Happy, Healthy, & Horsey: Backing Up to Go Forward

Raw Honesty: I had a meltdown this week. Early one morning, out at the barn (don’t we all cry best in the stable?), in the dark. For whatever reason, all the weeks and months and, yes, years, of trying to pare down my size and my circumference just broke me in that moment. I felt angry and frustrated and some inexplicable deep inner rage about having the sort of body, or lifestyle, or lack of self-discipline, or whatever it is, that keeps me from attaining my primary goal: BEING THIN.

I want to be a size six (I’d settle for size eight). I want to feel pretty, in some farmchic sense of that word. (I realize I’m not beauty queen material, folks, just go with me here, k?)

After drying my tears, and finishing chores, I walked in the house, sat down at my computer, and wrote an email to my friend and life coach, Katrina Love Senn.

You want raw honest, friends? Here ya go. Below is a copy of the email (very slightly edited) I sent Katrina.

Dear Katrina,

I hope this finds you well.

I’m feeling fairly despondent at the moment . . . My weight seems permanently stuck. I’m eating healthy, cleaning the barn every day, doing this yoga program, walking at least 10,000 steps each day.

I’m journaling, getting rid of excess stuff, and doing “all the things.”

And yet the weight stays. And I didn’t drop any inches this month, either (I measure myself once a month in this DDPY yoga program; just measured, and zero change anywhere – legs, arms, hips, waist, bust – NOTHING.)

Am I destined to be obese forever?? I’ve weighed between 185-207 for the past twelve years. Those twenty pounds lost hardly show in the mirror, so my point is: why go through all this daily grind of watching what I eat, feeling guilty about even the smallest indulgence, etc., if it doesn’t make any difference? I might as well be the “fat, jolly girl” instead of the “fat, intense girl” and at least have a little fun and joy eating what I want.

No, I don’t really mean that, and no, I’m not giving up – yet. But if I don’t start seeing some improvements soon, I think I will give up. This all much too hard, and much too frustrating, especially after investing all the time and energy I’ve put in.

Yes, I’m emotionally stronger and clearer about who I am, and those are GREAT things – I get it.

But at the end of it all, what I have always truly wanted is to be THINNER. I want to easily fit into size 8 clothing and feel GOOD about what I see in the mirror – not all this flab on my arms and a pot belly hanging over my groin. Standing naked in the mirror, I disgust myself. Looking at photos taken with my thin friends, I disgust myself.

I HATE how I look and it is the one thing I want to change more than anything, before I truly get “old.” And yet it seems like that is the one thing God is determined to make me live with and deal with, apparently my entire life.

I don’t want to do more/think more/cook more/sweat more. I’m tired of the struggle, and tired of trying. I want RESULTS. PHYSICAL RESULTS in my body.

I’m not asking for anything from you in reply; I’m just letting you know where I am at the moment, and how very frustrated and sad I am that it appears I will always be obese.


In reply, Katrina, being the fantastic teacher and healer that she is, wrote back later that same day, and gave me an exercise to do. Not a physical exercise; a deep dive emotional one. Dig deep and go back in my memory bank and, in horse parlance, strip the stalls. (My term, not hers.)

I pride myself on keeping my barn relatively clean and tidy (note: I consider cobwebs a good thing – spiders eat flies!). But I want my stalls clean enough and dry enough that, if I wanted to, I or any human could just about lay down and take a nap on the bedding ourselves.

But most of us have been to at least one barn somewhere that the bedding is so old, so thick, so soiled, and so filthy, you wonder how the horses have any hoof soundness at all. If you’ve ever cleaned a barn that reeks of urine and feces mired in soiled straw a foot deep, you know what a horrible, back-breaking, nose-killing, eye-watering exercise it can be. You can’t do a “top layer only” cleaning of such a mess, you have to dig down til you get to whatever lies beneath all that muck – the very foundational flooring of the stalls.

Apparently, while my barn hygiene is nigh impeccable, my emotional house – not so much. It’s so much easier to just toss on a fresh top layer of “I’m fines” and “I can handle this” and “I won’t let my pain/weakness/fear/anger/hurt show” and try to bury the bad under another layer of inner grit. But like that icky barn, there’s no genuine health and well-being until all the “manure” is cleaned up.

Kaliwohi, Day One. April 19, 2014. Photo by Esther Roberts

I chose Kaliwohi from an online list of BLM mustangs available for adoption in the spring of 2014. I saw a rather blurry photo of his head, and his eye made me stop scrolling. My mustang has an old soul. That eye reflects everything that Kiwi is – kind and smart and willing and affectionate and wise and gentle.

After our unexpected parting of the ways last May, I’ve looked at Kaliwohi a little differently than I did in the beginning. I’ve focused on how painful and slow my healing process has been, and, raw honesty, much of the joy of owning horses has been missing these past months. I’ve floundered in my own mind for purpose and direction with respect to my interaction with my own horse.

So, when Katrina gave me this latest exercise to do (it will take me some time to complete, by the way; it’s no quick-fix scribbling, but rather a deep dive journaling and emotional cleansing exercise), this “go back as far as you need to and dig all this negative stuff up and process it” assignment, it brought to mind those first few days with Kaliwohi.

Me and baby Kiwi, Day One. April 19, 2014. Photo by Greg Bell.

 The BLM wranglers put a halter on Kaliwohi before he was run into the trailer to be hauled home. This photo was taken upon our arrival home, as I approached my young wild horse for the very first time. He was so darned adorable, and so seemingly friendly, I couldn’t resist those eyes and that soul.

First Kiss. April 19, 2014. Photo by Greg Bell.

Instead of reaching out to touch him or take his halter, the very first thing I did with Kaliwohi was exchange breath with him, and then kiss his nose.

I’ve loved this horse since I first laid eyes on him, and all the good, bad, and ugly things that have transpired between us have not changed that. So, along with Katrina’s exercise for clearing out my own decades-old emo muck, I’m also going “backwards” to start interacting with Kaliwohi with zero agenda other than the one original thing: Love him.

I’m going to take him out for hand-walks and rebuild my own trust in his gentle nature. I’m going to spend time with him, with zero expectations, like I did in those first few months together – reading while sitting in his stall, or brushing him for hours just because he allowed me to do so. In sum, I’m going to go back to the beginning of our relationship, to find joy in our present relationship. And, hopefully, by backing up, we will both move forward.

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