Animal Medicine: Developing Body Awareness


Self Portrait with Unicorn by Remedios Varo

Given your interest in my recent posts about horses, I thought you might enjoy another story. This one is from 2013. Re-visiting it brought back great memories, many about Shadow, but some about people I’ve met through this blog over the past 11 years. Catherine and Deborah are two beautiful like-minded women who live in other parts of the world. They both commented on that early version and it was fun seeing what they wrote. I never would have enjoyed their friendship all these years had I not taken the leap to start a blog. I’m so grateful now to claim them as treasured internet sisters. I’ve learned a lot from them, and from the rest of you who have taken the time to comment. Thank you all.

The subject of old friends and followers is a natural segue to one more thing I want to say. The winner of the book giveaway I announced last week is another beautiful like-minded sister….Shannon Adams! Shannon, please email me your address and the name of the person you’d like me to sign my book to and I’ll put it in tomorrow’s mail.  Thank you! And thank you all who entered.

My story:

When it comes to body awareness, my horse Shadow was a genius. In this respect, he was the opposite of my conscious cerebral self, which tends to be so inner directed and one-track minded that I can be oblivious to what’s going on in my body and the world around me. Have you ever known someone who can be feeling vaguely uncomfortable for hours before realizing she’s cold, or hungry, or has a headache? Or who can be standing directly in front of the object she’s looking for and simply not see it? That’s me. Or it was me before Shadow.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory says I’m a very strong intuitive, which means that my sensory awareness is equally weak. My desire to shed some light on this shadowy area of my being was one reason I bought Shadow, for I knew that training and learning to ride him well would be a demanding mental and physical challenge with the potential to bring more awareness and balance to my personality.

One day shortly after I bought him we spent about forty-five minutes in a large fenced arena doing ground exercises meant to generate mutual respect and bonding. When we were finished I took off his halter and let him loose to explore the arena on his own while I went over to the gate to talk to Sissy, the owner of the stable. As Shadow ambled away, the sky, which was gray when we started, grew more threatening, the wind picked up, and I heard rumblings of thunder in the distance. When I had bought Shadow he had a lumpy rash on his back which comes from rain that sits too long on the skin; so, as an inexperienced and over-protective new owner, I was more anxious than necessary about keeping him dry.

Suddenly I felt a rain drop. Startled and worried that a downpour would soon follow, I said to Sissy, “Oh, oh, I need to get Shadow,” and turned in his direction. From the far corner of the arena he lifted his head and pointed his ears at me. And then, to my astonishment, he walked directly toward me. When he reached my side he stood stock still and ducked his head to make it easier for me to put on his halter. I did, and we walked quietly to his stall.

I was stunned. I felt as if he had read my mind and for a moment was convinced I had a brilliant telepathic horse on my hands! Actually, as any horse owner knows, horses do at times appear to be extremely telepathic; but I don’t think this is the whole explanation for what he did. I think all our bonding activities that day had caused him to accept me as his leader — an alpha mare, if you will — and made him acutely sensitive to my every movement.

Even though he had his back turned to me and was nibbling at grass sprouting through the fence, this expert reader of body language was keeping an eye on me. When I reacted to the rain drop, my body must have changed from a posture that spoke of casual relaxation to one of alarmed alertness. Seeing that something was wrong, he was drawn to me in the same way a fearful child seeks the comfort of a trusted parent in a tense situation.

I’ll never be as aware of physical matter as I am of my inner life. It’s just the way I’m made, and that’s okay. But thanks to Shadow, I’m more aware of my body’s messages to myself and others.  Unfortunately, I’m still a lousy finder!

Image Credits: Pinterest

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Her Wilbur Award-winning book, Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Her new Nautilus Award-winning book, The Soul’s Twins, is available at Schiffer, Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit and wherever books are sold. Subscribe to her newsletter at



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16 Responses

  1. Yesterday, in the book on my lap, I read an old alchemist tells one of his disciples, “No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you out.” And so it is that yourself, Elaine, Susan and Aladin sought me out and my life is infinitely richer for it. Hmm, perhaps we have always been together, in this mysterious unknown, or at quantum level as you recently describe it on my blog, in which we are all bound. Whatever it is, I love it!

    I think it was from your original post that I had one of those “a-ha!” moments as I made the connection between my love of hiking in the mountains and my own unconscious, thankfully now conscious, attempt to balance out my own strong intuition with my lack of body awareness as I resonated deeply to not knowing how my body felt. And I suspect this is one of the chief reasons I married Lin who works as a physiotherapist! Another beautiful, unknown friend who sought me out! Such is the beauty, joy and mystery of life!

    Thank you so much Jeanie for revisiting this story about you and Shadow. I love hearing the stories that matter in your life! Like Catherine, the first time, I was with you in the thunder and the rain! And today I’m reminded that I need to pull on my walking boots on and move my body as it’s very unhappy with being sat here on the sofa this past week as it weeps and wails through the grief and heartache of my mother’s death. Yes, I need to move it and I shall! Thank you for the reminder, I needed it! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. When I read your quote from the old alchemy text, I thought how far ahead of their time the alchemists were. And then I realized there have been wise women and men like that throughout recorded history–Jung was one of many in our time–but many of them had to hide their wisdom for fear of persecution by the regressive tendencies of the psyche, which are every bit as powerful as the innate urge to evolve! Fortunately, the universe seems to be on the side of evolution!

      Yes, the post you responded to was from April 19, 2013. I wish there were an easier way for you to find the early posts in my archives. I’ll have to ask my media tech person if he can arrange that. Meanwhile, I’m posting that comment here for you to read again:

      Deborah says:
      April 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm
      Hi Jeanie,
      That was a wonderful post! As an INFP it helps me to understand that I could probably do with developing my body awareness more, as I am certainly more tuned ‘in’ than ‘out’. Thank you for sharing this story. I had to smile when I read ‘Shadow’s’ name, it fits perfectly – pure animal medicine indeed!
      May I ask (only briefly), in what other ways could an INFP develop their body awareness if they didn’t ride and could these ways help ‘another strong intuitive’ to round out their personality more? Thank you.

      Here was my response:

      Thanks, Deborah. For me, a passionate horse lover, having a horse to train and ride was the best motivator I could think of to get me outside and physical and more attentive to my body and the world around me. What would work best for you would depend on your interests. Examples would be dancing, exercising, yoga, massage therapy, running, bicycling, swimming, hiking, gardening, mindfulness based meditation, cooking, and so on. Essentially, whatever draws your attention into the outer world and helps you be more observant of it. Most of us do lots of things like that anyway, so the point is just to do them more mindfully, with all your senses engaged instead of grudgingly or absent- mindedly. Best of luck to you.

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your mother. As I recently wrote on your blog, I’m just glad you and she worked out your issues and found forgiveness and love well before she passed. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier. The Mother and Father archetypes serve the instinct for nurturance, the one most vital to our very survival. Although human parents can never give us everything we need to feel totally safe and secure in this world, we pin all our expectations hopes and hurts on them until we establish relationships with the archetypes, and that’s the work of a lifetime. Meanwhile, as you know, of course, conscious grieving, and doing our work conscientiously, and caring friends aid the healing process.

      Thinking about you with sympathy and love my friend,


      1. What a wonderful response! Thank you so much Jeanie for your beautiful, kind-hearted words! Wow, I thought I’d only met you, Elaine and Susan online six years ago, it turns out it was eight! Eight magical years … with many more years to come.

  2. Jean,

    Since I had met Shadow many years ago and feel that I understand you mostly from your writings, and because I have a deep connection with my own horse; all I want to say is that you are so right about awareness; to your body’s message, yourself and I feel to others.
    Love the post.


    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Fern. I know you understand because you’ve experienced these things yourself! We’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to share our lives with a beloved horse. Blessings, Jeanie

  3. Jeanie, I’m away on an art retreat in a beautiful part of the garden route. Walking the beaches when not at easel and seeing the glory of nature while stretching my muscles, brings me more in tune with my body, something that is distinctly lacking in my make up. The sunsets never fail to astound me and bring up a welling in my being and I almost feel my blood corpuscles expanding. This is happening more frequently and I’m so grateful for this awareness.
    As well as for the awareness of people like you and Deborah and others who expand me in ways for which I will be forever indebted. Love, susan

    1. Your art retreat sounds idyllic. There’s nothing like creating something original of your own, spending quality time manifesting the images coming from your own psyche, and at the same time, being fully present with the miracle of your body and wonders of nature. I hope you’ll share one of your creations on your blog when you return home. Thank you for taking the time to share what’s currently bringing you into a fuller awareness of your body, psyche, and life. Much love, Jeanie

  4. I enjoy a lot reading your stories about horses and especially Shadow (It is an interesting name), and can also believe in you as a horse whisperer. And I may feel flying into the sky so proudly, as I read the comments in which my littleness has been mentioned by such great authors and wise women. my soul will be fulfilled by cheering-up.
    I concede that I am not present so often where I would like to be. It might because of so much trash and stuff that I have to do every day, or my eyesight is getting older, aside from my poor English? I don’t know, but I will try to stay and keep learning as I always wish to do. Thank you, dearest Jeanie, for your being there so reachable for me.

    1. Hello Aladin, and thank you for sharing your warm, humble, and loving heart with your readers on your blog and with the writers you follow. My writing and inner life are often so compelling that I am not as present to the miracle of life and the people I care about as I would like to be either. Perhaps practicing presence by giving our full attention to each moment without self-judgment, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, is enough to fulfill our souls and feel ourselves flying proudly into the sky. 🙂 Jeanie

      1. Without self-judgment or prejudice, that is exactly what I wanted to say. My attention to my loveliest friends is present though it is mostly invisible. You know, I am an introvert, not only avoiding personal connections, but it’s also on the internet, it might sound funny! But I will never lose any wisdom out of my sight. Gratefully as always, dear Jeanie

        1. I understand. I’m an introvert too, although that’s mostly in face-to-face social situations. I simply find it easier to express myself with the written word than the spoken word. As an introverted, intuitive, feeling type who prioritizes my personal values and goals over collective values, i know how sincere we are, how we keep our feelings in, and how deeply we seek self-knowledge and wisdom. For me it’s mostly self-criticism and fear of not being understood that causes me to withdraw. But I need my friends and am extremely grateful for them. My best, Jeanie

  5. Thought I share this ‘free’ newsletter, recommend some time ago by my son.
    It’s about the ‘good news’ around the globe.

    In the last letter it mentions that Animal rights activists in the UK have won a major victory with a landmark reform that legally recognizes animals as sentient beings.
    This made me smile. Who would have thought?

    1. Well that makes my day!! I never expected to see that in my lifetime! Those of us who love and live with animals know how sentient they are. They love, they mourn, they assist, they care, they defend, they suffer, they feel pain, they learn. What more does it take to earn the label of “sentient?”

      Thank you for sharing this newsletter. I have subscribed and look forward very much to receiving more good news.

      i hope you’re enjoying a beautiful spring, Ashen. Jeanie

        1. Unusually cool in Florida too. Of course, that’s a blessing to us. The rain was normal.

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