Petra Heidenreich | A horse named Leila

Petra HeidenreichAS A HEALER WHO HAS WORKED WITH BOTH HUMANS AND ANIMALS, I now know that we humans share a deep connection with all the other beings on this planet. I wasn’t always aware of this, but after the conception of my second son, I was ushered into a world of spiritual connection to my children, other people, and animals. I was shown that I could heal with my hands, but, not trusting myself, found and studied with a Reiki master. Then I studied equine therapy, biofeedback, massage, and learned from experience. All of these experiences have taught me that animals love us so much that they will take on our issues and illnesses just to save us. And even the wild ones show us our fears and what we need to work on.

People often ask me how I know what animals are trying to say to us. The story I want to share with you describes the way in which one of my most remarkable teachers—a horse named Leila—taught me to trust the messages we receive from our animal relations. This is not a special ability of mine; it is a capacity we all have. It is why the indigenous ones say that in the old times the animals could talk. The animals still talk, but unfortunately, few humans listen. I hope you will join me in listening to what our animal friends want to say.

In my 30s I decided I wanted to reconnect with horses. I had two beautiful boys who were always with me, but I desperately needed some space for myself where I could enjoy a sport again, along with some time in nature. I’d had a wonderful time riding as a teenager on holiday in the North Sea Islands and thought I’d like to experience that again, so horseback-riding was my first choice. My friend Beate told me about a horse in her stable whose owner wanted to lease her out for riding. I thought it would be wonderful to be able to go riding with my friend.

The next day I met the owner, her riding instructor, and Leila, the horse, in the riding arena close to my home. As I introduced myself to the women I could feel Leila’s attention already on and in me, like a shower of fresh energy running through my body. As I turned towards her, looked into her eyes, and touched her, something remarkable happened. I truly touched her—not just her skin, hair or muscles, but I touched her whole being—her spirit, her emotions, all of her, and I knew she could feel and see all of me. It was absolutely magical; something I’d never experienced before. I asked if I could walk with her around the arena and the women said, “Sure, if she’ll go with you, but we doubt it, as she never goes with anybody but with us.” I turned again and asked Leila quietly in my mind, “Do you want to come?” and she came, her head next to my shoulder, making sure she kept touching me as she followed me through the arena, no lead rope, nothing. She stopped when I stopped, turned when I turned. There was instantly a deep love and unexplainable connection between the two of us; a knowingness that went beyond words. I was so very happy and of course I got the lease on the horse.

I was told that Leila was at times a bit stubborn and had thrown her rider a few times, which once caused a broken collar bone and the other time a broken shoulder. Her owner recommended that I just walk her on the trails as anything else would be too dangerous. As I got to know Leila better, however, I never experienced stubbornness. I was always happy to see her and gave her lots of love. Actually, in my normal state love just flows out of me, ready to be received if wanted, and Leila wanted it.

Other people from the stable were always watching us. Later I understood it was because Leila was considered a difficult horse and had hurt other riders. Everyone was waiting for some drama or disaster to happen, but to their disappointment nothing did. The moment I connected with Leila she became a different horse. She knew I would take care of her; she knew I would never hurt her; and she knew I would always protect her. In return, she accepted me. As the lead mare of her little herd she was usually in charge. With me, however, she was willing to be a partner. I did not really have to ask her to do anything, she simply knew, often even beforehand, and did what she perceived I wanted. Animals are very sensitive to thoughts and intentions. If you have a clear picture of what you need or want, an animal will very often understand. Whether or not they will oblige depends on the relationship they have with you.

Our first week together, we went for walks to get to know each other. I was a new rider, so most of the time I just sat on Leila’s broad back and felt her energy while chatting with my girlfriend. All went well. Leila behaved, no dangerous incidents occurred. The next week, Beate and I got a little bored and thought maybe we could trot a bit between the walks. I was sure I could rein Leila in at any time, if necessary. So we looked around, nobody from the stable was in view, and started trotting. Then we walked again and trotted again. All was well and I was in bliss. That went so well we thought we might try a very slow, collected canter. Leila was so cooperative the whole time, making sure I was able to stay in the saddle and taking really good care of me, I thought, “What could really go wrong?” So we cantered. Leila got very excited the moment she picked the picture of going for a run out of my mind. From one moment to the next, this wonderful cooperative mare changed into another being. There was no holding her back; no stopping her. She went for a run and all I could do was hold on to the “holy shit” handle on my western saddle. While she ran faster and faster, I started being able to feel what she was feeling, this deep need to run, to be free, to be the one in control of herself; her desperate need to feel alive again, not choked down by reins; not dominated or manipulated; not stopped or held back, just wanting her natural-born feeling of total freedom. It was the most amazing sensation I have ever experienced, aside from giving birth to my two boys.

So I let her run, and even though I knew she was beyond my control, she still made sure I stayed on top of her. It would have been so easy for her to get rid of me, but in all her run for freedom she still cared for me. Finally she got tired and wanted to stop, but I realized that we needed to establish some rules—one of them being that if I needed her to stop, she needed to listen, no matter what, as otherwise some dangerous things could happen. So now I kept pushing her forward. She was surprised but listened. Every time she wanted to slow down, I kept pushing until I felt that she was really very exhausted, and then I asked her to stop. She instantly stopped, happy that she could. From that time on, she never ever ran away with me again, as she knew I would always let her run, I would never dominate her, manipulate her or ask anything against her will. It was a true partnership, which most people do not think possible with a horse or any animal. She knew my strength and weaknesses and I learned hers. Where I was weak she took over and taught me; where she was weak, I gave her confidence and strength, so she knew she could do it. It was truly amazing and this high-strung, difficult horse became what dreams are made of.

Sadly we got caught. We should have known that the people in the stable were too curious to not spy on us and word got to Leila’s owner, who canceled my lease. I was desperate and in tears and Leila’s head was hanging. I felt her heart hurting as much as mine. Still I heard in my head, “Don’t give up.” A bit confused I went home, not sure what would happen, but in the following two months I connected with Leila in my mind and felt her with me a lot of times. Then one day I got a call from the owner: would I be interested in buying Leila? I was absolutely surprised, talked to my husband and happily was able to say yes. He could not stand to see me crying and grieving over this horse anymore. Beate asked, “Are you sure you want to buy an older horse for this kind of money?” I answered that even if I got to have Leila for just for one year, it would be worth it.

I found out that the change in Leila’s owner came because the girl who had taken over the lease to ride Leila had been bucked off a few times and hurt herself very badly the last time. She didn’t want anything to do with Leila anymore, nor did anyone else who knew the horse. I was the only solution. The smile on Leila’s face, the feeling of triumph and happiness I felt from her when I had signed the papers and told her, “Now you are mine,” was absolutely stunning. It was absolutely clear that she had intended this outcome all along. We’d found each other; connected; been forced apart; and Leila had devised a plan to bring us together again against all odds. I realize this is more than most humans are willing to give an animal credit for, but sometimes you have to live it and see it to believe it.

Leila and I started taking dressage riding lessons together. Although I had no idea what the instructor wanted, Leila performed like the perfect dressage horse—even executing difficult commands like flying lead changes—as if she’d been doing it all her life. Everything the instructor asked us to do, she did. The instructor then asked me why I said I was a beginner when obviously I could manage even the most difficult dressage maneuvers and she could not even see the cues I was giving my horse. I had to tell her, “This is not me who is performing. It is just the horse. All I am doing is sitting on her and trying to not get in her way.” The instructor did not believe me, so I told her, “She is picking up the pictures in your mind. Stop the pictures, use different words and stop the energy flow behind the instructions as much as possible. You’ll see.” It was not an easy task for her, but she did it and found out that I really did not have a clue about what I was supposed to be doing. Leila was the one who deserved all the credit. The woman was absolutely amazed—to the point that she started to rethink all of her training methods with other horses and we became good friends.

There are many more stories I could tell about this magical horse and all she taught me, but let me just share two more, as they are about complete trust and love.



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