I had been reading the cards five or six years when I received a first request to do a reading on behalf of an animal, a pony called Mustard.
What did I know about ponies? Not a huge amount. I have been riding just once in my life, on a school trip to The Trossachs when I was fifteen, and rode on a pony called Thistle, and soon found out why she was called Thistle. She kept stopping to chew….thistles. I said ‘move on’, and she snickered, looking at me out of the side of her eye, a clear invitation to get lost. The woman, exasperated, shouted at me, ‘you there, girl, get her head up!’ but I did not like to pull hard on the bit. The woman knew her stuff and I did not, and the pony’s mouth was tough enough to chew on thistles, but I worried it would hurt.
I am not the only person to have been haunted since childhood by the death of Ginger in ‘Black Beauty’. Oh no. There are a lot of us. Such is the agency of story, and when it comes down to it, there is no such thing as fiction. There is only truth presented as fiction or poetic truth.
This was the author’s only novel, and it was written with an adult audience in mind. But one is all it took to haunt the next six generations of children and we are still counting. Anna Sewell was nearing the end of her life, disabled after a fall when she was fourteen and she broke her ankles, ill, confined indoors and often bed-ridden while she wrote ‘Black Beauty’, published in 1877 by Jarrolds for £40. Her mother helped her, but this was the work of a decade, and she died only a few months after publication, aged 58.
Mustard was a 13 year old gelding, and he competed in dressage. This much I had already been told before looking at his cards. He had a clean bill of health from the vets, but his owner was worried that he seemed depressed, and wanted me to inquire into his happiness and well-being, and to see whether the Tarot could pick up on his preferences or wishes.
I was working with the Universal Rider-Waite deck at the time. I have mixed up the imagery here, using cards from other decks, but without compromising on the meanings as I read them for Mustard.
How was Mustard feeling about life at that moment?
Answer: The Four of Pentacles.
This card of material stability, sometimes unjustly nicknamed The Miser card, indicated that Mustard generally felt safe and secure, and liked his current routine. He didn’t seem too keen on changing things, and liked to hang on to any good thing he was given. (Don’t we all) He was by temperament, reserved but friendly, not given to impulsive behaviour. He liked a little bit of variety in his routine ‘but not too much’.
His owner laughed out loud at this description, saying this was Mustard down to a tee. He could be stubborn.
The Seven of Cups was the next card out.
This suggested Mustard was sensitive and responsive with a plenty of imagination. His owner said he was the most easily trained pony she had worked with, very quick on the uptake.
I asked the Tarot, what did he like? and drew the Three of Cups.
Gossip, chit-chat. Party time! This card suggested Mustard had two special friendships. These must have been a horse and a pony he shared his field with during the day, his owner explained. He had one friend in particular.
I was glad to hear this. I hate it, all those lone ponies you see in fields, bored and lonely, resting their weight on one hoof. People who keep ponies do know they are HERD animals, right? It ought not to happen.
But what might be weighing on his mind, such that his owner worried he was depressed? I drew the Six of Swords, a card of relocation, or moving on in other ways.
I asked if Mustard was being moved. The answer came, yes, he was going to be moved to a new, bigger livery with 30 horses and ponies.
The Five of Cups , a grieving card, suggested Mustard sensed a change coming up, and did not want to be separated from his two old friends.
His owner said he would still see his friends. She and the owners of these other two ponies rode out together and would continue to do so. I suggested, silly though this may sound, that she tell Mustard this, sending him a visual message of him going along the lanes with his old friends. He might not be able to understand the words, but he might receive the message, and the emotion she attached to that. Who is to say he could not?
I drew a general advice card for Mustard. This was The Moon card, suggesting Mustard was frightened of being alone at night.
There were barking dogs, he seemed to be telling me, and, though I was reading with the Rider Waite that day, the essential imagery of this card from The Gilded Tarot Royale is the same. Look at the dogs, baying at the moon, just as in the Moon card in the Rider Waite deck.
He could not have been telling me more literally, than by my drawing this particular card when there were 77 other cards I could have drawn instead.
He didn’t like that barking. Not at all. And strange shadows scared him.
This was why he was being moved, his owner told me. He was stabled alone overnight and not with his friends. They just met up in the day, and now she was moving him to be stabled near with them. This seemed like excellent news for Mustard, and meanwhile, pending the move, I suggested his owner leave an old coat with him, so that her scent could reassure him in her absence.
This was very peculiar, the owner said. There were a number of dogs at a nearby house, Jack Russells, and from time to time she had heard them barking during the day, but it hadn’t occurred to her they might worry Mustard with night time barking as she wasn’t usually there at that time.
What else bothered Mustard, she wondered.
The Five of Wands, a card of competition in crowded markets suggested Mustard was prone to stress and became anxious in competitions. He didn’t like loud noises. If he had been a show jumper, this would have suggested a fear of jumping a 5 barred fence. I suggested rubbing a little non-alcohol Rescue Remedy behind his ears or on his nose (not on the sensitive bits) the next time they competed, which was the following weekend.
The owner contacted me the week following this event, and though Mustard didn’t win any prizes, she said there was a difference in his body language. He was more ‘laid back.’
A reading is not a substitute for appropriate medical advice. The reader is not a vet, but nor does a client need a nanny. A reader does not try to tell anyone what to do. They do have a duty of responsibility. They must exercise great care, but the whole point of having such a reading is that the reader will share what they see and feel.
Was I reading Mustard’s mind during this reading, or was I reading his owner’s mind, telling her things she already knew, but that she did not consciously know that she knew?
Or was it a three-way telepathy?
I’d likely struggle to read any animal too different in its organization from ourselves, animals with very different nervous systems. Though a reader could always try, and wouldn’t an octopus be interesting.
All life is interconnected at some level. All life is driven by some form of intelligence, brain or no brain. Such is the unfathomable mystery of the real life web.
“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ― Henry Beston
Till next time 🙂