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Horses on Easter Island – Part 3

February 20, 2011

Two full-grown horses we hadn’t seen before cantered to the other side of the fence and one touched noses with the mare, a gesture of reassurance. The men cautiously moved in closer, and she remained motionless. By now she was completely surrounded with two men at her head, three at her rear, and Randy, with the longest arms, angled beneath her belly on his knees, holding the right front leg and the injured left back leg, his chest pressed against hers, heart to heart. He could feel a palpable vibration of love with her. Instead of anxiety, she exuded relief, gratitude, presence and just a little confusion.

The men took turns severing the thick wire from her back legs. Watching, we could tell what strength it took to split each circle of wire in two. One man would nip through a wire, then hand the cutters to another man and they changed positions. It was slow going. I wondered how long the mare’s patience would last.

Our of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed our Rapa Nui driver with the stronger wire cutters racing toward us on foot. He screeched to a halt when he came within view of the mare and then silently stepped toward her. Within minutes, he had removed all of the wire. Amazingly, the mare held perfectly still throughout, though unwrapping the deeply imbedded wires must have been painful for her. The men had gained her trust. And the young foal stayed close and calm.

Then it was time for the five bottles of essential oils, (clove bud, helichrysum arenarium, cistus and thyme thuyanol) which cost hundreds of dollars, to be poured onto her wounds. As Barry worked, the oils must have stung but she didn’t flinch. Upon finishing, Randy and Barry both looked up at the same time to see our female Maori elder facing them, eyes closed, singing and vibrating her hands toward the earth as she swayed back and forth. They could feel her trance-like connection with the horses and the loving energy she was holding for the healing. Randy then realized it was the indigenous Rapa Nui and Maori peoples who truly resonated with the horses. They were most harmoniously connected with the Earth, speaking the same wordless language as all animals.

The men returned to the road where we held vigil. Our work successfully completed, we embraced each other with giant hugs as the tears flowed, tears of jubilation. The mare and foal walked gingerly back to the road, too, sniffed the water (it probably smelled odd compared to their crater-lake water) and started to graze.

When we returned to the buses with the news that the mare was now free, our fellow sojourners, many who had quietly circled together under the trees, exploded in celebration. Unbeknownst to us, they had been praying along with us the whole time. It had taken all 70 of us, along with our Rapa Nui friends, bonding together to release the mare. We were so elated, we practically floated to our next destination.

When we had each spent time with the intriguing Te Pito Kura/golden navel stone by the ocean, we headed back toward the bus. I was with two of the men who had freed the mare and we were still rejoicing. Then I noticed four horses coming in our direction. Their heads held high, they seemed to be moving purposely toward us, which was unusual. We slowed and they strode right up to us, stopping a few feet away with one horse in front, his eyes and ears intent on us. I began to cry as I realized they had approached us because somehow word had spread among the horse population. With focused attention, the lead male asked, “Are you the ones who saved her?” We replied that we were and they thanked us, saying they had been deeply worried about her and the foal. Then they ambled off.

Our devoted guides returned to check on the mare and refill her water twice that evening before the Tapati celebration. They reported that she seemed stronger each time.

During the opening night festival as we watched hundreds of dancers, singers and people speaking their native Rapa Nui language on stage, my thoughts remained with the mare. Many of us in our group continued praying for her recovery.

The following morning, we boarded the buses with great excitement on our way to meet 70-some horses for our long-anticipated trail ride. Our enthusiasm for deeper interactions with this sensitive, intelligent species was soaring after our encounter with the mother and son. And we were eager to see the spiritual petroglyphs along our equine-assisted journey.

We traveled the same southern road as yesterday on our way to the far side of the island. About halfway there, I realized the mare was nearby. She was communicating with us and the air was vibrating with her gratitude. I twisted around and around in my seat looking for her and finally got a glimpse of her and the foal through a window at the back of the bus. They had just crossed the road and were slowly heading toward fresh water. Cheers erupted as we became aware of the distance she had covered since we had last seen her.

Because of the severity of her wounds, she would probably always limp, but she could still enjoy a long life on the island.

trail ride

Jade with her horse before the trail ride across the northern part of the island.

When we arrived at the trail head, most of the trepidation we may have felt about riding quickly turned into loving admiration at the sight of these magnificent and gentle beings waiting patiently. Many of us just wandered around saying hello to them all. I wondered briefly if these horses, too, had heard of yesterday’s events. I supposed they had.

Our guides for the day informed us that this trail ride would be the largest one on the island in their lifetimes. And though many people in our group had never ridden a horse (and I secretly wondered how well these horses had been trained for novice riders), the day-long journey flowed almost without incident.

Greeting me for the day’s adventure was an innocent, three-year-old gelding, Red, who had never been on a trail ride before. In the saddle with him along the narrow path, I chatted as we got to know each other. His ears stayed glued in my direction, a good sign. Though I’m far from an accomplished horsewoman, I’d been on trail rides at my grandparents’ farm growing up. Acknowledging my prior experience in this situation, Red soon put his trust in me. And I did my best to fulfill my role as a good leader for him.

After a few hours we stopped for lunch at a dramatic overlook by the ocean. Freshly caught fish were soon smoking on an open fire as locally harvested potatoes, beets and lettuces were prepared for us. We feasted using palm leaves instead of utensils, the same as we had for our first Rapa Nui meal on the island.

Then with our bellies full, we formed a large circle. And it was here, after finding our rhythm with the horses, with each other, and with the natural world around us that we fulfilled the original purpose of this long journey to a remote Pacific island. In a simple ceremony between the Rapa Nui and the people who had arrived from all corners of the Earth, words of respect, love and forgiveness were spoken to help cleanse the shadow that hung over this island and these people.

Afterward, many of us honored this ancient indigenous civilization in a sacred cave, hearing stories of the spiritual messages that spawned the elaborate rock carvings on the walls.

Like the horses of my childhood, Red had become a dear equine friend that day and it was difficult saying goodbye when the trail ended. Today, I can still feel him, along with my Rapa Nui brothers and sisters. I remember their loving embraces. And my thoughts often return to the mare and her foal, now a three-year-old himself.

Reflecting upon this memorable journey, it seems that our unexpected opportunity to save the dying mare serves as a poignant metaphor for our healing journey with Mother Earth, the purpose of our trip. We released a tremendously grateful mare from her human-created bondage when it seemed that the situation was beyond our ability to help.

Horses grazing inside the bowl of a volcano crater on Rapa Nui. All photos by Midori Nishida.

Perhaps more importantly, she welcomed the expression of our innate goodness, a goodness that lives in all humankind. I believe it was largely because of our love for her that she regained her inner strength to support her healing journey.

And may our continual love for Mother Earth, from people all over the world, help Her regain Her inner strength to support Her healing journey as well.

Iorana and Maruru (goodbye and thank you, in Rapa Nui)




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