Last month we were absolutely delighted to have published A Horse Called Now – a calm and reassuring story about overcoming worries and living in the present moment, written by Ruth Doyle & illustrated by Alexandra Finkeldey. And today, we’re very excited to be sharing a guest post from Ruth!
I’m lucky to be able to share my life with three special horses and it was my big horse, Winnie who inspired me to write, A Horse Called Now. This book is also the culmination of many years of interest in mindfulness and mental health, as well as my understanding and experience of the healing power of both horses and the natural world.
Winnie the horse who inspired A Horse Called Now
While training as a nurse, I worked in a psychiatric hospital and was deeply affected by the patients’ stories. I began to truly appreciate the fragility of mental health and started to study mindfulness and more recently, equine therapy, as tools for mental respite and healing.
The world is facing a global mental health emergency with our children being particularly affected. The arrival and dominance of the internet and mobile phones, the pressures created by social media and our increasing disconnection from the natural world, have all contributed to this crisis. I started thinking that it could be helpful to write a story about living in the Now, as a method of controlling and soothing anxiety and how that might be done in a way that was accessible to children.
Enter, A Horse Called Now. I began writing the story after watching my horse grazing in her field. She was strong, gentle and present in the Now…the perfect name for a horse who would embody the power of living in the moment! I knew she was a good listener, immersed in the beauty of the natural world. I imagined what her sensory awareness might be. Horses use emotional responses from other animals and humans as information, and they can hear heartbeats from four feet away! All around her the wild rabbits were scurrying, rooks were squawking, and our pet sheep were noisily ‘baaing’. I wondered what she thought of their frantic levels of activity…
I knew that Now would want to calm the ‘boom-boom heartbeats’ of her animal friends by reminding them to relax into the moment. The animals around Now allow their fears to escalate and work themselves into a frenzy! She listens sympathetically but reminds the others that the things they’re worrying about, might never happen. She offers a soothing refrain to bring them back into the present, “At this moment, all is well.” Since writing the book, I often find myself using this mantra if I start to worry!
Anxiety causes so much suffering and yet often proves to be based on unfounded fears. Now suggests this to her friends by repeating that bad things, ‘might not’ happen. Her friends are terrified of perceived predators but by the end of the story, they have learnt that the animals they were so afraid of, feel vulnerable too. Fear is a universal feeling.
I hope that children will feel empowered after reading this story. Empowered to know that their fears are valid and that everyone is afraid sometimes but also to believe that they can find a way to manage some of those fears. Now teaches the others about being aware of their breathing, of letting, “feelings come and then go.” This idea of acknowledging, but not attaching to our anxieties, can be a useful tool for gaining a sense of peaceful control in fearful situations. It’s a technique that children can find helpful and reassuring and so I wanted Now to share this with her friends.
Understanding impermanence is another mindfulness technique that helps to give perspective to anxiety. Life is ever-changing and acknowledging that everything will eventually pass, even the scariest moments, can be a soothing and mindful practice. Now has learnt that, “Nothing lasts forever” and “…even the wildest storms will always end” and shares this understanding with her friends. I wanted to show how sharing fears with others can bring comfort and relief and I hope the book will open-up conversations – and the opportunity for mutual support.
My horses have helped me through grief, trauma and displacement. I’m always amazed and honoured when they choose to stand or walk with me, rather than roam their paddock, or continue grazing. All my animal friends have enriched my life and left huge pawprints in my heart but this book is dedicated to my little herd who have taught me so much and inspired a story which I hope will leave readers big and small, feeling empowered and peaceful.
Ruth’s two horses Diesel and Wilson
Thank you, Ruth!
Take a look inside: