Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Finding The Authentic Me

Finding the Authentic Me  
Originally published in Horse Directory, June 2012

By Tom Gumbrecht

We all have friends who we haven’t seen for awhile, but when we are reacquainted we pick up right where we left off, months or even years later, seamlessly as if no time at all had passed. So it was with my friend Diana O’Donnell. We had both taken up riding as adults, at around the same time, independently but as the Long Island horse community is a small world, the paths of our horse lives had crossed many times over the years. We supported each other, as friends do, in those times that invariably frustrate the adult student of riding. Time and distance limited our collaborations in more recent years, but my respect for her innate kinship with her horses and for her dedication to becoming a more intuitive horseperson has never waned.
I recently learned of Diana’s Life Coaching Practice, Equus Spirit, where she combines her unique qualifications along with an equine “facilitator” to help you to find your own pathway toward choice and change. A longtime disciple of the “horse as teacher” school, I jumped at the chance to experience a session at her Manorville farm, Enchanted Acres. 

< Diana O'Donnell with Keko

It was threatening rain when I pulled in to the farm. I was introduced to Sue Dooley, the equine specialist in the practice. After a brief tour of the facilities, Diana, Sue and I settled in to the barn studio and began our journey. Diana briefed me on what was going to happen and Sue set the tone for our morning’s work with a guided meditation.

I had submitted some background information pre-session outlining some things in my life on which I’m currently working, and suggesting what might be my goals for the coaching session. In our session we expanded on that, and went through a process by which I chose my equine partner. I chose Hal, an amicable senior who although we hadn’t met, had a familiarity about him. After introductions, I was briefed on the next phase of our journey. Using some ingenious tools and methods that I didn’t understand at the time, I headed out into the arena, unmounted, to “create my life”.  Diana gently guided me with a few well chosen words which seemed to be almost in the background as I had become immersed in the process. When I was done, I traversed the life I had created in the ring with my equine partner, Hal, in hand, three separate times, from three different gently guided points of view. After symbolically experiencing my life through these three different perspectives, with Hal by my side throughout, we retreated back to the studio where we talked about what we had experienced and had a closing meditation. After some coffee and pleasantries, I embarked on my trip home.

On the trip, made longer than normal due to the now steadier rain, I reflected on what I had experienced. At that point it seemed that I had experienced a series of exercises that were interesting, challenging, and made pleasant by my human and equine friends. But I had a hard time relating them to the things I had hoped to accomplish in our session. And while Hal was a gentleman and fine companion, from a strictly pragmatic viewpoint I didn’t really understand his function in the process. Maybe I was a person whose ability to benefit from this type of experience was limited, I thought. But then….

In the hours and days to come, an amazing thing happened. Answers to my questions began hitting me seemingly from out of the blue. Things that were a vague blur seemed to at once assume crystal clarity. I began to see different facets of my life that once seemed separate and unrelated as connected and part of a cosmic blueprint of sorts. It was an experience that I won’t soon forget. What happened? I’m not sure, but I think perhaps my human guides prepared me and encouraged me and set me on a course that was challenging and perhaps a little bit scary to navigate. My equine guide made it safe to do so.

I recall some years ago, when I was building my barn, I had been working late at night in the tack room and had left my wallet there. I realized it and headed back in the darkness to the far corner of the property and in doing so, felt a slight tinge of fear walking into the black hole that was the incomplete barn. A few weeks later the barn was complete and occupied by my first horse, Buddy. I have never felt that tinge of fear heading down to the barn at night since. The cast of equine characters has changed, but the feeling has not. My horses evoke a feeling of well-being in me, a feeling of safety, a feeling of rightness. It is a feeling shared by others I know, inexplicable perhaps, but undeniable as well. It is the reason why horses are the perfect guide for the soul.
My experience that day has made an impact that remains. I’m glad that I was at some point blessed with a mind open enough to experience some things that I didn’t totally understand. And I am happy to acknowledge that I don’t need to understand everything in order for me to be accepting of its effectiveness.

“God gave unto the Animals
A wisdom past our power to see:
Each knows innately how to live,
Which we must learn laboriously”.
~Margaret Arwood

You may learn more about Diana and Sue and Equus Spirit at

< Hal, my equine partner in self-discovery....

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