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“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.”
 
 Gerald Raferty
 
 
Monday mornings at work are always a swirl of mystery, magic, and surprises.  I suppose this is bound to be the case in beginning my work week at a Therapeutic Riding Center.  The facility I run my Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy group out of is a quiet nook of the world on a sandy dirt road edging a canal ravine.  I don’t know if anyone else does this on this particular stretch of street but I find myself glancing down at the murky green waters waiting to see round, black alligator eyes peering up at me.  The center itself is vast acreage lined with white wooden fences and a crisp white barn that houses 16 or so horses.  Monday mornings are reserved just for my group and the cleaning crew, inmates from a local prison facility.  It is an interesting mix of life–horses in stables, convicts driving small tractors, and my little group of trauma survivors working with their equine counterparts.  In its surreality it is quite freeing and outside of social norms and constructs.  We are dancing a dance that is part magic, part illusion, and yet more real than most that life has to offer.  Something in horses brings real to the surface and pushes out all the tedium and strife that are found outside stable gates.  Horses, like yoga, strip life away to its naked essence and allow for us to breathe in the moment and leave everything else behind. 
 
 
This particular Monday morning I was absurdly alert and reflective, still lingering on my 5am wake up, 6am meditation and the lack of television, radio, and all superfluous noise in my life.  My mind was paradoxically more quiet and more active than it normally is on any given Monday.  In that I mean that my brain had omitted a lot of the white noise from conscious thought and in its place was an awakened clarity and sharpness that I guess is the result of having been up for hours and having meditated to start my day.
 
 
Suddenly, I heard a loud thunk and vocal commotion and turned around the side of the barn to see a white mare galloping off through the back of the stalls.  I see a correctional officer, the guardian of the inmates, standing baffled and amused holding the chain latch of the horse’s stall.  “I can’t believe it, she chewed through the damn thing again.  That is the second time she has done that,” he said and kept repeating it as if he could not imagine such tenaciousness in a horse.  An older inmate standing next to me, and dressed in his working blue cotton uniform, looked in my eyes and said, “She just wants that freedom, you can see it in how she’s running.”  He stared after her, mesmerized, as the last bit of her white mane disappeared around the corner and I looked over at him wondering if he knew how profoundly metaphoric his statement had just been.
 
 
Here stood a man who was living in a world that was predominantly caged and in the one place in his week where he was given freedom, space, clean country air, and equine surroundings.  And as he watched this white mare’s dedicated effort to break free of her cage I could feel, in my proximity to him, his understanding of her yearning.  And in them both I saw a moment of magic–connection between human and horse and metaphor from the stables into the world.  It was one of those moments you want to bottle both miraculous, soulful, joyful, and sorrowful.  The smile on the inmate’s face lingered as he turned from the horse and went back to his shovel, back to his work, and back into the mind of a man who understood the yearning to be free. 
 
 
In that moment I shared with both of them, before the white mare was brought back to her stall, I saw a sliver of that man and a glimmer of that horse, and both of their natural longing to be free in the world–the way they once were.  Some days, especially lately, juggling worlds upon worlds, I feel like maybe I am overloaded and completely insane in my juggling efforts.  On days like Monday I am grateful for the world I live in, the life I have, and the honor I feel in being able to work in a way that facilitates moments like these–spontaneous and amazing. 
 
June 2020
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