I have relied heavily on signs for as long as I can remember.  I use them for enjoyment, validation, information, to guide me, to reassure me.  With out signs as guide posts I don’t know where I would be today.

One of my most significant experiences with “signs” came after I euthanized one of my horses for a quality of life issue.  Prior to that event all other euthanasia’s in my history were due to failing health, catastrophic injury, basically they were all euthanasia’s that were obviously needed.  Because of this so much of the pressure of the decision, was in a sense taken out of my hands.  Of course there was pain and grief after the euthanasia’s but there wasn’t significant guilt on my part as I felt I had no other choice in the matter.

This story began eleven years ago when I adopted my first off track thoroughbred.  His name was Assurance.  He was a stunningly beautiful boy, Steel grey, nothing but muscle and an attitude to match his huge presence.  He came to me injured.  A cracked Seasmoid bone, low level laminitis and hind gut ulcer issues.  I was informed of his ill state before he got onto the transport to come to my ranch.  I was giving the opportunity to turn him away but something deep inside said “take him”.   So I did and I have never regretted that decision.  It was a challenge & a journey that I was interested in participating in.  I learned more from Assurance during his life and after his passing than I’ve learned from 1000’s of other experiences.  Of course on the outset of our journey together I had assumed our story would be of his miraculous healing and wonderful secondary career at a dressage horse or trail horse extraordinaire but that was not to be.  Our journey together taught me about life, death, healing, perseverance, intuitive communication, the afterlife, the list is longer than I feel I can put in to words.

Assurance was with me from 2005 to 2008.  In the last months of 2008 his bad days so far out numbered his good days that the decision to set him free from his daily life of pain was made.  His passing was incredibly difficult for me.  I was tortured by guilt, fear and regret that I had done the wrong thing.  That I had given up to quickly.

To help me deal with Assurance’s passing I asked him for signs that he was ok and that I had done what was best for him.  I let him know or maybe he already knew, that I needed allot of reassurance that he was ok now that he was out of his body.  All of the signs I specifically asked for had to do with birds.   For some reason it seems very easy for both humans and animals to communicate from the afterlife via birds.  One of the very specific things I requested was that a hummingbird come up to me in my back yard and hover right in front of my face for a long period of time – this was the sign I felt I needed to see to be sure he was ok and that he forgave me.  I also asked for allot of random bird sightings and to see a turkey on our property.  In all the years we have lived here, we have never had any turkeys living on our property or even visiting. I love the wild turkeys and so wished that some of them would adopt our property as their sanctuary.

The day after Assurance left his body, the first turkey arrived.  One of my friends, who knew of my wish, named the newly arrived turkey, Assurance.  I was in awe that the sign came so quickly and it was of such a special nature.

Almost daily after his passing, something odd and out of the ordinary would occur with a bird.  They would fly right in front of my car, so close to my windshield that it would scare me.  They would land in the middle of the road in front of me and just sit there and stare at me as I slowed the car to a stop.  One day I was in the passenger seat of my car and a duck fly beside my window for a few hundred feet, we just looked at each other as we moved together at about the same speed.  I was visiting a client’s horse on their property when we both heard an odd bird noise.  I looked up in the Oak tree next to us to see what can only be described as a tropical bird, beautiful, multicolored and huge.  No doubt escaped from someone’s home or maybe just on a fly about around the neighborhood, none the less, I had never ever seen a tropical bird perched in an oak tree before.

Over and Over Assurance showed me he was ok via the bird signs.  I was feeling better each day but a bit confused as to why he would show me all of these birds but not the one very specific sign I had asked to see regarding the hummingbird.  I found it a little odd but I figured I would understand the reason for the delay soon enough.

Assurance had been gone several weeks when I awoke one morning finally starting to feel a little better and owning that maybe it was the right thing to do and maybe he really was ok.  I asked him if I could have one more sign, one more little miracle to help me be certain and to put my guilt to rest.  I asked him to surprise me with something I wouldn’t expect and couldn’t conceive of on my own. A couple of days later, I received the bill from my vet.  It was a busy month here at the ranch so I knew that there would be 3 horses listed on the bill.  The vet itemized each procedure under each horse’s name.

The first horse listed was Dreamer, my old horse.  He had a stroke 2 days after Assurance’s passing.  Dreamer survived his stroke and had a pretty profound recovery.  The next horse belonged to one of my boarders, just routine stuff.  The third horse should have been Assurance but that was not the name listed.

I immediately assumed they had added a horse that did not belong to me, it happens once in a while.  So I looked at the itemization for the unknown horse and it detailed euthanasia.  So I looked back at the name of this foreign horse and his name was Spirit, he was detailed as a grey, nine year old, TB gelding.  I burst into tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness and tears of knowing that this was very much the communication that I had asked for from Assurance.  He had given me another sign, one more miracle that was clear and undeniable.  My vet knew Assurance very well.  He would never have mistakenly called Assurance “Spirit”.  There was so other force at work that helped to send me this sign in this way. It helped me feel like I could finally let go of my guilt and regret.

A few days later, I was out in the back yard watering my plants, when I noticed for about the 100th time  the chair that on the day Assurance passed, I had placed Assurances halter, lead rope, name plate and lock of his tail hair.  I had not been able to touch those things since the day he left. It was as though if I put those things away he would be gone forever.  But today felt different.  With all of Assurances help from the other side I had let go of much of my guilt and was now pretty certain that Assurance was ok – Pain free and happily in Spirit.  I felt I could now pick up his things and finally put them away.  As I stood there watering my plants and thinking about this, a hummingbird flew up to my face and hovered maybe 5 inches away from my nose.  The bird was bright red and flying so close to me that I could feel the wind generated by its tiny wing span.  This was Assurances final sign.  It was his final good bye, his Re-Assurance that he was well and happily in “Spirit” now.  The instant it occurred I realized why he had waited to show me this specific sign for this was the first day since his passing that I had forgiven myself for what I had done.  I had let go of much of the guilt and pain associated with his euthanasia.  Had he shown me this specific sign early on it would not have had the same meaning that it had on this day.  I will be forever grateful to the big grey horse that taught as much in life as he did in death.  His gifts of Re assurance will never be forgotten.

To read more about Assurances time with me –


The Big Pretty Buckskin Horse

025I felt nervous as I led the big pretty Buckskin horse from his paddock to the stall where Bert Lambert the “sedation free” dentist would work his dental magic.  I knew that if anyone could see a horse clearly and put it into words – it would be Bert.

The big pretty Buckskin had been my attempt at finding a good riding partner.  My own mare, who I adored but was honestly never a great trail riding horse, was in her retirement now and I was looking for a new partner.  A more agreeable partner.  I had also decided that in 2014 it was time to alter my relationship with horses from mostly caring for them to spending allot more time riding and enjoying life with them.

When I had started the search I was clear in my mind about what kind of horse I was looking for.  I wanted a sound, good minded, well mannered, well seasoned, kind and fun trail horse.  I did not want another rescue, rehab project or horse who didn’t like being out on the trail alone.  It seemed so simple when I started my search but as life goes and as deep rooted issues often control our perceptions & actions, it was anything but simple.

I have long been attracted to the fiery, big, bold and somewhat difficult horses.  When I was younger and fearless this was not a problem it was an honest attraction and an honest relationship.  I loved the horses that most others shied away from.  As I aged my love and attraction for those fiery horses didn’t leave but my patience and ability to enjoy their antics was no longer present.

It can be allot like the human partners we choose.  All too often we are attracted to exactly what will eventually drive us a little crazy and leave us feeling as though something is missing.  In human partnerships I understand this well.   In equine partnerships I understand this but the transition from what I was attracted too to what I wanted was a bit more challenging.

In the middle of 2014 I began scouring horse sale ads, made numerous phone calls, spoke with many owners and looked at more than a few horses. Nothing was really jumping out at me.

Towards the end of the year I saw a horse for sale on a trusted trainer/friends website. He was a big pretty Buckskin.  We spoke and the horse sounded great.  He sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

It was all so easy.  I knew the trainer, I trusted her, I knew that her own horses were well behaved and she didn’t put up with too much silliness when it came to work time.  So I thought any horse coming from her direction would be perfect for me.  What I hadn’t really thought about was that this was not her horse.  This was a horse she was helping out and what ran thru my mind more than a few times in the weeks before he arrived was that this whole thing felt “funny”. I conveniently ignored that “funny” feeling. The big pretty Buckskin horse fit my old attraction pattern but I wasn’t fully aware of that yet.

Not long before the horse arrived at my ranch the trainer let me know that he was a bit thin and a bit off because he had been unhappy doing his previous work which was a lesson horse.  I immediately started to unconsciously dumb down my list of “what I want in a horse”.  I reminded myself that I do rehab so what’s a little time getting him back in shape.  I told myself that I’ve waited this long to have fun on the trail so what’s a little more time dealing with him being a bit off. Then the trainer added that the horse had been rather spoiled by his original owner as a foal and adolescent horse – one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to horses.  I was doing allot of talking myself into this being the right horse for me even though word by word this horse was getting farther away from what I said I wanted.  Of course it’s easy now to say I should have declined to take him but there was a bigger part of me that needed to revisit having a dysfunctional equine partnership and work thru the feelings and underlying energy that surround that issue.

The big pretty Buckskin arrived mid November 2014.  I got right to work doing what I know well.  Getting his diet in order, making appointments with the chiropractor and the massage therapist.  Giving him adequate exercise to rebuild muscle.  What I didn’t get to do was ride – the one thing I said I most wanted.

I am always fascinated by the human beings ability, my ability to say one thing that they really truly mean and yet do and settle for another.  For me ignoring what I said I really wanted was driven by the underlying energy with in my own personal make up that said I must work really hard for anything I want.  Some how if I pay this due of working really really hard then I will at some point deserve the payout.

So here I was again, doing exactly all the things I said I didn’t want to do.  The big pretty buckskin was nothing but work.  There was very little joy involved in our relationship.  I knew to get him to a place of even being able to ride him, we were looking at months of rehab and after all that who knew if he was even capable of doing what I wanted.

By mid December it was quite clear to me that the big pretty buckskin was my “old programming”.  I felt my old pattern of work, work, work and it was really painful this time.  Once I knew he wasn’t what I wanted I then became faced with what would come up for me if I decided to stop “working really hard”.  What I found in that space was the pain of giving up, the guilt of giving up, the feeling of having been wrong and of letting someone down, ugh, it was kind of a mess under there.  So I held onto the horse a little longer, a few more weeks, while I began to process the mess I was unearthing.  I had unfinished personal internal business to be dealt with before I could let go of the old programming and have what I really wanted.

At the end of December after a really awful appointment with the equine chiropractor where the big pretty horse was just non stop difficult I made a decision and emailed the former care giver to say I had made a mistake.  He wasn’t the right horse for me.  I sent the email off and with in seconds I was overcome with such intense grief, pain and the fear that I really felt I might have acted to quickly. That maybe I had given up on something potentially great.  So I emailed her right back and told her what I had just experienced and I wanted to try a little longer.  Oh my what a deep rooted issue I had.

He stayed with me one more month.  During that month I became more and more sure that this was just all wrong and that the grief, pain and fear I had felt when I told his former caregiver that I wanted to send him back was all about me and my grief, pain and fear over so many situations in my life that had created my need to give, fix and set aside my own needs and desires for the needs and desires of others.  It was such a messy web of feelings.  So complicated yet so simple.

On that morning of my final decision in January of 2015 I led the big pretty buckskin over to meet Bert, the dentist, who was here to work on our horses.  As we walked up Bert said “well that’s a pretty horse”.  I smiled on the outside and cringed on the inside.  Not a congruent behavior for me at all but I felt what was about to come and could only react.

Bert took the pretty horse and led him into the stall.  As he began to look him over Bert said this horse is off.  I acknowledged his observation.  Over the next few minutes the pretty horse was difficult, fussy and seriously ill behaved.  At one point the pretty horse decided he would use his head to smack Bert since none of the pretty horses other diversion techniques were working.  Bert avoided the hit, settled the horse and then stopped and just looked at me.  He said “why would you want a horse like this?” “Don’t you want to have fun? Horses are supposed to be enjoyable, there’s nothing enjoyable about this horse” “He’ll hurt you some day and he won’t think twice about it”

His words pummeled me.  The words opened up a wound so long closed off that I felt like I might die standing right there as he spoke to me.  The words were all true. They were all words I’d been saying too myself but to hear those words from his mouth made the difference that I needed to take my next step.  I gathered up the pretty horse and walked him back to his paddock.  As I put the horse away, I also put away my need to prove anything to myself about this horse or our relationship – I finally felt that I had nothing to prove, nothing that I owed, nothing that I needed to fix beyond my own choices and behavior.  A feeling of neutrality about the whole situation washed over me.  I could finally exhale and let go.

That night after all the horses had been put away and work was finished.  I headed into the house and emailed the former caregiver.  I said I’d decided it just wasn’t going to work out for the pretty horse and myself.  He would need to go home.  Arrangements were made and I felt nothing but relief this time.  No second guessing, no guilt, no anger, no frustration, no grief and no pain just the feeling that I had finally, after all these years stepped over a void that had been long elusive.  Those layers of pain were replaced with an honest and more current energy of I tried, I learned, I’ve made a decision and I want something different.

After the pretty Buckskin went home I continued my search for the right horse.  This time no short cuts and no compromises. I was prepared for the search to take as long as it took.  Ironically or perfectly not long after the big pretty Buckskin left my ranch a friend offered me her former trail riding horse, Rose.  Rose was no longer up to the 20 mile rides my friend did but for the kind of riding I enjoyed – Rose was perfect.

This time around it was a different kind of easy.  Everything about the horse felt right in my body.  There was no dumbing down of what I wanted, no altering of hopes or needs.  I have easily had more fun with Rose this past year than I have had collectively in the last 10 years.  With out going thru the experience with the big pretty buckskin and letting go my need to fix & work rather than enjoy I know I would not have been able to have the experience I am now having with Rose.

Acceptance and Healing

This past December 2013 I experienced a profound healing. For almost all of 2013 I had been struggling to breathe.  My inability to breathe well was impacting every part of my life.  I’d been diagnosed with asthma many years earlier.  The diagnosis didn’t concern me at all at the time I received it, I was certain I would find a way to deal with it and heal it.  Asthma was something that irritated me but it didn’t stop me from living my life. 

With each passing month during 2013 my breathing became worse. Nothing I did during that year truly worked.   I tried all my usual go to’s including homeopathy, herbs, steam rooms, massage, more meditation and escalated to all things allopathic such as steroids, inhalers and pretty much any remedy anyone suggested.   In the course of 12 months my life had been reduced to the bare minimum to get by.  My ability to function and take care of my ranch was becoming less and less possible and having any energy left over for fun stuff, like riding my horse, was simply gone.  In the last few months of 2013 I was becoming a little despondent about my situation. 

In December of that year my sister Kristen had invited me to her graduation from a program that meant allot to her. On the day of the graduation I felt awful, my breathing was at an all time low and my energy level matched that low but I was determined to go.  I arrived at the site of Kristen’s graduation and saw that the building was on a hill.  There were lots of stairs to go up to get into the building.  I was paralyzed with fear at first and thought there’s no way I can get to the top of those stairs with out passing out.  But I knew how important this graduation was for her and intuitively I knew it was as important for me, although at the time I didn’t fully understand why it was so important for me. 

I made my way up the stairs outside the building. I reached the landing, at the top of the stairs and I stood there struggling to breathe. I thought to myself, I did it, now I will just rest a while and then go in.  Sounded easy enough but when I entered the building and saw several more flights of stairs, I had to hold back the tears.  I wanted to turn around and leave but knew I could not do that.  I would be betraying my sister, my word and most importantly I would betray myself as I knew intuitively that I had do this.  I headed up the stairs, slowly.  Not that slow made any difference, I simply could not get enough air into my lungs.  When I reached the top of the staircase, I entered a narrow hallway with only two choices of direction.  One direction would take me toward a group of people waiting for the graduation to begin and the other direction would take me toward the restrooms.  There was a part of me that wanted to go toward that restroom and hide until I could breathe again, but to go the direction to get to the restrooms I would need to go up one more flight of stairs. 

Honestly if the direction of the restrooms did not have the hurdle of another flight of stairs I might have chosen to go hide until I could breathe again. I intuitively knew that the correct choice for me was to go toward the people and own the space and condition I was currently in.  I knew how I looked and I knew how I sounded and understood that the people would see me in a very vulnerable state and they did.  One woman immediately approached me and asked me if I was ok? I told her yes and no.  She asked me specifically what was wrong with me.  I told her, in between involuntary muscle induced gasps for air, that I had asthma and it was worse on this day than it had ever been in my life.  She was calm, not to alarmed and said her sister grew up with asthma and she knew how scary and miserable it could be.  She stood with me as I sucked on my inhaler and prayed for my lungs to open, for my muscles to relax and for me not to panic. 

When my breathing finally slowed to a dull roar I knew I would be ok. It was in that moment that I became highly aware of the people waiting in the hallway for the graduation to begin.  I noticed that some of the people couldn’t stop looking at me and some of the people went to great lengths to not look at me. It was such an interesting experience, in so many ways and despite the severity of it I knew it was an important experience that I was destined to have.   Although it would be a few more days until I fully understand why that experience was so important.  

At the beginning of the week following my sister’s graduation my breathing was still way out of control. None of my inhalers made any difference and I thought if this continues to escalate I am going to end up in the hospital.  During that week several of my ranch workers were unable to work so I filled in as I normally do.  But this time it was almost impossible to do the job.  Feeding the horses normally takes me an hour but with my breathing as it was it took me almost 3 hours.  And the aftermath of exhaustion was debilitating.  I also had to cancel my mediation appointments that week as I couldn’t breathe and talk at the same time.   I was unable to do my work.  Work I had done and loved for a huge part of my life.  I felt like my life as I knew it was coming to an end.  It scared me.

By the middle of that week I was beside myself with fear, with pain and with the uncertainty of what my future held. I was at a loss as to what to do next.

So I contacted my western med. doctor – again. I told her that my breathing was still awful and definitely not improving.  She prescribed yet another type of inhaler and suggested another visit to the pulmonologist.  I felt so defeated at that moment not by her answers but by my own body’s refusal to shift.  The following day I headed out to pick up the new inhaler and stop by the grocery store.  When I finished those errands and returned home, I got out of my car and stood next to the door for a minute to catch my breath.  As I was standing there my friend came walking by. She stopped and said hello to me.  I don’t remember exactly what I was trying to say to her but I do remember that I started crying the minute I opened my mouth to speak.  I told her of my weekend and my week and how I was feeling and that I was scared.  She listened with love and relayed her own feelings of frustration and pain over her life’s struggles. 

After our conversation I felt a little better, a little less alone. I headed toward the feed barn.  I didn’t have any more tears left by the time I arrived at the barn.  I saw my other friend, who also works at the ranch during the week; she was preparing the evening feeding for the horses.  We chatted for a few minutes and I told her about my sister’s graduation and my experience there.  Again the words that were said were a blur but the gist of our conversation was exposure of the state I was in, the limitations I was now facing and the acceptance of my new reality.  The reality of where my life going forward would be different now.  Not being able to breathe would change my future in a way I had not anticipated.

I realized as we spoke how badly my chest and rib cage hurt from the struggle to breathe. During the last few months this had become a norm, feeling so much physical pain from the struggle to breathe.  I asked her if she would mind putting some comfrey oil on my back.  I could not reach my back and I felt kind of desperate for relief.  The minute the words came out of my mouth asking my friend for help, I felt a tiny bit of embarrassment for needing help and feeling so vulnerable about asking for help.  I stopped that thought as quickly as I could.  I reminded myself that this is where I am at today; I need to ask for help and accept the help.  She was happy to do it, I pulled up the back of my shirt while standing outside in the barn and in that moment I simply didn’t care if anyone saw me.  I finally felt a sense of total acceptance for me and the state I was now living in. I was grateful for the help my friend was giving to me.   

I noticed as she applied the oil to my back that my pain began to subside and my breathing had become slightly better. The easing up of my breathing was so subtle that at first I barely noticed it.  I thanked her for the help and headed back toward the house to unpack the groceries.  As I walked past the horse paddocks, my mare Lotta whinnied at me.  It was the same whinny and same request Lotta had made of me many times in the last few months.  She was asking me to take her out of the paddock.  I had been so low on energy that she hadn’t been out more than a few times each week in the past months. 

I could not ignore her plea. I got her out and we headed to the arena where we stood next to each other for a while.  She didn’t walk off or ask to roll she just stood there with me.  I felt like it was her way of silently accepting me and reflecting my state of being back at me in that moment.  As we stood there together, I thought to myself I can breathe a little better right now so maybe we can try walking.  Together, side by side, we walked around the arena twice.  I was tired but not breathing super hard.  There was definite improvement in my breathing.  I was surprised. It was incredible!  Improvement after movement – not something I was used to feeling anymore.  I was overjoyed and extremely confused as to how I could suddenly breathe so much better.  We walked around the arena a bit more and then I decided I could breathe well enough that we left the arena and headed up the road.  As we finished our walk and headed back toward the ranch I found myself crying tears of relief and confusion.  In that moment my breathing was as close to normal as it had ever been.  In just one hour it seemed that everything had changed.

After putting Lotta back in her paddock, I headed toward my house. I understood that something incredible had just happened to me.  As I thought about this new ability to breathe, I got a little scared.  I thought how interesting, I was scared when I couldn’t breathe and now I am scared because I can breathe.  I emptied the grocery bags and saw the new brand of inhaler that the doctor had ordered for me.  Despite what had just happened outside with my dramatic increase in ability to breathe, I ripped open the box that held the new inhaler, took it out and took 2 big puffs.  In that moment my actions felt desperate fast and with no thought.  I used the inhaler everyday for the next few days.  During those days my actions were robotic in nature, no thought, just pick up inhaler, put in mouth, and breathe in. 

I realized by the end of the week that I was making quite the effort to not think about why I made the choice to grab that inhaler despite my breathing improving with out it. As I looked at my self and my motives honestly it all became clear.

I knew that the inhaler was a test. I also knew that after a big step forward the universe always provides a test. A test to see if you really have faith in yourself and what ever it was that you just learned from your experience.  I was afraid to loose what healing I had found earlier in that week and thought if I use the inhaler everyday this will ensure that I don’t go back to being unable to breathe.  My test was – Did I believe and have faith in the healing I had experienced or did I not?

It was almost as if the tease of breathing and then possibly loosing it again might send me over the cliff into the abyss. I knew this was a moment of choice. To have faith in what healing had occurred or to hang on to fear, the fear of going back to being unable to breathe.  I knew choosing fear was the wrong thing to do and it went against what I believe and what I try to practice on a daily basis.  So I took a deep breath and decided to stop using the inhaler.  There was no shift in breathing ability the next day or any day during the next week.  At the end of that week I moved the inhaler off the counter and put it away inside the cabinet.  .  

I have thought about those days & events in December for months now, wondering why the healing hadn’t occurred earlier in that year. What was the catalyst that had pushed everything into place on that one day in order for a healing to occur?? 

The missing piece of the puzzle fell into place for me during a conversation.   I was talking with a friend who is struggling with some challenges.  When I asked if she could accept herself and her situation so healing change could occur, she was very clear in her answer.  Her answer was no, she could not accept herself or her situation.  

It all clicked for me when I heard her answer. I realized in that moment of our conversation what had shifted for me in December and allowed my healing to proceed.  It was all about my acceptance of myself and my situation.

My acceptance began when I decided to walk toward the people at my to sisters graduation rather than go the other direction and hide. I felt no shame and invited everyone to see me for who I was and what I was struggling with.   The next level of my acceptance occurred a few days later as I stood in the barn with my friend.  I came to terms with the state of my being.  I quit fighting my body, resisting what was and I just accepted that this was my life now.  It was a peaceful moment when I accepted myself.  That’s when the healing manifested in a dramatically noticeable way.  It took about an hour for my breathing to be almost normal.   The final step of my healing came the day I put the inhaler away and chose faith over fear.

The combination of whole heartedly accepting where I was at and sharing it openly with those around me created the opening for the healing I had so desperately wanted. Choosing faith over fear seemed to cement the healing into place.

It’s April now and I have been able to breathe for months. I still have the occasional day where my body reacts to the elements and my breathing can be challenged but it’s nothing like I experienced during the year of 2013.  The year of not being able to breath is becoming a faint memory.