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Disidentify. If This Isn’t a Word, I’m Making it One. 

Horses have been in my life for as long as I can remember. As far as I’m concerned, I was born a ‘horse girl.’ Loving them from the moment I was born, deeply amazed at the lessons and the kindness they have to offer the world around them.


I’ve placed my entire identity into being a horse girl for so long now, that it’s been a journey trying to figure out who I am outside of that. Recently I’ve really been allowing myself to expand into the role of communicator… not just animals, but people, plants, trees… beings.

I find myself asking recently, who am I without horses?

  • An appreciator of all beings.

  • A lover of nature – especially mountains and sunsets and birds.

  • A dreamer.

  • Someone who has never lost the amazement at a tree’s ability to grow tall, provide homes for so many, shade, resources, oxygen (shall I go on?)

  • An uplifter of others.

  • A student and a teacher.

  • A lover of books, the kind with tangible pages and not on a screen.

  • A good listener, and someone who also loves to talk. A conversationalist.

  • A human, a soul, an expansive energy.

  • A dedicated wife.

  • A friend. A colleague. A daughter. A sister. An aunt.


Most of all, I find myself really and truly learning to understand what it means to be connected to everyone and everything… It’s almost incomprehensible.


Humans have free will yet we somehow (I think unintentionally) trap ourselves in these conditional roles or identities. We choose beliefs that limit us. I realize now that in the codependent relationships that I created with my horses, I operated a lot of the time on conditional joy.


My happiness was based around how well they were being taken care of at their boarding barns, how well our interactions went in and out of the saddle, how well I felt the professionals working on their teeth or feet were performing. My happiness was based on me holding on so tightly to my identity around my horses. I have literally been obsessed with horses – wanting to know everything about them, spending as much time as possible with them, obsessing over what their bodies should look like, what I should be feeding them, how they’re moving…finding my self worth in being: A good and caring provider. A rider and equestrian. A student of the horse.


***


There is no life without horses for me, but there is a difference between wrapping my identity up in horses, and having a life with horses… and that is the piece I’ve been missing.


***


AND it’s amazing to me how much closer I’ve been brought TO them by putting more of my ‘eggs in other baskets.’


The biggest weight our horses carry is our expectations of them, and our identities. The weight of being the keepers of our joy, or our self-worth, or our goals, or or or…you fill in the blank. It’s not the weight of our bodies that weighs them down.


Did you know that elephants mourn their dead? They will go back for months sometimes to touch the bones of their deceased, or to pour dirt over where the body was. Orcas live together their entire lives, the matriarch teaches her young and leads the pod, and babies learn to hunt by catching sea weed bundles on the shoreline. Blue whales have learned to amplify their mating calls with coral, wolves play for fun and they have intricate family dynamics. Flowers follow the sun. The fungus that grows on trees as a parasite fights free radicals in sick human bodies. I learned all this when I decided that it was ok to not know everything about horses, and it is okay to be curious about other things, it’s even ok to want to be away from my horses… big step for me.


I spent some time away from horses for the first time in a while this weekend and I spent time with an owl and a hawk instead. My husband and I were camping and they were in captivity at the park. I looked at the owl with sympathy, because I knew that she had been brought there as a baby. She’d never seen the lake just a mile over the ridge next to her. She’d never had the opportunity to find a mate though she can hear them. She hasn’t ever been able to use her wings to navigate through the trees, or her eyesight to find prey in the hills. She never will.


I looked at the hawk with empathy, because I could feel his desire to be free. He’d once been a strong life force in this forrest. He had a mate. He flew above the trees. He knew experiences, and survival, and the ebb and flow of life. He misses his wings.


The person who cares for them told my husband who went into the office that the owl had been brought in as a baby, and ‘imprinted’ so she wouldn’t survive in the wild. The hawk injured, and brought into captivity.


The person didn’t have to tell me, I knew, and this is where I am conflicted as a human.

An owl, who by human definition imprinted on humans and could not survive the wild yet she flew upward and clung to her ceiling as my dog moved closer to her. She knows to fly to higher ground, and she knows that though I am human, I am not HER human, yet she is deemed unable to be free to care for herself? She demonstrated otherwise in that moment, as if to say ‘See! Please tell them how smart I am.’ She was never even given the opportunity to try to thrive on her own, this is hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes… human interference and lessons of animals.


A hawk who was injured and taken into captivity never to use his wings again. He repetitively looked up at the trees above him as I stood there talking to him, reminding me that he missed their sway. A hawk is a noble hunter, the guardian of the woods, and he doesn’t belong in a box.


This is why I am searching the world for more… breaking out of my small horse girl identity, and expanding into the connectedness that is this world. Every animal has a purpose, a soul to find expansion, and I have to wonder if the birds in this captive space are here to teach about the ebb and flow of life? What is theirs?


Humans often fear death and change, so we lock things up in a box to keep them safe. We limit ourselves to minimize hurt or pain and we allow fear to keep us from truly allowing life to flow and we take our animals with us.


What I learned this weekend is that the hawk would rather go through the natural processes of life (and death) than live his life seeing the same view day after day, never to use his wings again like a human living without sight. But… like a human who loses their sight, life goes on, and a new normal is found.

____________________________


So he told me: The best way to honor animals in captivity is to be in awe of us. Don’t fall into the normalcy of seeing us. Don’t feel we are inferior. Don’t feel sorry for me, feel amazed at my presence. Show me what’s out there with your vision, connect with me as you are. The very sight of me brings people joy, as it did you when you first saw me. Carry that feeling to all animals, and you will know why I chose to be here.

_____________________________


I took those messages and returned home to my horses with them. Keeping in mind that I will use what I’ve learned about horses to be in awe of who they are rather than to analyze them. This will be a process, don’t get me wrong, over 20 years of this identity is pushing against a message from a captive hawk. I encourage you though, to walk this process with me.


We are amazed when we see the bald eagle because he’s powerful yet peaceful. Massive. Elusive.Untouchable. Horses too. But we forget through the normalcy of daily life with them. Disidentify with this feeling of normalcy and expectation with your horses, find your fulfillment in the world around you rather than with them, and then go back to your horses and see how it feels…


To be continued.

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