Written by Leigh Shambo
HEAL Facilitator Matney Cook lost a beloved friend, also a guide and colleague in her EFL practice, when her horse Mike peacefully and naturally left this world January 27th. I knew Mike too, and I know he touched so many lives, and changed Matney’s life in profound ways. I’m sorry for the loss for those who loved him, but also happy that Mike and Matney shared such a deep bond.
I loved Mike even though I did not know him well. I met Mike, and through him Matney, at a Horse Exposition called Celebrate the Horse! in 2007. I was to present on the topic of EFPL, both in classroom lectures and also a live demonstration. None of my horses were with me, but the organizer had assured me that she could find someone willing to loan me a horse. And that horse turned out to be Mike.
There is a lot to watch at a horse expo, and I was particularly enjoying one demonstration that included a horse being ridden without saddle or bridle: naked liberty. And that horse was Mike! Gracefully astride was Matney. She’d been doing some loping around, with turns, schooling figures… and then they were walking, and Matney smiling and waving, when the mounted shooting started in the adjacent indoor arena. BAM!! … BAM! BAM! Mike startled! Matney did too – for just a millisecond.
Then I saw the miracle of mammal to mammal trust and reassurance. In that millisecond I felt Matney’s instant concern for Mike. I felt him ‘hear’ her, and he was all about taking care of her. Bam! Bam! Bam! The shooting continued, sporadic and unpredictable. Between woman and horse, without any hint of force or control, confidence was restored and the show went on. Onward to my demonstration of EFPL, after the lunch break.
As confident as Mike had been with Matney, when she left him in the arena he got pretty nervous. As I introduced my topic to the audience Mike whinnied and paced near the corner closest to the gate, where he could see other horses and look for Matney. I finished my intro and took a volunteer from the audience. Did a quick body scan, helped her into a present-moment state, asked her to walk toward Mike and see if she could sense his space bubble at that moment. She sensed a rather large bubble… appropriate, really, given Mike’s agitation. I explored with the client if there was anything else she wanted to do or try… how did she feel, viewing Mike from this relative distance? “I feel content standing here watching Mike,” the woman said. “He hasn’t really noticed me, but that’s OK. It feels beautiful just to stand here and adore him.” She really meant it too – her face was soft with limbic resonance. At her words, Mike looked around as if seeing her for the first time. He gave her what I call “the limbic lock on”. Two eyes, two ears, penetrating gaze. Then he walked over to her and joined up. They walked all over the place, and Mike was settled, purposeful, and really with her. She was flooded with tears of joy for him to join her in this way.
My recollection of Mike would not be complete without sharing Matney’s reflections: “That day in Puyallup I saw a whole new side, not just of him, but of our relationship with horses during your demo. Mike brought so much healing into my life – including connecting me strongly with you and your teachings, and aiding me in integrating heart-centered beingness into my horsemanship teaching. He was patient and loving as I bumbled through, integrating deep feeling while first being around and working with horses from that new space, and later gaining my H.E.A.L. certificate. It all started with that day in Puyallup.”
We love you, Mike!