As a horse-crazy child, there was a secret game I used to play on the way to the barn after school. I would close my eyes and visualize my grumpy, dappled-gray pony in his 20-acre field. If I concentrated hard enough, I could see him like he was standing before me, down to the last detail: what horse he was standing next to, what tree he was under, whether he was nibbling at grass or taking a nap in the sun. Upon arrival, I would leap out of the car and race to his pasture, where I'd find him exactly as I'd imagined. In turn, he would give me a weary look, as if to say: "Poor child. You think you're so special."
There were other things, too. I could predict the winner of a horse race with 100-percent accuracy simply from watching them walk to the starting gate. I'd have a dream that a horse had hurt itself, only to find out in the morning that it was true. Family pets were subject to long conversations, which I perceived to be two-way.
At some point, though, it occurred to me that I was acting like a weirdo. I didn't want to be the world's youngest cat lady; I wanted to be a normal kid. I quit talking to the animals, and the animals quit talking back.
According to Shelly Howley, a local telepathic animal communicator, "weird" may actually be normal. "We all have a little psychic in us," she says. "Everyone possesses the power; it's just a matter of whether or not you want to use it. It's all about energy- Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there."
Howley says she's always had a knack for animal communication. "I knew that I was different," she says of her childhood. Confounded by their daughter's strong connection with animals, Howley's parents took her to a child psychologist. But Howley didn't allow her abilities to be censored. Instead, she says, "I decided to embrace my gift."
Howley is now the proprietor of Healing Human Paws in Maryville (www.healinghumanpaws.com). She has worked with animals ranging from dogs and cats to goats and horses - she's even worked with a whale. Communication, she says, can be used to solve many behavioral issues and strengthen the bond between owner and pet. "You'd be surprised what animals will tell you," she says.
Today, Howley lends her own psychic abilities to emergency situations - if a pet is lost, for instance - but prefers to show people how to communicate with their animals themselves. "The animal doesn't want to talk to me," she explains. "The animal wants to talk to you. I'm just a bridge to get you started." In addition to animal communication, Healing Human Paws offers workshops on topics including essential oils, pet massage, herbs and green living.
Howley openly admits that her own psychic abilities are dwarfed by those belonging to her 11-year-old daughter. "She is just so cool," Howley enthuses. "Children are so much more in tune."
I think back to my own childhood. Was it too late to rekindle that part of myself that was squashed so long ago by science and skepticism?
"Go talk to your horse," Howley commands.
OK, I think, but I'm going to need some help. I contact Kristin Thompson (www.communicatewithanimals.com), a New York-based animal communicator who comes highly recommended from a friend. We set up an appointment for a three-way phone consultation between Thompson, my current competition horse Maggie, and me. All she asks is that I email her a photo and the barest of background information beforehand.
The time for our consultation arrives, and I dial Thompson's number. She picks up the phone and explains that she and Maggie have already been chatting and that Maggie has plenty to say. She goes on to describe Maggie's personality in perfect detail, articulating some of the training issues we've been having and offering creative solutions. It's almost as though Maggie and I have just been speaking different languages, and with Thompson standing in as our translator, we are finally seeing eye-to-eye. By the end of 45-minutes, I am in tears, filled with an enlightened new understanding of my very special horse.
I don't know if I will ever regain the animal communication abilities I had as a child (which is too bad because I sure could win some money at the track.) However, for the sake of my horse's happiness and well-being, I am committed to giving it a try. Now, before I turn Maggie out in her pasture at the end of the day, I stand beside her for a few minutes. I close my eyes, and, as much as possible, try to quiet my busy mind and be open to what my horse may have to say. We never know what we might hear if only we take the time to listen.