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Horse Lessons

One night last week, we experienced a sudden storm of lightning, thunder, and hail, which is a rare occurrence here in Southern California. At the first boom and flash of light, I ran out the back door to the barn. Above me, I noticed the sky was illuminated by shafts of light followed by rolling booms that seemed to shake the earth. Admittedly, I was in “all-out fear” mode. I noticed the horses galloping frantically in the rain punctuated by crashing booms. I had a moment of panic: “Luca! Mama! It’s okay!” But the horses were not convinced; they continued to gallop as if they were going to crash right into the fence line.

I yelled for my husband. I yelled to the gods of thunder, “HELP!” I watched from the barn doors as the horses ran out of control. I continued screaming, “Stop, please stop!” Suddenly, my husband appeared, “Oh, quiet down,” in an exasperated tone. “All is fine.” I snapped back, “No, no. They are going to get hurt. They could die, break a leg, or get struck by lightning.” Then, as I looked up, I noticed the flood gates opened from the sky. Big, pelting balls of hail began to fall. The horses kept running, galloping, and skidding uncontrollably. I was certain death was the next step.

I called my neighbor Maddy. She yelled back over the phone, “Are you okay?” In my heightened state of fear, I yelled, “Maddy, Maddy, help!” I frantically grabbed a flake of alfalfa, thinking that alfalfa is like peanut butter for horses and would calm them down immediately. I was certain they would make their way to the barn as soon as the delicious alfalfa hit the ground. “Mama! Luca!” I exclaimed. They were not responsive and continued sprinting in the storm. I then grabbed my phone again and called my trainer Alessandra. She talked to me in a calm, collected voice, “Viv, there is nothing you can do right now. You must allow them to run. Do not go out into the arena because they could hurt you.” She has talked me off the ledge of my fears a million times, but that night was different. I was convinced they would be killed.

I realized that I had been transported to the night of Yanni’s death when I was running through the dark hallway of a vet hospital screaming for help. It was an out-of-control moment with no one in sight to help. During this episode, Alessandra continued to talk to me over the phone and my neighbor Maddy came over. The two of us stood together just watching (and braving) the elements. The thunder and lightning continued. Then, all of the sudden, Luca and Mama stopped in the middle of the arena with the hail, thunder, and lightning all around. They became still, side by side. I was immediately sucked into their vortex of peace. And in that very moment, I stood with them in their silence.

My neighbor and I witnessed this beautiful moment and understood that we had no control over the situation. The flood of fears moved right through me and I was able to feel energy of peace again. As Luca and Mama parked themselves in the middle of that storm, they had worked out the energy of fear and found a place of peace.

The truth is that life will always present us with moments like these. It’s okay to feel fear and let it move through us. As I took in this moment with Maddy, we started talking about the gratitude of this rain as we enter our fire season. We reflected on the rain-cooled air that night. I wonder if Mama and Luca were also having this same conversation as they stood in the center of peace.

It’s important for all of us to acknowledge that fear can be a beautiful teacher. Thank you, Luca and Skye Mama, for always helping me move though things that scare me.

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