I have to admit that the first time I saw Geronimo I was intimidated, and so was my horse, Hermano. We both approached the barn, feeling what it meant to be newcomers under Geronimo’s watchful eye. I let Hermano into the paddock, and Geronimo immediately made it clear- Hermano was going to have to earn his respect. Over time he made it clear to me that I would have to do the same, and so would the clients I brought out to see him. How exactly does one earn the respect of a 2,000 pound being whose might can be felt from one hundred feet away?
As the leader of the herd, Geronimo demonstrated qualities that
many of us have trouble emulating; clear boundaries, assertiveness,
unquestioned leadership, and direct communication. The amazing
thing about Geronimo is he was able to exhibit these qualities from
a calm, quiet, and compassionate center. He radiated all of it,
and touched many people through his presence. Just standing next
to Geronimo was enough to inspire a feeling of awe. Geronimo’s
leadership was unquestioned by all, and it turns out, this was also
true of his namesake.
The History of Geronimo’s Name
Geronimo was a military leader. As a Chiricahua Apache, this meant
he was one of many people with special spiritual insights and
abilities known to Apache people as “Power.” Among these were the
ability to walk without leaving tracks; the abilities now known as
telekinesis and telepathy; and the ability to survive gunshot.
Geronimo was wounded numerous times by both bullets and buckshot,
but survived. Apache men chose to follow him of their own free
will, and offered first-hand eye-witness testimony regarding his
Geronimo demonstrated his own powers with people and horses. He
created an atmosphere of safety. With Geronimo you always new
exactly where you stood- literally. Because he could move the herd
with a flick of his ear, you had to be on your toes, and pay
attention to his communication. Like the military leader, he also
communicated telepathically. I witnessed many times people asking
Geronimo to move by visualizing the action in their minds. This
way of communicating was Geronimo’s favorite- being so big I think
people often misunderstood him and thought that force was
necessary. In actuality, he was responsive to the most subtle of
communication. Geronimo was also able to help others find their own
inner power and strength. Because he radiated his own power and
strength, these qualities in others were not threatening to him.
Instead, he welcomed and encouraged these qualities in all.
Earning Geronimo’s Respect
So how did I earn Geronimo’s respect? I worked to emulate the
qualities he demonstrated like clear boundaries, assertiveness, and
direct communication. I respected his boundaries, for example his
fear of being sprayed, and never forced fly spray on him. Rather I
would spray it on my hand, and gently rub it onto his body. He
used to run when I approached with the spray bottle. Once he
realized I wouldn’t spray him, he would stand calmly as I sprayed
it into my hand, and then relax as the flies were repelled. Most
importantly, I spent time with him. We learned to understand each
other through just being with each other. Sharing the sunshine on
a cold day, or the shade of the barn when it was hot, was enough.
As some of you know, Geronimo left the herd last month. He was
sold to a new home and we are all left feeling the void his
absence, people and horses alike. It is not lost on me that
Geronimo’s departure is also not without a lesson. The last time I
saw him I did not know he was leaving. He was covered in flies,
and I told him I would return to gently help him with some fly
spray. That particular day I didn’t return to the herd with my
next client as I anticipated, and then had to leave to pick up my
son. After realizing he was gone, I was left with the weight of
not following through on my word, as well as the penetrating truth
that all things are temporary. We always think there will be a
next time or another day to do the things that matter. There might
be. There also might not.