Wellness with Horses

Horse Journal: Releasing Judgment


On All Hallow’s Eve, we always put the horses in the barn for precaution, because their pasture fences come close to the road. It makes us feel better.

I took the opportunity to spend some time with them under the lights in the nighttime hours. Everyone was munching. The air was cool. It felt good to be out in the silence.

I decided to just be with Cherish. I turned on mindful quiet music and breathed beside her for a while. The brushes came out and stroked across her teddy bear coat slowly and with care. I felt each area of her body with my hands, tenderly, taking extra time to stroke and feel places where the hair curved a different way, or where the tissue felt different. Sometimes I paused in an area and just held space for it. Other times I would put one hand on one spot, and connect it to another with my other hand. I breathed. I loved. I cradled this healing space for her. She breathed, and sighed, and slowly released gas. We cycled between softening and releasing together and being in our own spaces, but together–her eating her hay, and me breathing and enjoying the sensations of her and the barn at night.

Being the (learning) trimmer for my horses, I sometimes try something new that didn’t work out well, or that I didn’t carry out as well as I had intended. In the past few days I had noticed her starting to appear sunken in front of and behind her withers–truth be told, there was a lot of muscle tension there. I picked up her hooves and continued to feel them in the same way I had felt the rest of her, with tender love and massive appreciation. It felt cool, and sweet. I didn’t have to inspect scientifically or judge, not even organically.

As I continued spending time with her in this way of feeling and being together, I began to get a feeling that I didn’t want to think of her as a horse with tension, or an older horse, or of her appear-to-be-sunkenness, or her hoof problems. I wanted to know her as who she knew herself to be in her heart–a beautiful, strong, powerful, graceful, forgiving, guiding, and kind lady. When I began to open to this, I knew the truth of what she was capable of, of how she felt, and of how she wanted to feel.

In this space, I let go of my own judgment of her and of myself. We stood in the stall together, two beings in love. She released further, and then we just were. I was free to be me, hanging upside down in a forward fold while breathing and stroking the soft velvet of her face with all the love in the world. I could kneel down and feel her, without wanting her to change or be better or be different. I had no agenda for her improvement. I had no judgment of her current picture or movement. I just was me, and she just was her.

I won’t say I was perfect in this moment–I had to remind myself to stay here, to bring myself back without judgment and with love when I noticed my brain drifting, but it was a beautiful place to be, a place worth trying to be and a place worth being.

I took this same feeling to Hope, and basked in her warmth for a while. She appreciated it just as much.

Now, writing this, I’m reflecting on how much this needs to be given as a gift in bodywork. Whether you are the receiver or the giver of bodywork, of healing, of psychotherapy, of counseling, of guidance… we should all be able to cradle this gorgeous space for ourselves of releasing judgment… of allowing ourselves to be who we are now, and allowing ourselves to be and embody who we are in our hearts. There is no judgment, no explanation needed here. There is no story. There’s just us.

This might not be who or where you need to be in your journey right now, but I think it is for me, both as an individual, as a horse lover, and as a bodyworker. As a bodyworker, I want to see my clients for their hearts rather than their restrictions. I want to feel their bodies and understand their perspective without judgment, without adding my own restrictions. I want to open a space of love and possibility for them, where they can just be.

Releasing judgment, for you and for me.

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