Remembering my horse: how I disovered Reiki
by Ed Yourdon
This is a real story and it happened a long time ago. It seems impossible now, but we didn’t have mobile phones then, or computers or the internet. We did have tv but there was no digital or even sky as a matter of fact.
Surely, there was none of the above where I lived. Our house was called ‘L’Isola’, which means ‘The island’ in Italian. It was so called because when the canal flooded, occasionally, the waters surrounded the farm and it looked like a small island from far.
It was a huge farm house and we did have all sorts of animals: chickens, ducks, rabbits and of course pets, three dogs and nine cats, who all lived in a kennel outdoors. All twelve of them used to sleep in the kennel, which was handy in the frosty January cold. Albeit sunny at times, winter in Tuscany can be very very cold.
Spring starts early and it’s the best season. There are daffodils everywhere and nature is very green and alive. Summer is unbearably hot, so life stops between 1.00 and 4.00 really: it’s three long months of sunburn.
It was a big change when we moved to the countryside: not least the fact that there was no transport near the farm and the bus stop was very far so I needed to be escorted there if I wanted to go to town. ‘Town’ was then half an hour drive. I didn’t take it well as I was then approaching thirteen, an age when it’s perfectly acceptable to have some freedom of movement. So my parents decided it was time to buy a horse.
One day I came back from school and while having our lunch (mum had cooked roast chicken and potatoes and broccoli that day) my father spoke. He was a gently spoken man, albeit a bit traditional.
‘We have some good news for you. It is soon going to be your birthday and your grandmother has decided to give you a horse as a present.’
‘Thirteen is a big number!’ mum smiled.
I was over the moon!
‘A horse?! For me! But that’s wonderful!’
‘You had better phone gran to say thank you, dear’ said my father.
I finished my chicken leg in a hurry and hit the phone to thank granny. We didn’t have much money but luckily she was rich!
‘So how will we choose my horse? I need to choose it! When will we go to see it?’ I said, very excited. I could not believe it! All these years of waiting and now, for my birthday, I was going to have a horse. My horse, all mine.
It was natural to me that I should be involved in the process of finding him and choosing him (or her!) as it was such an important choice: but my parents weren’t of the same idea. I don’t know if that was because they were very traditional or if they still saw me as a child: on my insistence we did go to see a horse or two but things were done behind my back mainly.
One day, approaching my birthday, the man who was in charge for choosing my horse, unknown to me, found one that fit my parents requirements.
The horse cost one million and two hundred thousand Lira (sounds like a lot, but it was a small price). It had to be a palomino, as I was known to like that kind of horse; it had to be relatively old therefore quite calm. This one was a bit ‘run down’ and slim as it had lived outdoors but that’s why it cost so little. These were the requirements: it had to be a good price.
‘Thank you Mr Pennacchia’ I heard my mother say ‘We’ll be here this week-end so any time Saturday afternoon will be ok.’
When they told me that the horse was coming over the week-end I felt like crying for two very different reasons. I was bitterly disappointed as they had taken away from me the chance to chose such an important pet: I felt very angry. This was an injustice and it was clear that they had very little regard for me and obviously underestimated me.
At the same time, I had wanted a horse all my life and although I hadn’t chosen this horse, there was a horse, my horse, coming here at the farm on Saturday. I was excited but a moment which had to be one of extreme happiness and achievement was tainted by the fact that my parents had offended me.
I could have said ‘I don’t want a horse I haven’t chosen’ but I didn’t as I was scared that they would change their minds and then not buy me any.
Besides, I think that fate’s hand was at work: I can now say that knowing Youston has been one of the most important experiences of my life.
So I waited eagerly for the week-end. It was April and I dreamt of walks in the woods and daffodils, waiting for Youston to arrive.
YOUSTON IS HERE
The van entered the yard of our farm house: it was old and battered. What came out of the van was in tone with it, or possibly worse.
Oh my God! I observed with deep dismay the creature that was being dragged out: the hooves were long and visibly badly cared for, he was very slim and his coat was of a dirty whitish brownish colour, with spots of dirt, his hair was dirty and full of knots. The horse walked slowly and looked wearily around, but it seemed to lack the energy to do anything at all.
‘Oh look! There it is! Elena, do you want to take the horse for a bit of grass and make friends?’
This was my mother. I started crying but all the adults present mistook it for joy. Only I knew that I was disappointed!
‘Ah, she has been waiting for this horse for years!’ said my father, who proceeded to recount how his generous mother had given us the money to buy the horse.
I wanted to phone my grandma and curse her. Why did she have to be so stingy? I hated this animal, this was not at all the horse of my dreams: I deserved a young one, with shiny coat and a sweet face, not this thing on four legs.
I hated him, I held the rope leading Youston to the nearby grass, saying to myself that I was never going to like it. The horse was going back, I was going to definitely put my foot down now.
I was just about to turn back to tell the people that they should take this thing back, and while I was in this state of mind, Youston avidly grazing the grass, I heard a voice. Or maybe I imagined it, or it was my conscience speaking, I don’t know. I just know that the following words entered my mind as if someone was speaking to me.
‘It’s not his fault if your parents behaved badly’ the voice said softly. It was a beautiful voice, very soothing. ‘Think of what would happen to him if you sent him back.’ The voice paused, letting me absorb the information provided. I turned around but there was no-one.
‘He would go back to that awful place and would probably be sent to die. Look how happy he is now.’
A bit puzzled, I nevertheless looked at the horse. He was happy. This was a good place for him. And those things were true. It wasn’t the horse’s fault if my parents treated me like a toddler and underestimated me. I was still resentful about that but it wasn’t the horse’s fault.
He now looked relaxed and his eyes were really gentle. I had dreamed of a nervy and dynamic horse, and he was a gentle and good horse, approaching his twilight years.
What came out of this situation was that I had the opportunity, for the first time in my life, to choose to do a good deed: I could choose to save the horse’s life or condemn it to another few months of hell. He did look like he had been through hell, poor thing. How can people be so mean to animals?
I wanted the horse of my dreams, but I could not bear to send Youston back to wherever he came from. I wanted to offer him a good home and a better life.
While this was going on in my head, Youston gently touched my hand with his nose and then went back to grazing the grass.
‘First thing we’ll need to do tomorrow morning is a good clean up’, I said to him, looking at his coat. I felt much more peaceful with myself and the world, and I could nearly forgive my parents. I had a horse and this was going to be the happiest horse in the world. The horse was going to stay…
The adults, unaware of the tornado of thoughts that was rocking my poor head, were having a party of their own. Mr Pennacchia and the van driver were animatedly talking some nonsense to my father and my mother and they were washing things down with a nice glass of wine, never mind driving. Payment done, everyone was happy and ready to go home. The men got on the van and drove away.
A nice bed of hay was ready for my new horse and some lax seed mixture. I closed his box and said my good nights.
‘Goodnight beautiful. You are safe now…’
I could not wait to see him in the morning.
The naming of Youston was made after the capital of Texas, Houston, which I misspelled. I don’t know if it came to us with a name; if he did they didn’t inform me of it. It was probably something unimaginative like Fiore or Pippo, anyway. Youston being a Palomino, it seemed only natural to give him a vaguely exotic name connected to the land of the Palominos.
I realised the spelling was wrong when a visitor pointed that out: others had probably been too polite or forgiving of the eccentricities of a thirteen year old. By then I had grown accustomed to the name, which I pronounced without the H sound, and the name Youston stayed.
The morning after Youston’s arrival, I was up in arms at the wee hours of the day (to be a Sunday), ready to brush him and then get ready for a nice walk in the surrounding countryside. It was definitely safer to go around alone on a horse in the deserted countryside, as opposed to a bike: and maybe I could go to the village to visit a few acquaintances, e.i. the daughters of the local shepard.
The village, a hamlet called C., had a small centre and quite a few farms, not all as isolated as ours, which was the most far out. There were quite a few youngsters whom I had met on the 7.30 bus to the city, the one everybody caught to go to school. Obviously, being the new girl wasn’t that easy, but mostly the village girls were very kind.
All in all I had very little freedom of movement, given the circumstances and having Youston represented an opportunity to catch a bit of freedom, I discovered soon.
I went to his box, gave him some breakfast and while he ate, I got all my tools ready. I had a brush, a tool to clean his hooves, water; his saddle, a brand new saddle with a nice red cloth, was resting nearby, with the reins.
I was in full gear too, my best breaches on and my horse riding boots.
‘Now, did you sleep well my sweets? I’ll tie you up here and make you beautiful!’
I got Youston out of his box and started brushing his coat. They say that you shouldn’t wear your best clothes when you groom a horse and it was clear why: there was hair everywhere, my hands were filthy and due to the effort, I was sweating profusely. Did anybody brush him in the last few months, ever? His hair was even worse and the whole operation took a lot longer than expected, with mediocre results, disappointingly. Oh well. It was a matter of persistence!
‘A week of this and you are going to look as good as new my dear!’ I said to him. He looked at me enquiringly, expecting some more apple.
I did the hooves which were even worse. He was still a bit weary of the new environment but definitely not hostile, so I relaxed a bit and while handling one hoof, by mistake it landed on my foot.
Holy moon, stars and clouds and winds and planets! Say that it was painful is an understatement. You always have to have eyes for you and the horse…when I got my senses back, I decided that it was time to ‘dress him’ for a walk, forget the cleaning. I put the saddle on, no problem. Actually he looked really cute with the red cloth.
Then I got the reins and approached him to put them on, when very suddenly he violently started pulling the rope, got up on his posterior legs and became very agitated. My arm, albeit briefly, was caught by the rope and I was mildly hurt, but most of all scared by this unexpected reaction. Fancy one of his hooves on the other foot!
I stepped back and Youston slowly calmed down. His eyes were wide open, his muscles very tense, the head high up. He stood there, as if expecting something to happen.
He scared me and my first reaction was to shout at him. Once I stepped back and we had both regained some calm, I realised that he looked terrified. What was he scared of?
I looked around and the only thing that was different was that I had the reins in my hand. The reins! He was scared of them, he thought I was going to hit him!
‘Oh poor Youston, what have they done to you?’ I said to him. The sound of my voice seemed to sooth him. So I continued talking.
I took some apple and slowly went near him. He stepped back but then he relaxed. I had to put the reins on, otherwise this was going to be even more difficult next time.
I took the reins back and very slowly kept giving him apple pieces, carrots and sugar. I kept talking gently to him, and finally I got the reins on. It took a good half hour.
‘Well, this horse is challenging in unexpected ways’ I muttered to myself. ‘Let’s see what happens next!’
I was exhausted by then and we only went out for a short time, but he didn’t disappoint. It must have been because of the new environment, but he was very jumpy and nervy, which was fun really! This horse wasn’t that bad after all, he had some energy!
Back home, I let Youston free for a some grass grazing, then checked his hooves again to see if anything was trapped there. He looked much calmer now, so I patted him gently of his neck.
‘Good boy Youston! It was a very good day today, wasn’t it?’
So we stood there, for a few minutes, my hand placed gently on his neck, the other hand stroking his nose gently.
Then again, something very strange happened…my hands became very very warm, but it was a strange kind of warmth, as they weren’t even sweaty. As this was happening, my heart seemed to become much happier and I relaxed completely. I say that my heart was affected because I felt warmth where my heart was but it was like happiness. It’s difficult to explain.
It felt like an energy I could not see with my eyes was passing through my heart to my hands and from the hands to Youston. I couldn’t see it but I could feel where it was: therefore I could ‘see’ where it was going. Youston felt happy and he was giving me that happiness back.
Something else happened while my hand was resting on Youston’s neck. Picture’s of Youston’s past were appearing in my mind. It was as if he was trying to tell me what things had happened to him and what kind of life he had had. Not all were bad. I could see he had been very happy as a young horse. I could see a woman taking care of him. He had not been happy with his previous owner, I could see a brutal man hitting him with no reason with ropes and reins. I could see a few horses that were in those stables, some were Youston’s friends, two in particular. He missed them but not the owner.
‘Sorry Youston, I can’t buy them too…in fact it’s already quite a miracle that you are here really…I never thought they would by me a horse you know…’ I patted him on the back.
I wasn’t shaken by the experience as it really felt very natural, as if the ability to feel this energy and communicate with an animal had been dormant and it was been shown to me again now.
I think it all happened because for the first time in my life I dared to open my heart and consciously do something for someone not out of my own interest, but out of the desire to give an animal a better life. Or maybe, Youston and I were not that different and there had been an instant connection. It’s true that my life could have been better for sure…stuck in the countryside on an isolated farm, when other girls started going out and wearing make up…I was wearing mud on my shoes mostly!
Maybe my mother was right, thirteen was a big number after all. Not that she could in any way help me: she was too busy being the perfect housewife and army wife to notice that you don’t make a child’s character. Children come to you as gifts and with their own little characters too. It was unconceivable to her that I would desire something different from what was on offer.
Maybe Youston understood me. Finally, I was not alone anymore.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
A couple of months of good food, rest and thorough brushing and Youston’s coat was shiny and clean. He had also gained some weight which made him look much healthier. His hooves had been sorted by a local blacksmith and we could now safely go on any sort of terrain.
The countryside around the Isola was varied and offered destinations such as small paths, the woods, the canal and of course a number of inhabited farms.
People in the village of C. weren’t used to see young girls roaming around on horses and we became a sort of mini celebrity in the village. It was a great topic of conversation anyway.
On a normal outing, I’d pass by a house and somebody would come out to speak to me, pretending to be very busy feeding other animals or sweeping or whatever.
It wasn’t possible to ride everyday due to school commitments, but the days when I could not take Youston out, Youston was left grazing free for quite a few hours. The dogs in particular had taken to like him as they followed us in our excursions, all three of them, so they kept company. It must have been a bizarre procession, a girl on a horse, a cocker spaniel, a dachshund cross and a Chihuahua! Other pets liked him too and one cat even had her kittens in Youston’s box (probably upon thinking that it was nice and warm in there!).
He was unrecognisable: gone was the poor old looking and starved thing that had arrived for my birthday. My parents, in turn, didn’t recognise me. I was much happier and the freedom I gained through riding made me much more motivated in school. I was the girl with the muddy shoes who lived in a village, but I had a horse. This commanded some respect.
Mind you, it was still a tough time for me. The farm was not making any money at all and my father was heavily in debt. As a result, there was very little room for buying new clothes and holidays and all the things that are important to a teen-ager.
One winter we were so short that I could not buy a new coat, and I was forced to wear this old tatty thing for two seasons: the sleeves were short and it looked old.
Surely the people in school didn’t lack for money generally: it was a Liceo Classico and all the sons and daughters of the notables of the town attended. My father had insisted that I study the classics because to him it was unconceivable that one should not learn Latin.
The teens there were wearing expensive clothes and all knew each other from their parents narrow social circles. They had beautiful central houses in historic parts of the town. They had holiday houses in cool places.
So, there were two worlds: one where I was bottom of the rang, and one where I was queen.
When I was with Youston, I was the girl with the horse and I was special. Two years had now passed from when Youston first arrived to our farm my celebrity status even reflected positively on my family within the village.
One day, two young men on horses approached the Isola. The horses were two big chestnuts, way bigger than my little Youston, who looked like a china horse in comparison.
‘Good day to you!’ one of the men said to my mother, who had come out alerted by me.
‘Good day! You have two nice horses here!’ she said.
‘We are from the Benedetti’s farm and we have been told you have horses here, so we thought we came to visit’ said the older one in a very affable way.
The Benedettis were the richest cattle owners in C., a little bit like local ‘aristocracy’. They owned most of the land in the area and their cows produced milk and meat which they sold presumably to supermarkets, as it was some big operation.
There were three brothers in the family, and these were the two younger ones, Luca and Marco, who was the youngest and in his early 20s. Luca was without a doubt the most outgoing of the two, while Marco played his ‘younger brother’ part to perfection, making all the right noises at the right time.
I don’t know if their interest stemmed out of love for horses or boredom or the fact that I had become in my own right a very good looking girl: I surely looked healthy and fit, with all my horse riding! Luca did have a fiancée and was way too old for me, Marco wasn’t attached and although a bit older than me he appeared to be a very decent young fellow.
Anyway, he came accompanied by his brother and they invited us to join them for lunch at their farm, which my mother eagerly accepted, always ready for ‘power lunches’.
Their farm was certainly an impressive affair. I was so socially inept that I wonder what Marco saw in me, although I did have some rustic charm I suppose. And beautiful dreamy brown eyes!
He showed me a little cart they had in the backyard. It was so quaint! It was one of those old fashioned carts used at the end of the last century, a piece that had probably belonged to some grandparent.
‘We could go out on the cart one of these week-ends if you want’ he said.
‘That would be nice’ I smiled ‘Can I try to drive it? I’d like to learn.’
‘Yes of course, I’ll show you how to do it’ He said.
My parents didn’t have any objections to the cart ride, actually in retrospective that was what they had exactly hoped for: he arrived one Saturday afternoon at the Isola and we went around the countryside. It was really all very innocent but of course in the village tongues started rolling and although there was no proof, people started thinking that Marco and I were going out.
I think that’s what everybody wanted, but as usual they hadn’t considered what I thought about it.
Marco was tall, and a good guy and he would have probably been a good husband for me, ten years later: but I was only sixteen and the whole thing was all too serious for me. Also I didn’t find him very attractive, although he was kind and we seemed to have things in common. In short, he was a good friend, and I didn’t know how to tell him that I wasn’t interested in more than a friendship (and talking about horses!).
Meanwhile, later that year, to make some money they desperately needed my parents started renting out boxes for horses at the Isola. The Isola was the perfect location as it was between two big towns and there were many boxes and space available. So Youston had now the company of other horses. There was plenty of space for horses, and fields where to graze.
It proved to be the perfect solution for our financial problems. An instructor moved in and my parents started a horse riding school. We had a local guy to come and clean the boxes every day, and plenty of people to come and go. The Isola didn’t feel so much of a deserted island anymore.
Due to its fantastic position, easily accessible by car, but the fact that the place felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, the riding school provided a perfect haven for stressed out city dwellers. We were flooded with requests. We even started being serious competition to the riding school I had attended, with many of their customers coming over to us.
I didn’t have to say goodbye to Marco, or explain myself. Destiny took its course, as usual: one thing is given, another is taken away, all in due course.
I won a bursary to spend a full year in Canada. It was all very exciting: it meant that I would have to leave Youston but then I was going to be back, and he was in good hands. I was happy to leave Marco though. A year away and he would forget about me. In fact, I never saw him again. Our lives took different courses, for the worse and the better I suppose: I have no regrets.
So I left for Canada. The night before, I went to say goodbye to Youston and told him that we would not be seeing each other for a while, but that a guy called Roberto would take care of him, and take him to walks. Roberto was just learning to ride and was a very gentle and nice man. Youston was in good hands.
On the airplane to Canada, I looked down and Italy looked so beautiful and full of greens and blues and sand, even from above. The city on the seaside was so pretty with all its red roofs. I sighed and vowed to be back: little I knew, that this new adventure was going to change my life forever. I was never going to live on the farm ever again.
A chapter of my life was closing, and I didn’t know it: and maybe that was a good thing, as it would have broken my heart to know it, there and then.
MANY YEARS LATER
Many years have passed since these events, but they are all so vivid and real in my memory that they could have happened yesterday.
Saving Youston taught me that a small sacrifice can mean a lot more for another, namely the difference between a good life and a terrible one.
Youston has taught me about that magic energy that flows from one being to another when our heart is open, which today we call Reiki: in fact, when I took my first degree in Reiki Healing, the memory of those days came flooding back, giving a different dimension on how much Youston had really helped me in my spiritual and personal development, unknown to me.
Meeting him and deciding to keep the poorly looking horse, was the first opportunity destiny gave me to discover some of my gifts.
I did go back if briefly to the Isola to visit: Youston belonged by then to Roberto, who took very good care of him. Each and every time Youston saw me, he never failed to recognise me and came trotting to greet me. He did look like a very happy horse and that was for me the greatest gift. I’ll always remember this true friend.
Written by elenafrancesca
Wow, this thing has really gone crazy with the viewers. Let me first start by saying that this is not my house. Regardless of what any of the comments read, this house really does exist, I have seen it with my own eyes and nothing you see in the video is trickery, it’s all real. This display was the work of Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio, electrical engineer who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that controlled the 16000 Christmas lights in his annual holiday lighting spectacular (from Christmas 2004). His 2005 display includes over 25000 lights that he spent nearly two months and 000 to hook up. So that the Williams’ neighbors aren’t disturbed by constant noise, viewers driving by the house are informed by signs to tune in to a signal broadcast over a low-power FM radio station to hear the musical accompaniment. The rough quality of the video has led some viewers to believe it was put together in stop-action form from still photographs, but that is an artifact of the high compression used in the clip circulated via e-mail. Mr. Williams has posted instructions for recreating his “Wizard in Winter” sequencing, and another of his choreographed Christmas light music shows can be viewed here. Carson’s Christmas display proved so popular that it was featured in a Miller Lite beer commercial in December 2005.
Video Rating: 4 / 5