A gentle warrior

4 03 2022

Twenty years ago this remarkable horse came into my life. I was not looking for a colt of just 8 months old. I was ready to bring on a youngster and had already started with a four-year-old gelding who was destined to become my riding horse.

Life has an uncanny way of giving you what you need rather than what you want. A few months into watching Sheranni feed vigorously from his dam and canter around the parkland where he spent his first year, I was intrigued. Not yet smitten, but curious enough to drop my plans of training the lovely iron grey gelding and take this exquisite oyster pink colt under my wing.

Our first outing was memorable. A couple out walking their dog stopped to admire Sheranni whose striking turquoise blue eye drew comparisons to David Bowie, and commented on his liveliness. ‘Rather you than me,’ the woman said.

Many outings later, I would remember her words as I lay on my bed drenched in sweat, thinking: this horse is going to kill me. Not that Sheranni was dangerous – he simply went at every single task I gave him with 1,000 percent of his energy. Because he held nothing back, that meant steep learning curve lessons for me. I had to get fit, fast and firm in body, mind and spirit. I had to learn how to give more of my energy to match his.

As I began working with him on the ground, taking him for long walks with his companion Dragonfly, and then introducing him to saddle, our lessons became mutual opportunities for growth. Together we learned the language of each other. There were many mistranslations along the way, including the thrills and spills of fast riding. Once when galloping up a hill on Woodbury Common I somersaulted over Sheranni’s head after he stumbled into a rabbit hole. He deposited me perfectly intact on the ground and waited for me to get back on so we could continue our race with a huge Irish draught horse. His rider said she had never seen a horse run as fast as Sheranni. Indeed, until I took Sheranni out, I had never ridden a horse who travelled like a comet.

As well as his physical attributes of earth-spinning speed and agility, Sheranni’s personality of gentleness combined with his phenomenal intelligence and spirit are an equal part of his being. As he matured, he became not exactly slower, but more considered in his approach in both body and mind. I recognise this transformation in myself. Adventurous and spontaneous in my younger years when I travelled and worked in newsrooms as a journalist, I was always on some sort of mission. I see the Sheranni in me. Now we have ridden so many miles of experience together, I see how our lives have become profoundly intertwined.

We both work differently now. And we both draw on our life experiences. In Recovery Education sessions, Sheranni is consistently present, curious and deeply calm. He has a way of touching people in their most tender and shielded places and he invites softening. People smile and feel relief around him. They trust him. He has been there, stoic and stable, as people have unlocked grief on to his shoulder and shared secrets into his neck, stories they have carried unspoken for years. Sheranni has held them all with grace, compassion and wisdom.

He also supports people, especially women, to connect to their power, make clear requests and stand their ground. His work in this arena has supported people to find new insights. One woman spoke of a ‘huge electricity’ surging through her whole body and a newfound awareness when she connected to him. He is a teacher and friend to many. Of all the many gifts Sheranni offers, the simplest is joy. For he radiates a warm, relaxed happiness and can spare it enough so that others can feel it too. After encounters with Sheranni, people say they feel better in themselves than they have done in years. I do not know how he does it, and I never take it for granted, but I know the emotions he inspires most are love and hope.

It has been a unsettled month. I have been dismayed to watch the events unfold in the Ukraine, the conflict and devastation of a courageous nation is heart-breaking. Listening to the news and reports of people leaving their homeland, clutching wide-eyed children with only a small bag and their cats makes me wonder why the lessons of the Second World War and the obliteration of Polish cities, the very places that are now welcoming refugees, have not been learned. Still, I cling to slivers of love and hope in the stories of resistance.

Personally, things have been a bit turbulent. In February, Sheranni was booked to have two teeth removed and I had to cancel the procedure twice, the first Friday I tested positive for Covid, and the second Friday Storm Eunice visited and flattened our barn. In truth, I was grateful for those cancellations because it gave me time to mentally prepare for the extractions. If you have had a tooth pulled out, you will know it is one of the most brutal procedures you can go through. It feels frankly medieval. I must admit I blanched when the vet arrived this morning and took ten minutes to unload the kit he would need, including a rather strange looking padded lectern, which I later found out was used to prop up Sheranni’s head so that the vet could work inside his mouth.

I am not the best dental patient, and I felt every twist and wrench of this extraction. I tried not to imagine the worst – the tooth splitting or shattering before it was pulled free – and thanks to the patience and professionalism of Jamie, all went well. In truth, the hardest part was stopping Sheranni from immediately eating hay while he was still semi-sedated.

Now he is moving around the field as if nothing had occurred and I am camping out in case he needs me. Of course he doesn’t. It is, of course, me who needs him and I suspect it has always been that way. I need this horse to stay strong, spirited and well. I will this for him every day with every fibre of my being. As the muse who inspired my work at Horsemanship for Health, he gives me purpose and energy. I want no more from life than to keep learning and Sheranni helps me every day to do just that. He is the best mortal being I have ever had the privilege to know. I salute him as the gentle warrior he is.

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