What a Horse Can Teach - We Are All Works of Art
“She’s so beautiful” is what I commonly hear about my horse, Phoenix, when clients first meet her. They are immediately drawn to the special marking on her hind end which is called “lacing” and looks like lace over fur. Supposedly it’s there because of a skin disorder, but it never seems to bother her. It actually appears as art in nature and may even be thought of as a mark of the Creator.
However, I didn’t feel this way when I first met Phoenix. In fact, I thought she had dried water markings from a bath that they needed to be washed off. I found it interesting that my mind went to thinking it was a problem to be fixed. Mind research has found that at least 80% of our thoughts are negative and recycled from yesterday. I certainly see this a lot in my equine-partnered life coaching practice when I’m working with clients and their limiting beliefs and judgements.
One of my only “rules” when working with horses in my coaching is for my clients to say about themselves whatever they say about the horses. So, if they exclaim beauty, I ask them to affirm it out loud in themselves by saying “I am beautiful.” Most of the time the women I coach have a really difficult time with this and they become quiet or mumble quickly. This creates an opening for us to discuss positive projections and how if we can see something in nature and animals, it, too, exists in us.
Yet, owning our brilliance seems to be so incredibly hard, even for the high-powered women I coach who are leaders in their work and lives. It’s still so difficult for us collectively because we’ve been told we are bragging, and a polite woman doesn’t brag. Or we’ve been told that we’re not yet enough. If we don’t have the kids, partner, income, whatever it is, we believe we’re not enough. I believe there is a huge opportunity to shift all of that and start to see things differently. To see beauty in another means that we are able to recognize beauty and can work towards embodying that awareness.
Luckily, the horses help with acceptance and owning our uniqueness. They demonstrate to me and my clients how important it is to be ourselves. They show us how to own beauty, sass, and all the different inner parts just by accepting and role modeling them. In our work together, they help people to find the part that knows that they’re worth it and to set loving boundaries with the part that doesn’t. They remind people when they are playing small and help them to be more assertive and powerful when needed. All of this happens seamlessly while doing groundwork exercises eye-to-eye with these 1,200+ pound prey animals that exude presence, power, and unconditional love.
Since most people are impressed with Phoenix’s marking, they naturally want to talk about it. So, I ask my clients what it looks like to them — kind of like a personal Rorschach test. I’ve had people say it looks like hearts, a maze, giraffe patterning, the Rocky Mountains, honeycombs, the ocean, or even hexagons. I immediately receive some insight about a client’s personality and creativity through this process. Exploring Phoenix’s lacing is a beautiful way to see into people and to create connection.
I believe that her lacing is like sacred geometry. If you look closely at nature, into the actual markings of a leaf or tree, everything is in divine perfection and represents a geometric form. These patterns are very specific and clear, almost as though they were all coded into existence by the “Head Coder of the Universe.” It feels similar to the way software developers will program code in technology and then new programs can run.
One of the ways I connect with my own divine blueprint and help my clients do this as well, is through the art of nature and animals. To me art is both beauty and perfection. We can simply look at the natural and undeniable presence of the flowers, horizon, landscape, clouds, sky, trees, and critters and feel a sense of awe, wonder, and delight. The soul is evoked and stirred.
Even things that could be seen as a nuisance such as weeds are often beautiful. For instance, a field of yellow dandelions inspires joy and offers healing from the dandelion root. Even just a simple meditation and reflection exercise can allow us to feel more connected and present to all that is and to see ourselves as part of nature, not separate from it.
Having given a TEDx talk on perfectionism, I feel like the best antidote to the high performer and achiever is to get into nature. There we are reminded that there isn’t a lot of striving necessary to thrive. There’s just a natural growth curve and cycles. We can’t harvest before it’s time to pick the grapes. If we try to gather the fruit before the season, it would be difficult, and the wine would be bitter. Nature knows the right timing. Yet we try, as high performers, to push ahead — ready or not. We have an opportunity to partner with the cycles of nature and release our perfectionism by seeing the perfection that already exists in nature. We then allow it to mirror back to us our own excellence.
I feel that if the whole natural world, including the animals, could start speaking out loud, the messages would be: “go with the flow; do what’s natural and be natural; we don’t judge you; everything is really just a representation of a creation.”
For the most part, we don’t judge nature; we just notice it and don’t wish it was different. Have you ever looked at a tree and thought it would be better if the branches or trunk were skinnier? We generally accept what we see, even unconsciously.
Yet we do not do that with our partners, our family, and especially ourselves. Instead, we often spend a lot of time, energy, and money to perfect or change things. What that really breeds is discontent and a feeling of not enough. My mission is to help people to feel more fulfillment in their lives and it starts with an inner journey of self-acceptance.
I often think how special Phoenix is and how grateful I am that I was given a Paint mare as beautiful as her. Not only does she have such lovely physical qualities, like the “stamp from God” on her back, but she makes me appreciate my own uniqueness. As a child, I used to feel less than special when I compared myself to others. However, alongside Phoenix, it’s easy for me to experience my own unique gifts and that of my clients as well.
I’ll often ask people, “What do you think you’re learning from Phoenix?” without telling them what she teaches. I had a male client recognize it very quickly saying, “You know I just find her so beautiful that I think I have something to learn about beauty.” I think it was not just this man learning about his own beauty but also being able to appreciate it in the world, especially in the divine feminine. He was also able to recognize that it was one of his core values.
It certainly is one of mine as well which is one reason why I love nature and animals so much. I feel instant gratitude and appreciation just being outside, especially when there is an abundance of wildlife, plants, and varying landscapes. I think a lot of the early artists painted nature scenes because they wanted to capture this beauty for themselves and others. I find my clients doing the same as they always want photos with the goats and horses at the end of sessions. I also can’t take enough photos of the Rocky Mountains at sunset!
However, the deeper truth of the work that I do is to help people stop grasping at beauty by seeing it outside of themselves but instead to connect with and embody it from the inside out. Whether it’s through quiet time in meditation, journaling or brushing an animal, I want people to feel a heartfelt connection to all that is.
I want them to fully see themselves as natural, divine beings and not so enamored with ego-based achievement. We are truly part of nature, not separate from it. We’re not living in nature, we are nature. I want people to remember that we, too, can flow like the cycles of nature; that we, too, are just as beautiful. We are all works of art!
Through that self-acceptance, we gain self-love. We can live from a place where we’re not striving for things but feel, like the animals do, full, whole, and enough. That’s really my wish for my clients and for anyone reading this as well.