• vslachman

In the Eyes of a Horse


Jewel, a very aptly named mare.

It was a hot day, pretty muggy, too. So Dorian and I headed to the indoor arena where there was shade, and a very slight breeze.


I gave Dorian a massage and then let him enjoy relaxing, while I sauntered over to the mounting block and perched on the highest step. I sat there, looking at him for the longest time, trying to sense what it is about him that draws me to him day after day more strongly than I have words for.

Once I saw beyond the beautiful form of you, I was forever changed. I had been so taken in by your startling beauty, that I had missed your brilliant light. The Gift of the Horse.

I got pretty much nowhere trying to figure it out, so finally I stopped thinking so hard, and just sat quietly. Dorian drowsed by the gate. The rider in the outdoor arena called "Good boy!" to her mount, the birds fitted around, and German whizzed past with a load of hay . . . .


Then finally I settled some and witnessed in Dorian a sort of majesty and spiritual presence well up in front of me. Something that really has nothing to do with his physical form.

I moved closer to him and he woke up a bit. I looked at his eye and what I saw was . . . impenetrable. He has a deep blue-black horizontal bar in the middle of his luminous, reflecting eye.


It’s an eye I can’t fathom. It’s an alien eye.


Dorian's eye--he's wavering between "I trust you," and "How come you're so close to my eye!"

It seems alien when I look “at” it. When I use a rational focus to "see" him.


There's a quote I love from Albert Einstein:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

And so, I realized, standing there next to Dorian, there's a difference between looking "at" something" and looking "into" it.


When I use what Einstein called "intuition" I sense a vast dark quietude in those eyes. And wisdom, some deep wisdom that's very different from my own.


Which makes me wonder, sometimes, if I really know him at all.


A beautiful gray mare at the rescue.

There’s another way, though, I respond to Dorian's eyes. When I stand back, relax, and take in the "look" in his eyes, I see when they’re soft and he’s relaxed, when he’s troubled, when he’s in a bad mood, when he’s frightened, when he’s going to be the stereotypical “redhead,” which he certainly can be!


So I've found there are many ways of "seeing" (and not just with horses, of course)--looking "at," looking "into," looking "past," and "receiving." I know I'd be a better friend, and teacher, and probably a better writer, if I used a little less of the rational and a lot more of the intuitive.

"Horses' intention is in their eyes." Anna Twinney

A little less "figuring it out" and a lot more "receiving."


But here's another thing. When I leave Dorian, I often kiss him on both eyes and say "Love you boy, be safe."


White Heat--a wonderful and clearly abused racehorse I worked with at the rescue.

I’m amazed Dorian puts up with that. I’m amazed, in fact, that he seems to enjoy it when I kiss his eyelids or lean my forehead against his white blaze.


His eyes are so connected in my awareness of him to his name.

I’ve always known him as Dorian. When I’m away from him and think “Dorian,” the whole of him comes into my presence. I speak to him all the time, very often not in words, and sometimes over long distances. I always have an understanding of how he’s doing. I hang with him until we both have a sense of peace.


But he’s not “Dorian.” Dorian isn't even his name, or at least it wasn't his name before his retirement from racing.

Dorian, the first day off the racetrack (forelock flying!)

His registered Jockey Club name is Corredor dela Isla--"Runner of the Isles." And to those who cared for him on the racetrack, he was “Cory.”


So, who am I speaking to across all those miles, or when I’m with him?


I sense him, I suppose . . . though I have no "proof" it's truly him I'm reaching. And isn’t that typical? Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton and noted scholar of the Gnostic Gospels, recalled her first encounter with religion. it was at a Billy Graham lecture, and he was speaking about "the wisdom of this world," the Bible cautions us against; his talk on that subject pointed to science.


Pagels was taken aback because, she said, it had never occurred to her to question science. But she, like many, went on to realize there are other, valid "truths" that science--as of yet--hasn't grasped.

A wonderful OTTB at the rescue named BoBo.

Einstein put his finger on it--we’re so accustomed to a certain type of “evidence” being true while other sorts of certainty are dismissed. Which is to say, scientific or “provable” assertions are unquestioningly true, while intuitive ones are not. Rene Descartes did quite a number on us, and we’re still working out of it.


To me, experiential truths are true—the sorts of things I "know" when I'm with Dorian, but maybe can't explain. I'm sure this is true for many of us in all sorts of ways, with dogs, cats, in nature, art . . . religion. There's a knowing that occurs through senses other than the ones we rely on most of the time.


Scout, a sweet paint horse at the barn who belongs to Julie and Ava.

And, for me, how I know can’t be articulated in words. It’s as if those senses exist outside the normal human paradigm and resist translating into the “normally known.”


And so, finally, it doesn’t matter what Dorian's name is. When I kiss his eyes, it’s not an alien’s eyes I’m honoring. I’m “seeing” past his physical self. Past his "name." I’m seeing his magnificent, spirit-filled being.

"A true horseman does not look at the horse with his eyes, he looks at his horse with his heart." Author Unknown

Yes, horses are "useful." But I don't think that's what's drawn us to them over the centuries. I think there's something profound in them we know we're in need of.


Is it grace? Simplicity? Effortlessness? Authenticity? Wisdom? Truth? The need not to be other than where and who they are?


I do know horses offer us all that, and one more precious thing--unconditional acceptance. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we allowed a little more of that into our lives--for others and for ourselves?


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