She stood quivering in the dust, unsure of her place in the world. She was a spotty horse – I know there’s a proper name for it, but facts like that never stick in my mind. Life changing moments do though, and I was about to receive one.
I was in a special place called Samaria, about halfway between Benalla and Mansfield on the edge of Victoria’s High Country with Judy, a woman whose wisdom and teaching through horses I’ve come to revere. Battling through a crisis point in my most treasured relationship, my mum had almost had to beg me to come to this ‘horse weekend’ which she was convinced would help me in my fragile state. It did indeed become my first faltering step from the quagmire of despair onto a pathway of personal boundaries and burgeoning strength.
The spotty horse was called Maya. To me she was regal, although she doubted herself. Judy told me about her background and the prejudice she experienced from the other horses because she was different from the rest of the herd. That she just wanted to be loved became obvious when Judy let her stallion into the yard to join Maya.
Maya responded to the stallion’s arrival like a shy girl realising she’d been ‘noticed’ by someone appealing. Ducking her head she hesitantly greeted the stallion who, given Maya was the only girl in the yard, looked mildly interested. Slowly they made their way towards each other – she responding with increasing gratitude as he advanced, he looking to see how far he could go while maintaining his cool composure. Reminder: I’m describing two horses here, but can’t you imagine this scenario played out in any human setting? If you haven’t been Maya yourself, I’m sure you have known a Maya!
Just as the stallion was about to look into her eyes and be drawn into the depths of Maya’s beautiful soul, Judy brought an Arab mare into the yard. I don’t know much about horses but I know an Arab and I’m tipping you will too. They’re stunning horses, if you like pretension. If they were people they’d hang out in Chapel Street or in LA. Arched neck, prancing steps, dainty, and obsessed with batting their eyelids and flicking their long blond manes around to ensure they’ve got everyone’s attention. Maya was dropped like a hot potato.
The stallion was captivated as little Miss Arab pranced around flicking her blonde locks and pretending not to notice him. Judy turned to me and said, “Know anyone like that?” and there it was – my life being played out in a round yard by horses.
Despite the grief evoked by that simple question – I couldn’t move or speak for fear of losing control of the well of sobs inside – I finally realised that the ‘little Miss Arab’ who had pranced into my partner’s life had to go. After a weekend with Judy and her incredible horses I returned home, finally beginning to heal from the love and strength of women and horses.
Although fearful, I put a stake in the ground for me and for Maya. I declared I would no longer accept the flicky blonde mare in my life. Previously I’d been scared that by making my partner choose between us I’d lose out. However, my request was honoured and I felt as strong as an Amazon! Goodness, imagine asking for what you want!
Regrettably it wasn’t long before the flicky mare reappeared on the periphery of my partner’s life – determined to snare her catch. Not surprisingly she was all show and lacked the substance to keep her prize for long, but my journey towards an inner ‘regalness’ had seeded – inspired by Maya who has, I’ve discovered, gone on to settle into herself and become a mature member of the herd rearing a stunning foal sired by the stallion who now shows her affection and respect.
I recently returned to Judy’s. I held back tears this time too, but they were tears of honour and joy. I, a mere human, stood in a round yard with ten horses milling around me all playing out their roles and responding to each other with far greater honesty and openness than the average person. I was overwhelmed by the privilege of being there – of experiencing the teaching and ‘interpreting’ skills of a woman who has spent a life-time studying and learning from these mighty beasts, a woman whose journey has taken her through terrain no woman should have to pass, although many do.
I’ve already booked my next experience with Judy and her horses and am thrilled to have a group of girlfriends joining me. I now have more girlfriends wanting to meet Judy and her horses than can come on one intimate weekend’s training, and although I haven’t been able to articulate precisely what it is that they’ll ‘get’ from the experience, my girlfriends hear it in my voice and have seen the difference in my life. When I’m with Judy’s horses I am completely in the moment and everything else in life fades away. I am healed by horses and guided through that healing by a courageous woman who is driven to help people, especially women, grow and expand to become complete, self-honouring humans.
Maxine Harman is a rock musician currently touring Eastern Europe with her band. When not touring she seeks ways to restore balance to her otherwise nomadic, sleep deprived and adrenalin fuelled lifestyle.
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