Welcome to our first ‘campfire’ story.
The Campfire for the Heart project is a collection of inspiring true stories of human resilience. Although every story is unique, they all highlight our ability to adapt positively to bad experiences and showcase our indomitable human spirit.
If you have a resilience story to share, or know someone who does, please contact Natalie Stockdale through www.stockdalewellbeing.com.
“They say horses can’t cry, but what I saw broke my heart.“
Prior to 2002, we lived a wonderful life on a magical, 20-acre property in rural Victoria with three children. Being on land, we filled it with a few horses, rescued sheep, chickens and even guinea pigs. Hubby supported us all, working hard in the dental industry and life was great. I was outgoing, learning karate and living the country dream.
Then my world stopped. Our eldest son, eight years old at the time, disclosed horrific abuse that he endured by close relatives. As the details came out of his mouth, my head was racing with thoughts of tearing these people apart, limb by limb. We took our son to a trauma psychologist and she suggested I ask our other two children whether they had been abused. I was mortified, as I hadn’t even considered it possible.
I dutifully took the two girls aside and asked non-leading questions. Their responses were horrifying. We immediately banned the abusers from ever having contact with our children and began a long journey of healing.
I had studied shamanic healing in the US and applied every ‘trick’ I learnt to help the children work their way through their rage, grief, anger, denial, the whole lot. Meanwhile, I put my own healing on hold.
In 2006, I became a volunteer fire-fighter. I think I needed to know I had the courage to “fight fire”, just as I needed courage to deal with my kids’ abuse.
As we slowly came out of the fog in 2010, we joined a horse rescue organisation. I was trained to inspect neglect cases and enjoyed being a voice for the voiceless and making a difference for these beautiful animals.
Then, in 2011, an atrocity occurred. 280 starving ponies. The authorities who discovered the ponies gave the owner a year to fix the problem, then suddenly changed it to one week! All ponies remaining on the property would be shot. My daughter and I joined a small group at the property and rescued as many of the ponies as possible. 143 ponies were taken to safety.
Then came the four days of killing. We couldn’t stop the massacre, but we recorded it. I remember running from tree to tree with my camera, as the shooters drove around in utes, shooting out their windows, with the poor ponies on the run. Some ponies took four shots to drop them. I ran to as many as I could, without being seen, to take photos of the random bullet placement. They say horses can’t cry, but what I saw broke my heart. Mares aborted their foals, and we desperately tried to save a blind foal, but young hired guns saw her and rounded her up on horseback, with her following the noises of hooves, into the killing pen.
These four days nearly broke me. I knew that I could either let part of me die, or rise above it and make good from bad. From that moment, I vowed to start my own horse rescue organisation and honour the memory of the massacred ponies.
In 2013, the Winged Horse Equine Welfare was founded and is still going strong. Among the herd of rescued horses is a little mare who survived the massacre, forever safe and protected.
I tell people to make a difference from awful events they witness. Turn your pain to healing.
I gained 25kg since discovering the kids’ abuse, subconscious protection from the world. It took 16 years before I was ready to shed the protection. I began running. My peace returned as I began caring for myself, honouring my mind and body.
What have I gained form this journey?
The knowledge that forgiveness is vital. In forgiving those who do awful things, you free yourself from being bound to them energetically and you can harness your energy to do great things. I founded a sanctuary that is a public stand against abuse, so I not only help animals, I make it public that abuse in any form, is not ok, ever. I also model to school kids that you don’t have to be anyone special to make a huge positive difference in the world.
Resilience is a fantastic word to use. To me, it conjures up an image of a tough Amazon Woman with armour, yet soft underneath. Resilience is about finding your inner warrior woman (or man or child) and calling on your inner strengths to guide you through your own, healing, and then others.
For anyone stuck in pain, reach out. This is so important. Reach out to someone you trust, who can be your anchor. I was lucky as I had all my animals to ground me and support me emotionally.
Find your inner strength and record your journey. You may surprise yourself if you look at journal entries during or after trauma and see how much you change over time.
I am at peace now. I am more confident and I don’t hold back in stating my views. I run and I love it. I buy bright coloured running clothes and have my sights on ultra runs! I am ageing in reverse I’m sure! The weight is peeling off and I look in the mirror and see bright, glistening eyes looking back at me. I am a warrior woman and you just need to find your warrior too.