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This is a story of how a horse brought me back to connection. A wonderful highlight in my life. A brush with nature, unexpectedly revealing a side of myself thought to have been lost forever.

This is my tribute to nature, to softness and a grey horse.

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned had been taught through my pet animals.



My experience with horses was very limited to a few isolated incidents. I really had no clue. I am and have always been an animal lover, this is one of the reasons I wanted to try horse riding.

I wanted to spend time outdoors to break away from my work pressure and computer screen. Clear my mind, and get some fresh air and much-needed exercise. I ended up getting so much more.

And so it begun

I found a riding school close to home and went for my first lesson. After chatting to the trainer she gave me a book about a couple’s journey on deciding to adopt a new way of horse training. Horse training methods can be a very controversial subject and this story is not about that, but this subject put me on a path to exploring connection and communication.

The next week I asked the trainer to start me on groundwork instead. She told me about a ‘problem horse’ who bucks and asked if I wanted to work with him as he can do with the extra training and attention. I gladly accepted. I met him that same day.

Consi closeup

Closeup of Consi when I first met him. Image by www.madeleinwolf.co.za

We approached his paddock in the warm winter sun. A stocky, strong-looking grey horse with an I know something you don’t look in his eye. A crossbreed with a wild mane, a long tail and a fluffy dirty winter coat. He looked dignified and had a spark in his eye. Not like some of the subdued horses I’ve seen who seem to have lost their spirit to the deadly daily routine of a riding school. Not him, no, he bucks and throws them off for no apparent reason.

He needed a new name so we named him Consejero, which is Spanish for counselor. I could never have known how fitting this name truly was then. We called him Consi.

I’m game for a challenge, but I realised I had a great deal to learn. So I Googled and YouTubed and read all sorts of articles and books trying to get acquainted with this completely newfound interest. I read how horses can reflect our emotions. That they are sensitive creatures and often mistreated or misunderstood. How they can unlock deep hidden things in people. I am open to these touchy-feely concepts as I am highly intuitive and the horse sparked an intense interest in me.

Our Time Together

I went to the farm as often as I was able to, it ended up being a few times a week. It was a beautiful wine farm where we would take long walks with a halter and lead rope. We both felt free and content. Free to walk and run and enjoy each other’s company. Stopping to graze where the grass looked particularly green and lush. I would sit on the soft grass lost in the stillness watching small bugs do their thing and Consi would happily graze to his heart’s content. Which was one of his favourite activities. I quickly learned that grazing was one of the main things that’s on a horse’s mind.

Horse grazing

Grazing is his favourite activity.


We would walk to the dam and jog around the dam wall and up the dirt road under the long row of tall pine trees. Then slowly back down the rocky path and back to his paddock.

This was one of the most wonderful times in my life, feeling him being so attuned to my movements and subtle commands. Having such a large animal with just a rope between us almost sounds like a recipe for disaster. But we developed a wonderful understanding between us. It worked. We just knew and could predict each other's movements. It was fun. It was the first time in so long that I felt such a strong connection with an animal.

Trust & Anxiety

The first thing that became painfully clear from the very first lesson was that I was very anxious. I struggled to accept this. I never saw myself as an anxious person, but whenever I was around the horses I felt my heart and mind racing. I struggled to relax. Even just being in the yard around the stables with minimum interaction with the horses made me feel distressed.

Consi was a bit jumpy in the beginning too. He didn’t get out much at that stage and was easily spooked. Especially on days when the wind was blowing hard. We needed to get to know each other and develop trust.

 Me and Consi 2

Consi and me out on a walk.

The anxiety didn’t develop because of the horses, as the days went on I became aware of anxieties being prominent in my life in general. Being around these animals put me way out of my comfort zone and this exacerbated my anxiety to a level where it could no longer be ignored. I had a lot on my plate, I was working long hours and wasn’t practising proper self-care.

Whenever I was feeling particularly anxious Consi would be difficult on our walk that day. I was irritated by this situation but had to realise that the problem was me, not him. I needed to accept and deal with the anxiety I was experiencing. I had to accept it and face it because I wasn’t giving up spending time with Consi.

I had to learn to trust. Trust myself, trust our connection and be more carefree. It’s been so long that I haven't trusted my instincts anymore, I was thinking too much and living too little. I needed to become more like I was as a little girl and not take life so seriously.

Reactions Speak Louder Than Words

Consi was slowly teaching me about myself with every interaction. I had good days and I had bad days and so did he. Some people say a horse is like a mirror, just reflecting your own emotions back to you.

Whatever the truth may be, I learned a lot about myself in the way I reacted to him. Especially when he was being difficult. I got frustrated or even mad or overly stressed and anxious.

I would react without taking a step back to understand first. I did not display much patience on the down days. Or, I would get discouraged and start thinking up reasons to justify giving up.

Even when I had the best intentions, my reactions showed me that I was not nearly the person I aspired to be. My reactions showed me a person who did not practice self-compassion and who gets tripped up badly with perfectionism. I was using a hard ‘outer shell’ to protect myself from hurts and disappointments. So, I would act tough, but that is not who I am.

These things affected the relationships in my life and the way I viewed the world. It had to change. Now that things became apparent to me, I could focus on changing them.


 Closeup of horse

Consi looking at me. Image by www.madeleinwolf.co.za


This must be the biggest lesson I learned. The horse does not hide who he truly is, his softness is his biggest strength. He is sensitive, open and vulnerable.

I am soft-hearted. I am a highly sensitive person, a deep thinker and a feeler. Highly empathetic. The first time I found out that I was a Highly Sensitive Person was around the time I met Consi, and I was still trying to come to grips with this new revelation. Especially since this clashed with my rough and tough persona.

Until I accepted this and started being my authentic self, I could never be content. I would always be hiding my true self behind masks of jokes, and superficiality, being very straightforward and acting tough.

This was me being guarded and keeping people at a comfortable distance, to protect myself from hurt and disappointments. Being highly empathic is a gift, but if it’s not understood and managed it can become a big stumbling block.

The truth is, my guardedness was keeping me from truly living and having real connections. I have become so closed off that I couldn’t even find a connection with nature anymore. But now I was forced to face all these things.

Consi loved me unconditionally, he never judged me, and I was learning to be vulnerable with him. He taught me that I did not need the toughness to survive, but that my softness was my greatest strength. Whenever I tried to be something I was not, we clashed.

Every time I brought him back to his paddock after our walks I would remove the halter rope and let him go. Then I would bend down to call him to say goodbye, he would walk over to me and push his super soft nose up against my mouth, and I would kiss him. Sometimes he would move his head up and down three to four times and he gets a kiss every time he touches me. He decided how many kisses he wanted each time. This was our special thing.

Finding Connection Again

Me and Consi 1

Consi being silly with me.


I remember as a child how I could understand and connect with nature and animals. I used to feel more comfortable with animals than people and had a knack for understanding and handling them. This has almost been lost to me in my adult years. Until this new awakening with Consi.

Experiencing the connection that animals so generously offer was an awakening for me. It’s always been there, I was just not in an open space to see and receive it. I needed to dig it up underneath all the disappointments, hurt and self-protection. I needed to allow myself to be my authentic self.

I realised how empty I have been without this connection. Without ever making myself vulnerable. Completely honest moments of vulnerability and communication, without words, are priceless. It is felt, and mutually understood, it’s knowing, and being in the moment, together. Being in wonder. Admiration. A delightful exchange of hearts whispering unspoken beautiful things. It’s total acceptance of self, of another, and of what is in that moment.

Moments like these simultaneously raise me and bring me to my knees. Absolute happiness and contentment together with overwhelming humble gratitude, a realisation of how small I truly am. Undeserving.

Nature is not partial to anyone but gives to anybody open and willing. In our busy world, there are fewer and fewer people who take the time to stop and smell the roses. Constantly chasing after the next thing and the next. Endlessly wanting, needing, taking, and chasing like desperate junkies after the next high.

Real connection feeds our souls and nourishes us mentally. We are all inter-connected beings, made to want to connect to nature and one another.

Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. – Brené Brown

I cannot imagine life without this connectedness anymore. Honestly, that is no life. Since this awakening, I needed to learn to open up and be vulnerable with the important people in my life too. To become my true self, to just be me. The more open I become, the more connections I will experience in nature and with people.

My time with Consi ended. It was a season, a glorious time of awakening, breaking open and exploring. I will be forever grateful for the time I could spend with him and the lessons he taught me. His heart reached mine flooding me with new life. He was generous, and kind. Wise and difficult.

He is everything I need and more.

One day.

Madelein Wolfaardt Author

Article by
Madelein Wolfaardt

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