Unconditional love from and for a special horse

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Over the last few weeks, a horse very dear to my heart has struggled with a major bout of colic. Goose is recovering well now, thanks to care from the CSU emergency hospital as well as several sessions of more holistic care from a dedicated crew of healers.

Faced with the fear of losing someone I love and the anxiety of not knowing what the next day would bring, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of my love for this horse who has shared so generously with me and with others.

Goose was a show horse in his former life and he used his athleticism to perform beautiful dressage movements in Europe and the US. Since coming to Good Reception Ranch, he has continued to perform as a schoolmaster, teaching others how to ride correctly, but he has really shone in a different career.

Goose is a horse who thrives on connection. He loves to greet new people and to shower old friends with kisses and licks. Eighteen hands (six feet) tall at the whither, he towers above people and yet he disarms them with his attentiveness and gentle curiosity.

In therapeutic work we relish the feedback horses give. As they choose to approach or withdraw, they often give us important information about how honest we are being with ourselves and others—and how safe it feels to be in relationship with us in that moment.

Goose, on the other hand, seems to have mastered a higher power, that of the unconditional positive regard. From his vantage point, each and every part of ourselves is welcome and accepted.

This is a message of unconditional love is one that Goose has been hinting at for quite some time. So, in the midst of this, I’ve been trying to take his teaching to heart. What would it mean if I were to regard myself and others with positive regard in good times and bad? What if after a regretful action I could feel love for myself instead of shame? If I have expressed anger, I could identify what I feel passionate about and respond from that place (not a place of grudge, hurt, or defiance). If I feel overwhelmed, can I soften into the felt sense of being loved?

When I find this sense of compassion for myself and others during times of stress, I can more quickly reconnect and repair. But just as Goose's physical healing takes time, so, too, does changing and healing from negative behavior patterns. Each time I get angry or frustrated, I have another chance to try a new, more loving way of being towards myself and others.

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