As women, one of the many stories we tell ourselves is that we don’t deserve to be loved. Here’s how my first encounter with my horse Cadie showed me that this simply isn’t true, and how accepting the fact we do deserve love is a step towards healing.
Cadie came into my life last week. I purchased her as a project horse from a sweet, young trainer who’d rescued her from an abusive home. She’d started her rehab, but couldn’t take it any further. I drove almost to the Canadian border to see her, even though I’d already decided to buy her from the post on Facebook. When I met her, it only solidified what I’d felt from seeing her six photos and video...she was supposed to be a huge part of my life.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the “trainwreck” that was inside this horse’s mind. When Cadie first arrived, I could tell she was stressed. After all, she’d been brought to a new place, in 100-degree weather, and there were no other horses there (Willow came in several hours later). She came flying out of the trailer. Quickly we let her know that she couldn’t run us down – a little natural horsemanship, twirl the lead line and some backing up brought her attention to us.
I knew I could fix her physically in six months, but the time to bring her around mentally is going to be up to her.
Once Cadie’s dear deliverer drove off, she paced her paddock taking stock of her surroundings. She was lathered, extremely hot. I stood quietly in her paddock watching her movements. Once she started to settle down, I spoke softly to her, saying “It’s okay mare. You’re okay.” She kept pacing, pacing. I needed her to settle down further. She was hot and she wasn’t drinking. The pacing continued for two hours. She then started to stop, lightly nibble at her paddock grass, but still not drinking.
I slowly started walking up to her, she stepped back. I pulled out the carrot in my pocket, that caught her attention. She slowly, cautiously walked up to me. She stretched out her neck and took the end. She stepped towards me. She saw the halter and sniffed it. After she’d inspected it, I moved my hands to a position that would allow me to get it on her. As my hand came to her cheek as I tied a knot, she threw her head away from me, avoiding my touch. I stepped in again to tie the halter. She let me put it on.
While I did this, she was shaking and avoiding eye contact. I said to her, “It’s okay mama. We’ll go at your pace.” I tried to stroke her cheek again but she pulled away from being touched again. We walked to the water trough and I began to play with it, and she was willing to lick the water from my hands but not put her head down to drink.
It’d now been four hours since she’d arrived, and it was still over 90 degrees. After I’d gotten her to start engaging with water, we ran the hose to her corral. I had to push her a bit farther, she was simply too hot and I needed to cold hose her in order to help bring her temperature down. She was startled of course. New place, new experiences. But she figured out what I was doing and became quiet. Slow, mindful, deliberate, that’s how I had to move around her.
After she’d gotten her hosed down, I moved into stroke her neck. She threw her head up again. I said to her, “It’s okay mama. I just want to make sure you’re cooling off.” I brought my hand up to her neck and she let me rest my finger there. Her head was still high, but slowly she started to bring it down as I stroked her neck and talked quietly to her. Suddenly, she let out a sad, long whinny. It was thin, it sounded almost like she was crying. She made the sound again, and again. I said to her, “Shhhh. It’s okay now.”
Next, she then brought her head down to my chest and turned her neck towards me. I ran my hand across her forehead and said:
I want you to know I already love you more than you can know. And this your last stop. You will never go anywhere else. I’ll never sell you, I’ll never leave you. Because I love you.
She continued to shake, and she leaned further into my touch. I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her. She didn’t move and I could tell she didn’t want me to let go. I realized there and then that somewhere along the way, something far worse than physical neglect and abuse had happened to this mare.
She’d been taught that she didn’t deserve to be loved. Somewhere, someone, or many people, had told her a story so many times that it had become a part of her psyche. So to receive affection, to be loved on, to simply be touched, elicited a response that was similar to her being physically hurt. She didn’t know how to process it. The shaking, the crying. They were breaking my heart.
I kept holding her, hugging her as she shook. I said to her:
You can have all the time in the world to become whatever you’re supposed to be. But mama, you need to stop telling yourself the story that you don’t deserve to be loved, because that’s all you’re going to get from me. And if you wanna love me back, I like that a lot.
My first interaction with Cadie reminded me of the stories we tell ourselves as women. Stories that we’re not worthy. Not worthy of love, not worthy of respect, not worthy of whatever it is that we think we’re not worthy of. But the thing is, we are all worthy of love. We’re worthy of being loved, by ourselves and by those in our lives. We’re worthy of whatever we believe we’re not worthy of. And we need to stop telling ourselves stories that we’re not.
The one thing I absolutely love about horses is that they are our mirrors. They show us our insides through their outward reactions. Our soul, our inner emotions, pain, trauma, fear, joy. You can’t hide it from them. In this case, I saw something I’d gotten over not too long ago in my new horse and I now I’m reflecting what I’ve learned back to her. It’s the first time the mirror has been reversed for me.
No matter where you are in your life, please understand, you deserved to be loved and are worthy of love. Remind yourself of that every day.