There's a lot of information out there about the virtues of horses going shoeless and I've posted about my experience with Dorian in this regard. The concept of a "good foundation," though, isn't just true for horses; it's a metaphor for so much in our lives.
Many people tell us today that we're totally responsible for our lives. Bad stuff may have happened to us, maybe still is, they say, but how we chose to respond to it falls on us and only on us.
I recently started reading John O'Leary's popular book On Fire, about his experience being burned as a child on over 100% of his body and what it taught him. He advises taking ownership of your life, having complete responsibility for it, advocating shifting focus from "not dying," to "truly living." He has a lot to say about what that means and I understand where he's coming from.
But I think this sense of radical or exclusive responsibility for ourselves also can have a darker side, one that has--at least in part--contributed to a lot of stress, anxiety, and a boatload of self-involvement (not to mention self-flagellation).
Being a religious person, I found myself balking at a lot of what O'Leary had to say. Putting the focus relentlessly on ourselves can mean taking us away from our more profoundly true nature--and so, away from perhaps so much we aren't seeing, experiencing, or being.
Certainly away from who we authentically are, at least for me.
I know O'Leary has done a lot of good for a whole lot of people, and I don't put him in the category of unproductive self-involvement. I'm only saying it's dicey business to make such categorical statements.
I think there's a more graceful way to be in touch with ourselves, one that's not so relentless, so striving, so harsh. One that leaves us nourished, not depleted.
Case in point, the darling Euro, pictured below.
Euro was a racehorse at one time, one of the horses I worked with at the rescue. When Barb and I picked him up, he was so emaciated he could hardly stand. But he knew--as did all twelve horses we rescued that day--that we were there to help and so they all literally put their heads in the halters when we retrieved them, even though they'd never seen us before. All of them loaded into the trailer without incident no matter how hard it was for some to walk, given their emaciated condition (see below).
And Euro was the worst of them. He's the first one I saw the day I found them and I promised him I'd get him out of there.
So, what did they need? We had to go back to basics--nourishment. Just get them healthy. No demands, no training, no expectations. Just slowly provide them a new, healthy foundation. That, plus a lot of love in the form of gentle grooming, baths, turnouts, and just hanging out with them, whispering encouragement.
We lost one, soon after he arrived. He simply collapsed after he arrived at the rescue and passed away quietly. The rest put on weight, became healthy, and thrived. Some were adopted and some still live at the rescue.
Above are Sweetie and Carl, two of the rescues back to health!
So what lesson do these experiences hold? Getting those horses back to health took patience. You can't load malnourished horses up on a bunch of rich food all at once or they'll die. You have to feed them very small amounts many time a day and gradually increase their feed.
It takes great patience. It takes not being discouraged when you don't see progress right away. It take hope, and faith, and love.
The lessons for me? I've been asking myself what "nourishes" me? What "foundation" am I standing on and acting from? And . . . do I have enough patience and love for myself, enough faith I am progressing? Do I not give in to discouragement?
Saying "yes" to those things forwards progress at a deep level, at a faster pace, and with less potential to falling into the harsh pit of self-criticism.
Here's a cool example from the world of architecture.
The Empire State Building was once the tallest building in the world. Then came Burj Khalifa, shown below, many decades later. In order to build it, there had to be an entirely new type of foundation and an equally new way of engineering the structure developed.
New foundation, new approaches to constructing . . .
Next comes Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, due to open in 2020. It, too, took more breakthroughs in concepts of foundation and in engineering.
There's progress visible all around us. And in us. It's going on all the time if we'd just take a deep breath and notice it . . . plant ourselves on that foundational conviction and do the work of nourishing it into new life.
I'm certainly no expert at any of this, that's for sure. But I'm keeping these two concepts in focus and heading in that gentler, more productive direction.