved, and seemed reluctant to show much of her personality; and Grace, a wise and lovely mare who ruled the roost and had the disposition of a caring nurse.

Our first exercise was to meet and greet the horses through the fence of the corral, to make notes on them as individuals, to observe the dynamics of their community. After a debrief on that, we entered the corral, chose a horse and got closer. I had little admiration for Chiron, who I suspected was into spraying graffiti onto walls, drag racing and wearing a baseball cap backwards when we humans weren’t looking. For most of the morning, despite his sexual shortcomings, he seemed delighted to display his penis and make like his importance in the world was all that really mattered. I chose Grace and we related well.

After a lunch of quiche, salad and a robust squash soup, we chose an exercise objective and a horse—preparation for the ten minutes of time alone we would spend with that horse in a sand-filled ring. Not being part of the corporate world these days, and not having any really big stuff to sort out, I said that my horse of choice would be Cricket, and I would attempt to discover more of her guarded personality, and potentially a hidden sense of humor. Others in the group who had been fearful of the prancing, dancing, over-sexed Chiron, saw an opportunity to overcome their fears as they hoped to do with ogre-like bosses in Monday-morning offices.

One at a time we went in as the others in the group watched and took notes. It was sometimes a quiet affair, sometimes not. There were little miracles, a horse that respectfully bowed and came forward; that followed, did really anything—each a great reward. I chose to go ‘big’ with Cricket, relating to her as my partner in a stage show, running off and calling her names because she chose not to run with me; crouching in the sand and pleading with her to do something; whispering in her ear; staring into a large brown eye; blowing into her nostrils. I felt that even with the little bits that she chose to do, the exercise was a success—and I understood completely at the end of the day why people get the horse bug. They are big, beautiful creatures who decided at some stage that they won’t use their size and strength to kill us.

It almost seems inappropriate that we chose all those years ago to start riding them; totally wrong that we have done all of the other stuff. Why should a horse have ever been a ‘beast of burden’? Gone innocently into war, so often to die? To end up being carved on a French table? To become a can of dog food?

I shall think often of that trio of compatriots up on the hill. Chiron will get wisdom. Cricket will remember the old guy who hopefully made her smile, and Grace will always be a match for her well-chosen name. We didn’t ride on Saturday. Just whispered.