Unexpected Healing: How Horses Changed My Heart.

I recently stumbled across an old photo that was taken of me as a child, sitting on the first horse I ever met. I was struck by the look on my face. It was like I belonged in a saddle and I didn’t have a fear in the world. Not to mention the ridiculous outfit my mother thought was a good idea.

Michelle Meals Horse

Most little girls go through a horse-crazy phase at some point in their lives.  It happened to me when I was twelve. My parents tried every hobby you can imagine: basketball, tennis, swimming, cheerleading, but none of them fit and I could never quite run with those crowds. Those girls were prettier, more popular and they hit puberty about five years before I did.  It wasn’t until I stumbled across horseback riding that I found the one sport I didn’t fumble my way through.

As a child of divorce I had put on the face of a perfectionist, but I was struggling on the inside and had lost my confidence. “You aren’t good enough” played on a loop inside my mind and kept playing for years.  Being around horses was just about the only place I felt I could accomplish anything. A girl stands a little taller when she can be in charge of a 1,000 pound animal. I tucked away my boots for almost 20 years, but recently a group of girlfriends convinced me to start taking lessons again. And just like that, horses were back in my life.

Every once in a while you meet a horse that changes you. Bella is one of those. A beautiful bay mare, she’s smart and gregarious and endearing when she wants to be. But Bella is also feisty and spunky. I always know how Bella feels in any situation. The first time she tried to buck me off, I knew we shared the same fears. I get this horse. We both have a propensity to “spook.” I often wonder if Bella could talk, if we might share some of the same self-limiting stories from our past that fill us with fear.

Lately, Bella and I have been learning to face up to our feelings. It’s hard work. I’ve invested in years of therapy, solid friendships and a husband that has brought more healing into my life than he could know. Bella has traded in her city stall for a life out to pasture.  We’re both finally learning how to become the strong, courageous creatures we were always meant to be. We’re learning to stop reacting to what leaves us scared. For me, she represents the one essential truth about myself : even though I’ve endured a rough road and I wrestle with fear, somehow my heart remains open and full of life.

Bella out to pasture

Bella in her new pasture with one of her best horse friends. I bet they swap stories while munching.

While Bella can’t talk to her friends about her feelings, I know how important it is for women to have a community of support. We need a place where we can tell our most trusted confidants how we’re really doing on the inside. That’s why I’m so glad to be a part of HeartStories. The lessons of love I’m learning in the saddle translate so much into our mission to help women get honest about their fears and insecurities. We all face them and HeartStories wants to be a resource to help us all do just that.

Bella and many other friends along my journey have empowered me to uncover the soundtrack in my mind. Thank you, Bella. For everything you’ve taught me the last few years. I’m more ready than ever to find all the sacred places of possibility in my life, thanks to you.

Michelle & Bella

Bella and I at the Big D Charity Horse Show in Dallas this past Spring. We won 3 blue ribbons that weekend. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Unexpected Healing: How Horses Changed My Heart.

  1. Love you Meesh! And miss you too. Very excited about the next chapter of your life and all the opportunities ahead. Keep up the great work – inspiring others and changing lives!!

  2. What an amazing story Michelle.

    Wrestling with fear while keeping your heart open is so essential to fully healing and something we all need to be reminded of.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and Bella with us!

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