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Barefoot Works




I couldn’t wait to offer Millie, a pregnant, horribly abused, slaughter-bound mare, the healing power of living near fresh water.

Like moths to a flame, water pulls us as if by some invisible force, weaving into our souls the magic that comes with listening to the rhythmical lap, lap, lapping of the water upon the sandy shore. Soon, we take a deep breath of air and next, we relax, letting go of the traumas of the world.

Millie did the same when she came to our lakeside farm in Maine. A horse rescued from slaughter by a concerned woman who couldn’t bear to see her go because she was pregnant, Millie proved too much horse for the well-meaning woman. Unable to halter Mille, the woman called me, concerned for her health. Millie needed proper veterinary care, had ski-jumps for hooves, and now, a young colt at her side that needed care, too. The woman had tried everything to capture Millie, but the mare’s outbursts were treacherous. The woman feared Millie might seriously injure someone.

When I met Millie she was the most traumatized horse I’ve ever met. She communicated at once that she had been roped, thrown and choked (before she was rescued), so her bared teeth and wily super alpha-mare ways were designed to protect her and her foal, and to keep people safe from her, not injure them, as some might assume. Her teeth, sharp kicks and aggressive behavior were clear warnings to leave her alone.

As Millie settled in at our farm I observed her gazing over the lake, her head low, matching the late afternoon sun as it sank. She seemed, like us, mesmerized by the water, its healing charms infecting her soul with its goodness.

Water has a reflective quality. I watched as, day after day, Millie made water-gazing as much a part of her day as grazing. Slowly, like our human visitors, Millie began to breathe again too.

Putting her in and out of the barn, I noticed she stopped rocketing from her stall to the pasture and began to slow down, sometimes pausing as she’d exit, seemingly to stare out over the lake. She’d sigh and step forward after a minute or two, ignoring me as I patted her side. Next, I noticed that the muscle flinching she used to display as she sailed by disappeared. Instead, she started to take time to stand and stare at us from her stall, much like she did the water, and I knew our special brand of water therapy was working. Instead of white around her eyes, she began to soften, her breaths coming slower and her muscles loosening from rock-hard ropes of anxiety to softer, relaxed muscles, calmed through the environment of the water.

Millie isn’t a lone case. Another horse, an emaciated, anxiety-prone thoroughbred, joined us. Together, they convalesced like two senior citizens, simultaneously absorbing the reflective repose of the water, the water cleansing their mental energies as easily as if it were dowsing fire. A natural tonic no therapy could duplicate, their water gazing moments washed away years of mental pain.

Over time, both have become friends, greeting our human visitors at the fence to snuffle their fingers and blow in their hair. We haven’t employed intense training, just offered a place for them to feel safe and given them lots of time to reflect, process and heal, all while overlooking the lake which bathes their mental cortexes in tranquility – a process that’s every bit as effective as the physical healing qualities of water.

The mental and spiritual qualities of water are very powerful. Water has the ability to calm and purify the soul as easily as it does a wound.

Gazing at it cools our mental firings and allows both human and animal to re-organize, balance and be at peace. Short bursts of this activity on any sized body of water can be very therapeutic. Water, like gauze, acts to protect us from outside elements, creating a soothing barrier between us and the world.

Earth Power, written by Scott Cunningham describes water-gazing this way: “One of the most pleasant, relaxing and ancient forms of divination is water-gazing … which allows the practitioner the ability to transform.” Not surprising then, that horses, naturally, enjoy this practice.

Karina Lewis is a trainer with a Master's degree in Psychology. She and her partner, Kirk Stanely, have a 350-acre organic farm set on the picturesque shores of Great Moose Lake in Harmony, Maine. Karina is an author, lecturer and clinician who regularly works with problematic cases.



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