Learning To Be Loved

How often is our self-worth based on what we do or offer to others? If we find ourselves in this situation, when are we doing or being enough? Is this something unique to only humans? Butler, my companion and rescued off track race horse and I recently shared a great moment of awareness.

A little over a year ago it was shared with me that Butler’s purpose in life is to learn to be loved. “Well,” I thought, “that’s easy…he is loved!” His then foster Moms, Janelle and Judy, as well as I, loved him. He was surrounded by those who cared for him deeply and would do anything for him.

Butler’s life lesson has continued to come to the forefront of my mind from time to time. Logically it made sense to me, he is loved. Something told me there was more to this simple statement that I had yet to discover.

Last year Butler and I began training in dressage. I got the sense that he wasn’t really looking for a new career, but because I was enjoying it he was good with our new focus too. A month away from our first schooling test Butler was diagnosed with ringbone on his front right foot. We stopped training for a few weeks to rest his injury, and the farrier fit him with some corrective shoeing. Within a few weeks we were back to enjoying some light riding.

Not long after this he came down with a severe case of cellulitis in his right rear leg. Very painful, swollen and hot we went through weeks of sweat wraps and lots of hand-walking before the swelling finally went away.

On our walks we shared some intimate moments of communication and connection. We also decided that we wouldn’t train to compete. We’d continue with our lessons and focus on enjoying each other’s company and companionship whether that was riding or walking the trails together.

All seemed to be progressing according to plan, until last month. He hadn’t grown any new hoof for the farrier to replace his shoes so we left them off. We also discovered ringbone was developing on his left front foot too. I knew he’d become lame if I rode him without the corrective shoes. The best and only option for Butler was time off for a little R & R.

I began to pick up some anxiety from Butler. Not the normal anxiousness that he shows when he’s made to slow down and rest. It seemed deeper than that. Not long ago while walking with him I came to know and understand his anxiety and concern. For the majority of his life he’s been valued only when he was doing something, like racing. He knew too well that when he no longer met his owner’s expectations, he was no longer valued.

The light bulb went on! Now I understood more fully what his purpose to “learn to be loved” meant. To be loved unconditionally for whom he is, not what he does. He was afraid that since he wasn’t ride-able he wasn’t going to be valued. I couldn’t hold back the tears as my heart opened and experienced his concern and fear. As these feelings flowed through me I turned and put my arms around his tall, strong neck and let him know unconditionally that he was loved and was in his forever home. He’s valued for who he is in his heart and soul, and to me that is all that matters.

One could see a simple, yet drastic change, ripple through his body. Some of this ripple was relief. I also believe some was the guarded piece of his heart opening and experiencing, maybe for the first time, unconditional love at the core of his being.

This moment of awareness has me looking at my own life and how I perceive my own self-worth. Are there times when I only allow myself to feel valued when I’m doing something for another? Where do I let others “perceived” value influence my own sense of self-worth? And if so, how do I change the perception or eliminate allowing others de-valuing me?

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