I created the Messenger in 1995 from the inspiration of seeing a picture of a beautiful horse running on the beach. I was inspired to paint the horse with wings. There was something about this horse that felt very familiar, and while I was creating it, and ever since, it has remained one of my most cherished works of art. The original hangs by my desk — framed in silver wood carved with cherubs.
I later found out that the photograph I had worked from, was a memorial for the horse pictured…
A year later I attended a short workshop by a local shamanic practitioner who offered to guide the audience through a meditation designed to help us meet our “Animal Totem”. I was very intrigued and really thought that I would try to stay completely neutral because surely it would be easy to imagine my guide would be a horse, and I wanted the meditation to not be affected by my expectations. Therefore I was even more affected when the guide that did appear to me, was indeed, a horse. And not just any horse, but a white horse with wings.
There are many stories about Messenger’s gifts to me, but two I’d like to share are on the subject of faith.
Sometimes our faith in the power of good is tested, especially when we witness abuse of animals. Yet in times when I despaired that there was no comfort for the helpless animals of the world, I was given a sign, by one of the most powerful healers of all, the spirit of the horse.
I had arranged to stay overnight at a client’s home, to photograph her horse for his portrait. As she gave me the quick tour of their small farm, I noticed a dog barking incessantly on the other side of the fence bordering the neighbor’s property. I commented on it, and my client said the dog was chained up, and that there was a horse living there too. She didn’t know if the horse was ever fed, and she had thrown hay over the fence on occasion, but was afraid of doing more. She admitted she was disturbed by the conditions the animals lived in, but she had resigned herself that there was nothing more she could do as she didn’t think the authorities would investigate and she was afraid her neighbors would threaten her own property or animals if she were to bring accusation against them.
I peeked through the fence and could just make out the horse in the dark, standing among piles of trash, and subjected to the endless barking of an angry and hopeless dog.
That night I couldn’t sleep for thinking of them both. I wondered what could I do? I would be flying home the next day — 3,000 miles away.
The next morning as the plane took off, I began listening to a music cd I had purchased on my trip. When I bought it, there was something that told me the music was truly powerful and I intended to plan its use in a film about horses. The cd is called Agnus Dei, and is choir music that is hauntingly beautiful. The first song is also titled Agnus Dei — which I later discovered means “Lamb of God”
As I heard the rising chords of music, I began to weep for the animals in that sad place, and for all horses who are in lost places. I wrote the following poem through my tears, and it became a prayer…
The horse is a holy creature
sent to this earth to remind us of the Divine
He is uniquely connected to us.
He is our benevolent companion
and our guide
to the beingness we have forgotten.
His four strong legs carry us when we are weak
from the burdens of life.
His beauty inspires us
when our eyes are weary from crying.
His spirit uplifts us when our hearts lie dormant
Let us not forget.
Let us not abandon him
or any of his kind.
Let us not relegate him to a beast of burden
but acknowledge his unselfish gifts.
Let us always care for him as long as his legs touch the earth
He is our reminder of what grace is
He is our return to grace
Only by awakening to the true awareness of the horse
can we ever expect to understand him.
He speaks to us in the language of the heart, not the mind.
His true self is only given to those who seek to comprehend
Only those who ask
rather than demand
will receive his undying loyalty and generosity of spirit.
to the message of the horse . . .
~ Kim McElroy
A few weeks later I was in touch with my client. I asked if anything had improved next door. She said, “You know it is a funny thing, the week after you left, a horse trailer came and picked up the horse…” I felt that my prayer had been answered…
Another time, the Messenger sent me a sign when I needed his light again. In 2005 I drove with my friend Connie to nearby Vancouver, Canada for an exciting retreat with Linda Kohanov and other equine assisted facilitators, at Sandra Wallin’s Chiron’s Way Equine Experiential Learning center. I was scheduled to showcase my art that night at a lecture with Linda at a nearby theater.
We drove up to the bed and breakfast that had been recommended, as it was the closest place to where we were attending the workshop. In addition the bed and breakfast had horses! We thought, what better way to spend our time surrounded by horses day and night in workshop and in sleep.
We parked at the closed gate and got out of the car, chatting happily about our upcoming experience, and then both of us stopped, shocked, in our tracks. Staring back at us were half a dozen horses in various conditions of neglect. They were all extremely thin and hollow eyed. Some wore blankets despite the summer heat. They stood in dirt paddocks barren of grass and looked at us with eyes of sadness. We stood rooted, neither of us could think what to do or say. We didn’t want to enter the property with no one there, but we knew we had to do something. We said to the horses, we will try to help, and numbly got back into the car. We had to rush to get to the auditorium to set up for the lecture, but I was in no state to be talking to people about my art. On the way there we tried to compose ourselves and discussed what we would do to confront the owners, and we needed to make new arrangements for accommodations as we obviously weren’t staying there. We said a prayer for the horses and vowed to do whatever we could. But again, it was a helpless feeling, knowing we were in another country — away from home, and not knowing the laws or procedures. I kicked myself for not having the presence of mind in my shock, to take pictures of the horses and their conditions.
Connie and I unloaded the car and began to set up my art in the lobby of the auditorium. The canned jazz music playing over the loudspeaker seemed a surreal counterpart to the emotional state we were in. After several trips to and fro — I entered the building again. And I heard an entirely different piece of music… Agnus Dei — was playing on the loudspeaker… of all music, of all the places… of all the times I needed to hear it. I ran out to Connie with tears rolling down my face, and told her that there was hope…
The story is a long one, but suffice it to say that night we did confront the owners of the B&B who denied anything was wrong and they were outraged at our gentle but firm accusations. They said that sometimes they left their horses blanketed in the winter and they got a little thin. But that was all. The authorities did follow up on our complaints but nothing was done. However, the miracle that occurred was through human angels in the form of a couple who were also participants at the workshop. They too saw the conditions of the horses, and bravely stayed on as guests of the B&B. They worked their way into the confidence and trust of the people and learned their story and their excuses, and gently tried to point out the conditions of the horses in a way that was non-threatening. In the end, they were even allowed to buy one of the horses, and she lives happily to this day as a shining example of their dedication and ability to forge into the darkness, and find the light.
“The Messenger” continues to provide me with healing and support in my art and in my life. I am forever grateful for his gift…
~ Kim McElroy