In World in a Shoe: My Journey with Horses, Nicole Lawrence takes us inside her childhood obsession with horses and her career working with them. I was entranced by the many spiritual lessons to be learned from working with horses.
As Nicole shares what goes into caring for horses, the reader gets an inside look into a world that many of us will never enter. She beautifully shares what she both taught and learned from her students and the horses she worked with, as well as the gruff lessons from a “horse whisperer,” who helps her through a difficult childhood, and then a difficult transition after a beloved horse is injured and put down.
Now on my bucket list is to try horseback riding again to experience Nicole’s artful description: “It was like sitting on a living wave of powerful effervescence.”
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, NICOLE LAWRENCE:
1) What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
I’d like people to understand that horses have very different personalities. They are living beings that deserve respect.
2) Can you explain how horses were some of your greatest spiritual teachers?
When you work with a horse it is important to listen to them, and you use more than just your ears. You develop different ways of listening – for instance, watching their emotions and body language. Listening in different ways than with my ears was a good skill to have when it came to meditation and listening to my inner guidance.
Horses pull you out of self-centeredness. It isn’t always about you. You learn the give and take necessary for a good relationship with your animal. If you take care of your horse, he’ll be there for you. It is a good lesson in caring for another living being.
Being around horses helps you to be in the present moment. They are spontaneous creatures of nature and you need to stay aware of what is happening with your horse. Present-mindedness is also another good spiritual skill to have.
I was lucky to have Mr. Heffner as my mentor. He insisted on integrity and attention to detail, qualities that have assisted me on my spiritual journey as well.
3) You write of Mr. Heffner, a “horse whisperer” of sorts. What was the greatest lesson(s) he taught you?
The lesson I wrote about in the book – the one about not being ashamed of my fear of jumping high fences. There was plenty I could do with groundwork with horses. The thing with forcing yourself into your fear to accomplish something is that horses feel our emotions. They will pick up on the fear and may react because of it. Like what happened with the horse refusing the fence and my falling because he felt my fear. He knew I wasn’t confident about jumping the fence, and if I wasn’t going there, he wasn’t either.
4) You mention having a psychic connection with horses – how did this play out?
This showed up in many ways. For example, one night, while working for Lee, I woke and knew one of the horses was sick. I just had a feeling. I walked to the barn in the dead of night and sure enough one of them had developed colic – kind of a stomachache that horses can get.
Another time, I had an experience with The Chestnut Pony. The barn was long with a sliding door that opened out to a grassy area, with the driveway beyond. The Chestnut Pony was in the grassy area, grazing. As I walked past the open door I saw him lift his head, with his ears pointed, listening and focused on something in the distance. I was curious what he was looking at, but didn’t want to go out there to look. It could have been deer in the trees on a distant hill and I might not have seen them anyway. I thought in my mind, What are you looking at? Immediately, I saw a picture in my mind of the farm owner, Mr. Dixon, driving a tractor up the hill. I stayed and watched, while The Chestnut Pony remained focused. I didn’t hear any noise, but within a couple minutes I could hear the distant sounds of a tractor. And then came Mr. Dixon driving up the hill on the tractor.
5) What life lessons did you learn by working with horses?
Horses teach us about our own power. Symbolically, in society horses are associated with horsepower – strength, power, and at times speed. One of the early lessons I learned was that I couldn’t use force of will on horses.
Mr. Heffner showed me this early on when I’d first met him. He asked me to put my hand on the horse’s flank to move his hindquarters over. The horse immediately leaned his body into my arm. Then Mr. Heffner showed me you have to move the horse’s head in one direction to move the hindquarters in the other. You had to move the horse’s head to control his body. Force wasn’t going to work. In my life I’ve translated this lesson into working with other people. You don’t get very far if you try and force your will on someone. You usually meet with resistance. If you bring their thinking around to what you are trying to accomplish with inspiration and motivation, you have a lot more success.
I’ve noticed this even in myself. If I knuckle down and force myself to do something, I usually get tense. But if I can inspire myself, and shift my point of view, things flow more elegantly.
6) You write of “the greater connection – the breathing in your soul that horses are.” Can you explain that further?
At that time in my life I lived for horses. They were a spiritual connection for me. I had a troubled childhood and horses were “safe” for me to connect with emotionally. They didn’t judge, and they didn’t punish. I believe, as Souls we come into this reality and need to connect and anchor ourselves to the world around us. We grow and mature, and find connection to people around us and, for most, a connection to and relationship with some form of Divinity. It was difficult for me to trust my early human relationships and horses were the way I anchored to this reality.
7) For others who want to experience a connection with horses, how would you recommend they begin?
If someone feels drawn to, they could begin by taking some riding lessons. Look for a reputable stable. The horses will look well fed, their coats sleek and bodies free of injuries and sores from ill-fitting tack.
There are also farms that offer guided healing retreats with horses and the opportunity to just be in connection with them. Here are a few:
Equinisity Retreats – http://www.equinisity.com
Unity with Horse – http://www.unitywithhorse.com/Workshops.html
Horse Journeys – http://www.horsejourneys.com/home.html
There is a very special program for Veterans run by the Saratoga War Horse Foundation. The program helps them heal and overcome traumatic experiences and PTSD by working with horses – http://www.saratogawarhorse.com
8) What propelled you on a spiritual journey that took you out of the world of horses?
When Cosnav passed away, the deep connection I experienced with horses broke. I believe that my Soul and the Divine had a different purpose for me than a life with horses. At the time, I could happily have spent the rest of my life working with horses. With the severing of that connection I had no strong attachment to this world. To find some sense of purpose and meaning to my life I began an inner search. In that seeking I began exploring different spiritual paths and started transferring my sense of purpose from the outer world to that of the Divine.
World in a Shoe: My Journey with Horses is available on Kindle and in paperback. Nicole Lawrence is also the author of the memoir, Doors To Transformation: My Mother – My Self. For more information or to contact Nicole, go to http://nicolelawrence.com.
Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries, Chakra Healing, Balance Your Chakras-Balance Your Life, and The Chakra Energy Diet