I am sure that you have all experienced times when something, someone, a concept, a thought, an idea resonated so deeply with you, that you had to run with it without exactly understanding why. It seems corny to call it a “knowing”, but that is what it feels like to me, even though I am not quite sure what that “knowing” is.
I first came across Ren Hurst on Facebook in the last year or so, when Vegan Publishers was highlighting videos of Ren explaining her work and her newly published book, Riding on The Power of Others. I was drawn to the subject of the domestication of horses, in particular, and to domestication and authenticity in general. I usually stop and listen when I hear the word vegan, especially when it is coming from a former horsewoman and hoof care specialist who is sharing with us her life of power and control gained by riding on the backs of others. By her own admission, Ren sought daily, during and after a troubled childhood and resulting trauma, to get her emotional needs met through the domestication and exploitation of others, animals and humans alike. In reference to the horses, this pursuit masqueraded as love and only brought more misery to herself and the persons, both four legged and two legged, in her care and life.
Life experience and research and soul searching led Ren to leave behind four years ago, her successful career and all of her material and financial comforts, as well as her standing in the greater horse trading, training and riding community. During this time of personal change, her path to veganism was, in her words, a natural evolution of living authentically and of looking inward to love herself unconditionally rather than relying on others to meet her emotional needs.
When we learn about ourselves and love, veganism is a natural evolution.
Ren now lives (camps in a trailer) with her partner in Ashland, Oregon on an 88 acre piece of land (Pheonix Landing) where she has worked with the 17 horses and 10 other animals in her care, helping them heal from the trauma of being controlled, abused and exploited by entitled humans for the sake of power and financial and emotional gain. She speaks in detail of the brutal methods used to domesticate and make compliant, horses who are wild by nature: horses who would not routinely give consent to humans to ride them if they were not dependent on said humans for their care and very survival.
Ren has developed 13 Principles which she says are really just everybody’s core values put together in a format to facilitate learning how to “unlearn” the deep conditioning of our own lives: in following them, we learn how to release from our bodies the expectations we have for ourselves and others, as well as the attachment we have to perceived outcomes. We connect with ourselves and others as we and they really are, set natural physical boundaries for loving interaction and let go of the stories which keep us from feeling pain and from engaging on an authentic level.
Ren’s short term goal is to finish writing her upcoming book, Animal Kin: Restoring Connection to Wild Wisdom. The content is based on both the evolution of her relationship with her husky, Denali and the 13 Principles mentioned above. The goal of the book is to give people the tools to learn how to engage authentically and respectfully with the animals in their care, with themselves and other people. In essence, the purpose is to heal, to un-domesticate and to re-wild, metaphorically speaking.
Ren’s long term goal is to purchase the land she is now leasing, to create a place of Sanctuary where people, including those presently following the standard model of animal sanctuaries, can come to grieve and to heal from trauma and the deep conditioning of their own lives: to engage with her healed animals in a congruent and non-exploitative way. The goal is to create a space of invitation , looking for the NO from the animals, rather than assuming a YES!! It is about learning how to let the animals in your life know that you see them for who they are and not who they have been conditioned to be.
With all of these thoughts and questions swirling around in my head, I was intrigued by an upcoming workshop to be facilitated by Ren, hoping to find out more and maybe get some answers, so that I could forge ahead with my new found way of living. I felt that I was in a place to receive imparted wisdom and somehow become other than and enlightened. Ha! Ha! There is no doubt I was looking for an easy out to go along with my story and so called epiphany. At the invitation of a Facebook friend and fellow activist and vegan mentor, Sena Crutchley, I decided to jump in with both feet, blasted, as it were, out of my homebody ways and habits. Airline tickets were purchased, Airbnb’s booked, Ubers ordered and off I headed to Good Hope, Atlanta, Georgia to The Farm of the Free Sanctuary – off to my new way of living.
I met some amazing people, had some laughs and wonderful plant based food. We shared personal experiences, seeking to understand how our stories can negatively impact all the relationships in our lives. We had conversations with a wise and accepting donkey named Charles and a young, playful and brash steer named Cash. Even though I admit to being a little, sometimes a lot afraid of most animals I don’t know, I did manage to stay present during our time in the pasture. I was both amazed, astonished and in awe of Ren’s ability to communicate with animals on an intuitive and sincere level, offering them honesty and openness and personal safety in her invitation to engage and her willingness to accept, without question, a NO from them.
Ren shared her life’s joys, struggles, successes and failures with us as well as the 13 Principles for healing. She was transparent and genuine in relaying to us that she does not have all the answers, that she still struggles, that she continues to find answers within the wisdom of the Principles and that she is nobody’s guru. We must find our own answers through doing this work, continually going back to peel through the layers of our conditioning, while allowing ourselves to grieve. Bummer! – I didn’t get exactly the pat answers for which I went, but I did come home with so much more food for thought in Ren’s words and insights:
Every time we are not seen for who we are, stress is created.
The more freedom an animal possesses, the more noble he/she becomes.
Expectation is the attachment to an outcome.
Do not let negative inner dialogue reflect outward onto another individual.
Baby talking to an animal is condescending and keeps them reduced.
When communicating with animals, do not use treats to elicit a particular behavior and/or connection.
Being open and willing to be wrong is very courageous in this world.
When setting boundaries, we can ask for what we need from an authentic, vulnerable place.
Communicating our boundaries before they are crossed, reduces conflict.
Affection is not love.
The lesson hasn’t been learned if you are still in the story.
When animals feel safe, they eventually will exhibit natural behavior.
Once life is here, take care of it and honor it.
Our perception is based on our conditioning.
Loving is the allowing of what is to be present in every moment.
Duality is not realizing our connection to one another and the earth.
Re-wilding is being fully present.
Practice these principles and let your experience guide your way.
Annie’s Vegan View
Allowing a space for yourself and others to heal from emotional trauma creates an opportunity for living authentically.
Domestication arises from the wish to control in order to use.
Being open to new ways of looking at our energy and experiences on this earth can lead to renewed understanding of our relationships with ourselves and others.
Riding on the power of others is living co-dependently.
It is possible to step into the truth of who we are without using others to do so.
Ren articulates un-domesticating and re-wilding better than I ever could. I encourage you to connect with her on social media and to read her book.
May all beings be happy and free.