For years I unknowingly lived in a world that seemed to me to hold nothing but fear. I was afraid of everything; especially myself, but at the time I knew no different. 25 years of Anorexia/Bulimia had become so much part of my life, that it was as unimaginable to live without, as the fear, intense self-hatred and feelings of worthlessness, I had also lived with, for as long as I could remember.
For years I unknowingly lived in a world that seemed to me to hold nothing but fear. I was afraid of everything; especially myself, but at the time I knew no different. 25 years of Anorexia/Bulimia had become so much part of my life, that it was as unimaginable to live without, as the fear, intense self-hatred and feelings of worthlessness, I had also lived with, for as long as I could remember. I was a bad person so naturally I deserved all the problems and failures that resulted from everything I did.
What hope then had a poor sensitive horse, in a home that was run by someone who appeared to the outside world, to be completely happy and in control, but was inwardly a complete mess, existing each day on a diet of fear, anxiety, doubt, starvation, biscuits, chocolate, endless ice cream and visits to the lavatory to evacuate any food that shouldn’t have been there.
Bronwen was truly beautiful, almost black; with a gleaming coat and, the longest eyelashes of any horse I had ever seen.
To me, she was huge and quite terrifying, I had had sleepless nights over whether I was doing the right thing getting her at all, and had relented very much against my better judgment. She was to be a companion to the previously unwanted 12.2 chestnut pony that had been given to my 12year old son during one of his many brief but convincing passions; and at 15 hands she was to be there for him to ride, when he outgrew the pony.
Having never owned a horse in my life; with experience that was no more than a reckless, knee gripping out of control gallop or two on an old horse as a child, I was landed with the task of keeping myself from being trampled under foot by two very large animals, that barely acknowledged my existence, let alone treated me with any respect.
I did realize very early on that perhaps I should have listened to my grave misgivings, as frankly I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and my son was equally useless and lost interest very shortly after Bronwen’s arrival. Strangely, it never once occurred to me to reverse my decision and let the horses go, instead I went all out, to learn how to be a responsible and enlightened horse owner; not just your average horse owner, no, my horses were going to be kept with a far greater quality of life than anyone else’s; with kindness, sensitivity and an insightful educated knowledge of the world from their viewpoint, not mine.
In theory my plan was flawless, in reality I was in for a shock. In her previous home Bronwen had been a truly biddable, delightful, kind and genuinely well behaved horse, that however all changed instantly, when she found herself being ridden and cared for by a, self-doubting, self hating, fear-filled incompetent like me. From the moment we set eyes on each other she wanted to run as far away from me as she possibly could, while all I wanted, was for her to want to be with me, as passionately as I wanted to be with her. I was shattered; each time I went out into the field to visit her, she would turn tail and head off to furthest corner of her paddock, and when I finally caught up with her, her eyes would harden with fear and she’d strain to get away from me. Nervously I persevered, attempting to tentatively groom her, carefully avoiding her feet altogether for fear of reprisal; entering hopeless struggles with saddles and tack, and darting fearfully out of her stable before she could bolt or squash me against the wall; willing all the time for her to like me, just a little bit, but all this amidst flattened ears and threatening facial expressions. I felt completely devastated, at the same time absolutely convinced that the problem lay with me, she was simply reacting to the inner turmoil that she could see I was experiencing. She was scared of me and I was too. She longed for someone to lead her, and I was failing her miserably.
Weeks of battling went by, disaster followed disaster; when riding she would constantly move away from me when I tried to mount her; spin around in the gateway in a desperate bid to return to the security of her paddock, and if we did manage to actually get through the gate, she would find every opportunity to make her way home as fast as possible, and being stronger, mentally and physically than me, she almost always got her way. I was totally miserable and became completely obsessed with trying to find an answer to the dreadful problems the two of us were experiencing. Finally a possible solution presented itself, my son found the name of a horse whisperer who was prepared to come and help Bronwen and I resolve our differences.
I was so nervous and convinced that I would fail dismally at whatever he tried to teach me, that I almost abandoned the whole idea, only sheer desperation kept me going. I watched in wonder and amazement as this small insignificant little man had Bronwen eating out of his hands within only a few minutes. He barely moved and with the tiniest signals had her moving in circles around him, backing, stepping sideways and listening with both ears and eyes fixed on him attentively the entire time, her eyes never left him, even when she was supposed to be attending to me. His assistant explained to me that he had been communicating with Bronwen in a way that she instantly understood, because it emulated the way horses communicate within the herd.
As they drove away leaving Bronwen and I alone once again, I realized the biggest lesson I had learned was that I had to change the way I approached every moment I spent with her, completely change the way I thought, my beliefs about myself and my negative attitude to everything I ever attempted to do. There is no room for doubt of any kind when dealing with horses, they cannot cope with it; to a horse, where there is doubt there is fear. Changing the thought patterns learned over a life -time was going to be an uphill task and without Bronwen to monitor my progress and encourage me with her loving approval each time I got things right I could never have contemplated such a task. She softened each time she felt I was trying to change, her truly loving nature forgave and rewarded my efforts over and over again. I had put her through hell for almost two months, as I had centered on my own inner fears and inadequacies instead of focusing on hers. It was as though the whole time she had been my ego, her dislike of me reflecting my own self-hatred and her need to run away from me, my own desire to escape from myself.
As the months passed the two us devised ways to completely re-design the destructive thought patterns that had created the self punishing, soul destroying disorder that had over shadowed the vast majority of my life. It was trial and error; sometimes we had a break through and at other times we slipped painfully back into the quagmire of and old damaging thinking. From concentrating purely on myself, my ineffectuality and how worthless and undeserving I was of her regard and respect, I learned to train my mind, through endless discipline and determination to recognize only, the thoughts that really benefited me; the thoughts that remained positive, clear and focused. These thoughts were always the ones that produced the perfect loving results from Bronwen, I had craved for all along.
Learning to overcome the overpowering need to self-destruct, with only the help of Bronwen and the ideas I took from the natural horsemanship experts, who taught me so much about equine psychology, helped me far far more than all the psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors I had seen over the many years. On the way I began to see clearly from what I was learning, that this was a way forward for all the thousands of people out there who suffer as I did, from feelings of anxiety, low self esteem and self- loathing.
Now with the years, my Anorexia / Bulimia well behind me and the experience of using my knowledge and skills to help others, I can see how incredibly worthwhile it all was. There was something truly amazing to be gained from that period of my life, without it, I would never have been able to fully appreciate the stark contrast, between living a life of fear and living one of true happiness and fulfillment.