Lurking in the Grey

horse on seashore

Photo by Nika Akin on

Consider for a moment what the word trauma means to you …..

I assure you, trauma is likely not what you think it is.  Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is what society and culture tells you it is.  We’ve all heard the heroin’s story of surviving years in captivity, feeling hopeless as hour upon hour they survive repeated raping, beatings and threats on their life.  The horror stories of war and what our soldiers witness during their tours of duty in a foreign land where anything goes and the barbaric nature of another culture is forced upon them in a flash.  This is the black and white of trauma.  Have you considered that trauma also has many, many, many shades of grey?

I have been humbly supporting a fellow student and soon to be fellow graduate with his website verbiage this past week and in the process we got on the topic of trauma and what it means.  Within the EGCM model, trauma is viewed as anything that has negatively impacted and shifted a person’s reality.  This shift may not be something we would deem huge and monumental, it may be far more subtle and insidious.

The wind was icy, cutting through my layers of winter gear, howling out of the north.  I asked my big, young, bay Thoroughbred, “Liam”, to step onto the trailer and up into the space between the dividers where he would securely and safely travel to the vet.  “Good boy, big Bayby.  You are becoming quite the road warrior!  We’ll be there in a blink.”  I took a deep breath, fighting back tears.  “It’ll all be okay.”  I said to him as I secured the back door and walked along the side of the trailer looking at the tires, drop windows and doors, doing my mental pre-flight check on autopilot.  “It has to be okay.” I mumbled to myself.

I crawled into the little two wheel drive dually we affectionately call, “The Gangster” and put her in first gear, gently rolling up our driveway and out onto the county road.  I eased along down the hill, across the bridge, winding my way out to the highway.  As I began grabbing gears and getting up to highway speed, I traveled back in time to a similar trip to the vet many years before.  The sweet black horse with a big star on his forehead we called, “Luke”, had been lame off and on.  Multiple vets had worked him over, taking multiple x-rays trying to determine the root cause of his lameness to no avail.  That fateful morning, I went out to feed and he was barely able to stand.  He looked neurological to me, as if I could gently press my index finger to his side and knock him to the ground.  I bundled the kids up, buckled them into their car seats, hitched up the trailer and prayed he wouldn’t fall on me as I lead him to the trailer and loaded him.  Once on the trailer, I put him in the smaller stall in the very front of my trailer where I had to push hard against the divider to get it to latch, squishing him a bit between the short wall and the divider.  I prayed fervently that he wouldn’t fall on the 45 minute haul to the vet.

When we arrived, I unloaded “Luke”, staying as clear of him as I could so if he fell, I was out of his way.  As I undid the kids car seat harnesses, I instructed my son quite sternly to stay back and hold my hand.  I strapped my daughter into the backpack that kept her safely up and out of harms way on my back and we walked into the indoor arena where the vet was waiting for us.  He agreed, whatever was going on was neurological thinking maybe the mystery lameness might have something to do with it.  And so, yet another lengthy lameness exam ensued.  As he slapped the x-rays up on the lighted screen I gasped, tears beginning to silently slip down my cheeks.  What I saw was a joint that didn’t exist anymore.  “Jess,” the vet said quietly, “I have no idea how this horse is still standing.  As you can see, the fetlock joint is completely gone.  It should have broken as the trailer bounced and bumped along the road on your way here.  This didn’t look like this comparing a few months ago.  I’ve not seen this kind of degeneration ever.  And the neurological symptoms have nothing to do with the fetlock degeneration.  That’s entirely new.”  I took a deep breath, absorbing his words, the images in front of me and the shock waves that were consuming me, knowing that I had no choice,  I was going to be euthanizing my young gelding.

As I turned off the highway with “Liam”, I wiped yet another tear from my eye.  That fateful day so many years ago, I had hauled up to the vet without even a forethought that I would be comforting heartbroken toddlers and dragging an empty horse trailer back home.  “Jess, this is not the same.  Yes, it’s a mysterious lameness however it’s not the same.  Get your shit together sister!”  My version of a pep talk!  As I unloaded “Liam”, and kissed him between his eyes, I took a deep breath recognizing that what I was reliving was a past trauma that I hadn’t recognized for what it was.  I hadn’t taken seriously the indelible mark that day had left upon my heart.  It wasn’t until I realized that the tension I was carrying was not so much from the concern I had for “Liam”, as it was concern that I was going to relive that cloudy spring day.

“Good to see ya!  You ready to get started with this big ol’ beast?” he asked me.  I stroked “Liam’s”, strong neck.  “Yep.  Let’s see if we can at least pinpoint whatever is going on with him.”  I said.

By society’s standard, losing “Luke”, was a loss, not a trauma.  By the parameters and methodology of the EGC method, it was a trauma.  One that fits neatly in the varying shades of gray that is trauma.  It was a loss of a loved one.  Though not human, “Luke”, was very much a part of our lives and family and his death was something that greatly shifted not only my reality, it also shifted the kids’ reality.  I hadn’t seen it as such until last week as I found my mind drifting back down the highway to a time that seemed so long ago, my heart gently nudging me and answering the question I had been asking myself for days on end, “Why am I so knotted up about running “Liam”, to the vet?  It’s a lameness exam for crying out loud!”   There was some unfinished business lurking in my background, a trauma hiding in the gray fringes that had gone undetected up to this point.

Trauma can be anything that adversely affects and shifts your world.  It might be, much like mine, an unexpected loss of a loved one, human or pet.  It might be a separation or divorce.  It may be a minor or major car accident, a fall from your horse or a ladder.  It may be a betrayal by someone you once trusted.  Something said to you as someone else has bullied you, that cut you deeply.  If you can look back and see a shift in your reality, a shift in what life looked like prior to and then what life now looks like after, you’ve likely suffered a trauma.  One that has been hanging out in the shades of grey where you wouldn’t consider looking for it.

My horses and me are here and humbly willing to walk with you through that trauma as together we work to recognize it for what it was, the impact it has had on you and clear it so that your new reality shifts positively toward the future.  You would be awestruck by how vastly different the world looks, when the trauma we have been packing around with us is healed … vastly, beautifully, amazingly, different.

Learn more about the horses, EGCM and me at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤