Moonsong Highlight: Shrike

I couldn’t utter my love when it counted
Ah, but I’m singing like a bird ‘bout it now
And I couldn’t whisper when you needed it shouted
Ah, but I’m singing like a bird ‘bout it now

The words hung above
But never would form
Like a cry at the final breath that is drawn
Remember me love when I’m reborn
As the shrike to your sharp
And glorious thorn

-Hozier, “Shrike”

Last week, I looked over an owner's mask to see her beautiful eyes fill with tears. She recounted a freak accident the week before, when she’d been thrown from her horse and injured. Her medical diagnostics revealed a sinister issue having nothing to do with the accident. She is alone with this overwhelming news.

I wanted so badly to see her face, to hold her hands, to put my arms around her. But I couldn't.

Another day, a trainer acquaintance of mine told me that her mother is in the end of her life, they won’t see each other again, and her husband was recently diagnosed with cancer. From six feet away, she said, “I am having a really, really hard time.”.

I wanted so badly to go to her, to sit next to her on the bench, to let her rest against me for a while. But I couldn't.

Another long-time owner told me during her horse’s session that she’s become depressed. Like many, her initial shock over the current situation first evolved into productivity. She completed projects and had time with her family. There was momentum. But things changed. She said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”.

I wanted for us to snuggle her horse together, to tack him up together and take turns riding after his bodywork, to peck each other on the cheek when we said goodbye, like we used to, like little girls. But we can’t.

This is just a smattering of all the things people have shared lately. Some of us are directly affected by the virus. The rest are indirectly affected. Everyone seems sad.

My uncle passed away a few days ago. I am heartbroken for him, for my aunt, my cousins, and for our whole family. I was listening to music when I found out. At that exact moment, a song came on that I’d never heard before, the lyrics to which are at the top of this page. If you haven’t already, please read them now.

For a studio version of the song, click here.

I planned this post with the intention of sharing lots of kind and thoughtful gestures I’ve witnessed or received lately, through my work with horses; to offer some levity, like an antidote. There is certainly enough sparkly material for that.

But distraction would not be the most authentic way to honor the people and animals in my life right now.

I want to tell you that I understand how you feel, because I feel the same. We are together in this.

We don’t need to pretend, or sugar-coat, or minimize. Let’s say what's important, while we can. Now is the time.

I’ll start:

Thank you for all that you’ve given me. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your horses with me. You fill my heart with the love that keeps giving. I owe my life to you.

It doesn’t matter how well we know each other. If you are reading this and need help, just ask.  💗

Moonsong Highlight: Mattering

"What matters to you defines your mattering." - John Green

I’m sitting here in my safe little house, writing about my safe little life, where I live autonomously and don’t really have to worry about exposure to the virus, or any kind of persecution, or violence. I’ve been torn about whether to post lately, in light of all that’s going on.

But here goes:

What does “matter” mean?

Recently, I asked someone if I mattered to him. I expected a yes or no. Instead, his reply was, “What does ‘matter’ mean?”. I was unable to answer, although I knew what I meant. I couldn’t rationalize an idea that lives in the heart.

It didn’t feel necessary, fair, or even possible to me, to define a state of being that is both intangible and real. After all, logic isn’t a prerequisite for connection. Horses teach me that every day! Our analytical minds protect us, but they can inhibit us as well, from embracing what we feel and know is true.

Ironically, we may “matter” most not when we are acknowledged, but when we choose to acknowledge someone else. We exist and function in relation to others. Responsibility to ourselves is paramount, of course; but the content and quality of our interactions give meaning to our lives.

Last week, I used a broom to shoo an angry 8-foot black snake away from a young off-the-track filly during her bodywork session. That seemed important. I coddled horses in the ends of their lives. I taught babies at the beginning of theirs. Horses rested their chins on my head. They breathed in my ear. They nickered at me and wrapped me in their necks. They also kicked at me, leaned on me, bit me, stomped on me, and ignored me. At times I felt successful and strong. At times I felt inadequate and weak.

Do you know when I felt like I mattered most? When it wasn’t about me at all.

A dear friend and mentor of mine lost her husband a couple of weeks ago. You can imagine how the implications of this were compounded, during such restrictive times. We couldn't be together, so I went to see her horse. I knew how he was missing her. I thought of her as I touched him. I remembered how she’s been there for me, and for him, and for so many others: consistently, unconditionally, benevolently.

When we finally were able to meet, in the midst of her grief, she asked me about my life. And even then, she remembered every detail. I thought I was there for her…but suddenly I mattered too, in the most tender and humbling way. 

I can’t help but treat others better because of how she treated me.

We are living in a time when these concepts must be at the forefront of our consciousness: for ourselves, for other people, for animals, and for the future quality of life on this planet. What does “matter” mean? When and why do we matter to others? When and why do they matter to us? How do we know, and how can we show?

It is important to be able to distill our beliefs, particularly before we impose expectations onto someone else; the better we explain, the clearer our communication, and the healthier our relationships. But we must allow the heart to inform the mind, and listen to its wisdom:

We are enough when we are alone.
We matter when we are together.
We are loved in all ways, always.

The Pandemic

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. - Proverb

What a time this is!

I’ve been deliberating over what to write about, and when…hoping for clarity or conviction…waiting for the dust to settle, so that ideas might be received as intended. Adjusting to a slower pace. Yearning for momentum again. Facing our surreal reality, and managing its effects.

Reflecting, reorganizing, receiving. Knowing the fullness in the space.

I turned 40 the day things shut down here in Maryland. It was such a beautiful day. Since then, sentiments around “distancing” have flooded our collective consciousness. It is easy to feel agitated, or restless, or stuck. It’s natural to feel lonely. It’s okay to be afraid.

In the midst of this turmoil, we have been given the gift of renewal. It may not be pretty (in fact, we all know it won’t). But our future depends on how we choose to handle discomfort. What is mine? What is yours? What is ours to share?

The only truth within uncertainty is love. The only way to find it is through connection.

We connect most deeply with each other during times of vulnerability and surrender. We can meet in places even more beautiful than our imaginations can paint.

Many of you have expressed to me the heartache you feel, in being separated from your horses. What is it that you miss? Environment and routine? Camaraderie? Physicality and pursuit? Sensory experiences? Sure, yes. All of the above.

But what we miss the most is what we love the most: a union built on trust and reinforced through reciprocation; needs met through honest communication; authenticity; affection; strength and freedom; tenderness and beauty.

We may feel fragile and helpless, but we are alive and resilient. We have the chance now to honor every moment.

We can gaze at our fears as we would into the eyes of our horses. We can cradle our anger as we would their heads in our arms. We can speak to each other as we would to them: softly, gently, with adoring words of gratitude. And we should.

Horses are prey animals that dance gracefully to a predator’s tune, simply because they are patient and brave enough to listen. 

Perhaps our greatest tribute to them, until we meet again, is to live like that ourselves.  ❤

Moonsong Highlight: Napoleon

 “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Napoleon arrived at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue as a feral stallion, having been previously abandoned.  

We all know the realities that face horses in this position who, through no fault of their own, have become fearful, reactive, and dangerous. Napoleon was almost euthanized for these behaviors. Luckily for him, he met Shelby Piovoso, the Head Trainer at GGDHR. Through her commitment to natural horsemanship and positive reinforcement (R+) training, she gained Napoleon’s trust and ended up adopting him herself! The pair have grown and developed together, doing truly remarkable things at liberty and under saddle.

This hasn’t been without some unique physical and psychological challenges. Shelby has noticed a shift in Napoleon’s behavior during his training sessions lately. Understandably, he’s always been discerning and skeptical with humans. He’s seemed resistant to learning, opinionated and obstinate, and resorts to threatening tactics in order to communicate his dissatisfaction. However, he’s acted shameful and deeply affected when Shelby retreats, either out of her own (valid) fear, or out of respect for his need for processing. What a conundrum!

I think we’ve all felt the discomfort Napoleon has been feeling. We don’t want one thing, but we don’t want the alternative, either. In fact, we don’t know what we want, but we feel agitated by all available options. We begin to alienate others because we are confusing to be around, and isolation fuels the fire…after all, effective communication takes practice.

When someone else’s behavior affects us, it is so important to remember that he or she is probably suffering more than we are. There may be circumstances in his or her life that are limiting the ability to feel, or be, peaceful…circumstances we know nothing about.

We’ve all been there. As events overwhelm us, we have less capacity to give. We have less tolerance for vulnerability. Our needs change. That’s life.

It can be hard to be empathetic toward someone during these times, especially when his or her behavior contradicts the essence of what we believe our relationship to be. Things may seem inequitable. We may feel resentful. But, we are all different today than we were yesterday, and we will all be different tomorrow.

To really love someone is to be present within ourselves and in the space that we share. There are always miracles hidden there!

From the bottom of my heart, I was truly humbled when Shelby requested a session not to necessarily work with Napoleon’s body, but to brainstorm ways of reestablishing their relationship through touch. I could only suggest techniques that have helped me with fearful and reactive horses, or with those that have “shut down”.

These include intention-setting, general body language and awareness, hand placement, and measured pressure.

We could call this CranioSacral Therapy, or Reiki, or any number of other things. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how we label it.

What does it look like? Well honestly, it looks a lot like giving Napoleon a hug!

That’s what we did during his session. Standing body-to-body and softening our eyes…placing one hand at the withers and the other at the center of his strong chest, and then at the center of his soft tummy…providing deep and reassuring touch…with the intention of sharing space and nothing else.

To practice this with your horse, try placing your hands where you see the GREEN dots in the picture below. Provide deep and consistent pressure, and wait patiently.

Thoughts come in, and they go out. Where should I touch? How long do I wait? What am I looking for, to know if it’s “working”?

The answers to these questions lie in trust. Trust the being you are with. Trust yourself. Trust the wisdom of the space that holds you both. Breathe into it, and just see what happens.

We are all gifts to each other, regardless of the choices we make.

There is no doubt that Shelby’s and Napoleon’s relationship is deep and resilient enough to withstand any “growing pains”. We will see what happens with a few new tools, renewed curiosity, and loads of patience! Please hold them in your hearts as they continue on their beautiful journey together.

Moonsong Highlight: Chris

“And still, even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth:
'You owe me.'
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky." - Hafiz

During a short break during this weekend’s workshop at Elysian Fields Farm, I was so fortunate to have a conversation with a participant named Chris. Chris is a professional dog trainer who specializes in reward-based training. She is also the owner of a very lucky mule named Gus, and one of those people you just feel glad to meet. Her demeanor is humble, her affect welcoming, and her words the perfect blend of poignancy and humor. I wished we could’ve talked for hours.

We had a brief chat about the dynamic relationship between patience, processing, and training. That’s when Chris reminded me of a simple, sometimes uncomfortable, but inescapable truth:

Humans are the only species that dominate purely for the sake of dominating

No other species on the planet controls for sport. Hierarchies exist in nature, of course, but only to serve fundamental survival needs (like eating). Why do we, as humans, feel a need to exert power for power’s sake? What do we gain by subjugating another living being? Haven’t we the tools and experience to devote our lives to being with others, rather than doing something to them? 

From domesticated and wild animals, to flowers and water and other human beings! How often do we acknowledge and celebrate what it means to be here together: living, dying, loving, and being loved? 

We’ve evolved with the ability to act intelligently, responsibly, and mercifully. We should realize the choices we’ve been given, as “predators”, in this day in age. We have the capacity to choose gratitude over greed, benevolence over shame, and empathy over indifference.

If you are reading this, please join me in taking a moment to really open your heart to someone or something today. Be brave enough to receive. Listen with your whole body. Feel the light that comes pouring through!

Moonsong Highlight: Thanksgiving

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Aesop

Thanksgiving represents different things to different people. For some, it’s a time of gathering. For others, it kicks off a spending spree. It’s a chance to honestly review our country’s true history. It may be a significant reminder of the season, or of anniversaries, or memorials. It’s often nostalgic. The sights, the smells, the sounds…they take us back in a heartbeat.

For me, it’s literal: Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. Simple as that! Every day can be Thanksgiving.

So as I sit here this morning, I think of my life as its own microcosm, and I sense its place within an infinite universe. How amazing, that our own lives can be so important to us, and that we can feel such vast and dynamic emotions, and yet…we are such tiny specks! We view the world through our extremely limited experiences, but somehow we are capable of empathizing with others. Wow.

I often think about how lucky I am, to live freely, as a woman, in this part of the world, and in this day in age…making my own choices, forging a path, having a say…with a roof over my head, water to drink, food to eat, access to medical care, the ability to communicate, support of my family, a network of friends, and of course the love of my beautiful animals.

I am thankful for this life. Is it always good? No. Sometimes it feels horrible. But today, you and I, we are lucky to be here.

There are two types of people in this world: those that fight for justice, and those that make peace. It is a fact that we need both kinds, equally, right now.

I am one of the peacemakers. Horses allow me to bring peace to my life and to those around me. They have given me the greatest gift of all, in that.

They require us to be present in the moment, in our bodies, and in our lives. They respond to aggression and violence, yes. But they will not connect without stillness and kindness. They remind us that communication requires safety, that respect requires reciprocation, and that love requires vulnerability.

They teach me these lessons every single day. I make mistakes and I learn through their forgiveness.

They instill in me a constantly evolving vocabulary, and they give me permission to share it with others. The people I meet take it to their horses, or translate it and give it back to me, distilled. We witness each others’ experiences and we carry them into our interactions with other animals…or, with other humans!

These encounters live in our hearts forever. They become more beautifully complex with us. As we grow, they take on new meanings, until they inform our very way of being.

We can look to the horses as teachers. We can humble ourselves to their lessons:

We can be genuine. We can be kind. We can be fair.
We can be available. We can be accountable.
We can ask for help. We can forgive.
We can be peaceful.
We can love. We can receive love.
We can give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving, to all of you, and to your perfect animals!

Moonsong Highlight: Wyatt

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau


This week I’ll write about my beloved Wyatt. More frequently known as “Mr. Blueberry”, he’s the demo model you’ll often see in videos posted on the Moonsong Facebook page. His baby eyes, crooked blaze, pink nose, and spherical body make him especially recognizable, in my humble opinion. 

Before he was Wyatt, he was “Freedom Fighter” at Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Before that, who knows what he was called. He was part of a large Maryland impound of mostly very well-bred horses, some of whom had been show-stoppers at American Quarter Horse Congress, but who’d been severely neglected and left for dead. Wyatt was in despicable shape when he arrived at the rescue, weakened to the point of needing a sling to stay upright (and alive). He received around-the-clock care as he fought through emaciation and a badly infected impalement injury to the throat.

Once he’d beaten the odds and recovered, it became apparent that he was a total lovebug. He almost stayed as an ambassador (life-long resident) at the rescue, but poll pressure and farriery caused him anxiety that resulted in rearing, so for his long-term safety and well-being, he was adopted out. We then became the lucky owners of one of the most wonderful horses on the planet.

Wyatt is the living definition of a “Steady Eddie”. During a full moon, I’ll take him out deep into the woods, bareback with a rope around his neck. He’s ponied countless nervous, defiant, and young horses and is a better teacher for them than I (or any human) could ever be. He’s carried fearful or first-time riders safely for miles, gifting them with confidence and joy. He finds his place easily in the hierarchy of any herd – usually at the bottom of the totem pole, a gentle and obedient friend to all. 

To me, he’s like a stuffed animal who’s come to life. I can’t help but kiss his huge, squishy cheeks every time I see him.

This past summer, Wyatt and I had a freak accident. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the night before, I dreamt that I had died. I saw each of my family members and I knew their grief was the result of my carelessness. I woke up, shook it off, and went about the morning chores. There was just enough time to take Wyatt for a spin. In jean shorts and a baseball hat, I hopped on bareback. I had a strong feeling that I should get my helmet, but I ignored it. It wasn’t until the helicopter ride to the hospital that I remembered that little voice of reason, and later in a CAT scan tube that the dream came back to me.

Not to be too dramatic, but this wasn’t the first time I’ve almost left this world. Many of you have probably had similar experiences, or can imagine, and you know that desperation emerges when we are faced with our mortality. Any resentment turns quickly to regret, and we yearn frantically to tie up loose ends. We beg for a moment to tell others how deeply we loved them, to thank them for who they were to us, to apologize for ourselves. 

Our senses heighten and we become acutely aware of our physical reality. At the same time, our consciousness expands. We feel what is most internal, the core of our being, the willful “self” designed to live; and yet, our growing fragility humbles us to a destiny that we will never control…and to whatever it is that occupies that eternal, immeasurable space.

Ironically, the very things we ought to say to each other NOW are the ones we avoid in daily conversation! Real love requires vulnerability, but we fear consequence. We don’t want to seem silly, or we worry our feelings won’t be reciprocated, or our grudges hold us back. So, we stifle the songs in our hearts. What good is that? Every blissful, boring, and painful moment on this planet is a miracle. Each day is one we’ll wish we had again.

I took Wyatt for a stroll down the lane last week. He put his nose between my shoulderblades when the neighbor’s horses came running to the fence. My heart ached. It was so easy to say, “I love you, Mr. Blueberry”. Nothing else matters. He’s saved me in so many ways.

If you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for being in my life. Thanks to your beautiful, perfect animals. I love you more than you will ever know.