Fleur de Sel Caramel, my Mare, my Mirror
I didn't used to talk about my sad stories. I didn't know I needed therapy for a long time. Before therapy, I had a deep internalized sadness, a fear that I was irreparably broken. My childhood trauma took away a sense of trust and safety that I didn't believe could be replaced. I used to take a Pollyanna perspective on adversity, finding the silver lining to most clouds - if not immediately, then soon enough. I considered myself a positive, big picture thinking unapologetically optimistic visionary – especially when it came to other people. I see hope where others despair and take action to improve the world around me in my thoughts, beliefs and actions. I'm a believer in the quote attributed to Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
Horses are emotional mirrors to humans. Being prey animals, they are incredibly sensitive to their environment, constantly assessing and evaluating their safety. Because of this heightened awareness, they are great partners in discovery of emotional depth, leadership, and healing, and to be in relationship with a horse requires honest communication: they know when you mean what you say, they sense if you say what you believe. They are looking for congruence and incongruence because their lives depend on it.
I fell for Fleur hard and fast. It was a lightning bolt of connection, part love at first sight, part energetic resonance, part magic.
Fleur is a smart little mare. She learns quickly and is eager to please. She wants to work with you, she’s got an incredibly sweet disposition, but bottom line -- it’s hard for her to trust. But Fleur is my horse and I am her person. I love her like crazy. When we see each other, we are drawn together like magnets. Looking at pictures of us together, Rafe says we even stand alike.
I watch Fleur with our trainer Angi. Angi told me she learned incredible patience from this great teacher, but when I watch Fleur, my heart breaks into pieces.
I asked Angi if horses can actually have anxiety attacks, hyperventilate and faint? (They don’t). You can see how tense this mare is. Her worried brow, her eyes frozen wide and still, her jaw clenched, her breathing tense and deliberate, with an anticipation that something will happen(!). She holds it all in until she doesn’t – she either relaxes, receptive and ready to go or begins to buck like a bronc at a rodeo, acting as if she’s about to die. (One time this happened when Fleur stepped on a crunchy leaf – it may as well have been the end of the world!)
It’s Angi’s job to help Fleur trust herself to be okay in a world that is unpredictable. It’s no small task. Not for Fleur, not for anyone.
I tell Angi we’ll wait as long as it takes. While I’m eager to have Fleur join us near home where she’ll one day share a pasture with a delightful herd of equine companions, I won’t rush her. I know what it’s like to be sensitive. I know what it’s like to fear for safety. I know what it’s like to hold it all in, and I know what it’s like to explode from the pressure of it. I know what it’s like not to trust even the most gentle and generous teachers, and I know how hard it is to simply receive the love that surrounds you.
Karen and Fleur, January 2013