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The Neighs Have It

The Horse Whisperer comes to town

By Justin Berton

UNDER A HOT SUN one Saturday afternoon, a trio of women drove high into the Saratoga hills to the Garrod Stables. They were going to speak to the horses.

When they arrived, Carola Hakkert, an animal communicator, led her colleagues to a shady spot next to a row of resting horses. The women unfolded lawn chairs and placed them in a semicircle. They opened up plastic bags filled with carrots and apple wedges for their clients, took out their notebooks and pens, and waited for the horses to line up.

The first horse, a 23-year-old mix named Troy, was lame in his hind right leg. His leaser, Beth Johnson, steered Troy's muzzle into the curve of the seated women. Johnson had recently returned from vacation and found Troy limping. "I've never seen him like this before," Johnson told the women. "It's a shock."

Johnson had taken Troy to see a veterinarian several times, but the vet was stumped. Now, the vet had suggested to Johnson, they should start the lengthy process of numbing Troy's leg in sections, from the hoof up to the hip, until the pain could be located. Hoping to spare Troy the anguish of playing a guessing game with a needle, Johnson came for help. "My question is," Johnson asked, "where in the leg does it hurt?"

Carola led the group into meditation. "Imagine you are a lion, with a long tail that swings back and forth," she said, eyes closed. "Now put that tail into the earth and wrap it around a rock, or a piece of quartz, or whatever you find. Now let that energy flow within you. Now rise to the heavens and take your energy with you."

Carola and the women took a few deep, clear breaths. They opened their eyes and looked directly at Troy, who stood calm and momentarily put his lame foot flush on the ground. The women started scribbling in their notebooks. After a few minutes of silence, one of the ladies (who asked not to be identified by her real name--"I work in high tech; I have that life and I have this life") offered her prognosis.

"I don't feel it in the leg or the foot," she said.

"No, I don't either," Carola agreed.

"It's up here in the hip area."

"The hip," Carola said.

Initially Johnson expressed surprise. But then she came to a that-makes-perfect-sense composure. "The hip," she said.

For Carola, one of about a dozen animal communicators in the Bay Area, talking to Troy and other animals comes largely from instinct. As a child, she recalls playing on her grandfather's farm in Germany, where she forged her relationship with animals. "My grandfather was a naturalist of sorts. He was always taking in injured animals--foxes, crows, owls--and rehabilitating them and then releasing them. He taught me a lot about nature and wild animals."

Carola came to the United States after marrying a GI, and got involved with the animal assistance services. She's sat on the board of directors for the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley, been active with the Great Dane Rescue Organization and has worked as a foster mom for pets, raising and socializing about 100 cats and dogs. Currently, she's proprietor of Carola's Pet Sitting business in Cupertino.

Like many animal owners, Carola found herself able to communicate, on a level without language, with her own four cats. She wondered if she could do the same with animals who weren't her own. Three years ago she took a one-day class through an adult education program that taught her how to more closely tune in to animal thoughts and feelings. The mentor of the class asked Carola and the other students to fix their imaginations on one animal. Carola chose a mountain lion and began weeping within minutes. "I could feel his pain all over me, especially in my throat; that's where I can feel it the most. He was totally confused and frightened and I was telling him to run, run, up high on the mountain. I was crying and crying," Carola recalls, "and she [the mentor] said, 'You got it.'"

At the Garrod Stables, Carola and her friends offered to come every few months, for no charge, to help horse owners get some answers to their questions. During this visit, a record 16 owners participated.

Gypsy was found starving to death and the new owner wanted to know what Gypsy's perception of him was--would she trust again? "Yes. She loves you. You saved her life." When Amber, a dark horse with a sagging back, arrived, the ladies moved uneasily in their chairs. Amber had been separated from her foal, Cassion, six months ago.

Carola put her hand high on her chest and her eyes began to tear. "She's not doing well. The feelings of missing her baby have already settled into her body."

There was a lot of consoling afterward and the owner asked what she could do.

"Just talk to her," Carola said. "Talk to her as much as you can and tell her everything is going to be OK."

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From the July 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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