Sitting down with a cowboy these days is a bit unusual. Sitting down with one that uses mustangs to help us realize our magnificence is a treat. I’ve known Hugh Vail, the founder of Mustang Medicine, for about six months. He impresses me at every interaction. Knowing his story brings even more respect and admiration for him.
“What do you want people to learn after they’ve experienced Mustang Medicine?” I asked.
Hugh responded, “I’m hoping that people begin to realize that there is great purpose in their struggles and their sorrows. Everything they need to make sense of their struggles already exists within themselves. The key is unlocking it.”
Lean into Grief
Like many journeys of greatness, Hugh’s life changed after suffering great personal losses.
We all experience loss. How we experience loss is usually what we get stuck on because loss creates tremendous pain, grief, sorrow, and depression. It’s all very heavy stuff,” he said. “I interpreted my losses in a way that convinced me I was a loser, so I became a performer. I felt that I had to do all the right things. I wore the cardboard cutout in hopes I’d feel valuable on the outside because I didn’t believe there was enough on the inside.”
Rather than self-medicating with sex, drugs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to numb the pain, Hugh leaned into it.
He explained, “My approach at the time was to read. I often joke that I dated Brene Brown, but what I really mean is that I fell in love with her research on shame and her understanding of what we must all do to rise strong.”
It wasn’t until he moved from his head to his heart space, that things began to feel whole.
“I began to learn how to utilize the excellence of gratitude to convert my miserable losses into something meaningful. It started giving me purpose to what had happened.”
Turn on Wholeness
In 2015, Hugh was introduced to an organization that rescues children from sex trafficking and he decided to begin volunteering his time and talents to serving their cause. During this time, Hugh gained some valuable insights. He learned that many people feel like they are drowning. Drowning parents typically have drowning children. He also learned that while this charitable organization was shining a light on a particular darkness (child trafficking), people wanted to shine a light on their own darkness in their lives.
“When you go through loss, you feel broken. When you feel broken, you don’t feel whole. Wholeness is the light that everyone is trying to turn on,” he said. “We are all hardwired with strengths and deficiencies. People who have wholeness own their strengths without arrogance and love the deficiencies without insecurity.”
With this insight, Hugh became passionate about how to help others realize their wholeness in a visual way.
“You can’t be what you can’t see” was the guiding principle for this.
During a morning of meditation, Hugh received inspiration to train mustangs. As Hugh learned the ancient ways to train mustangs, he began to see the synchronicities between mustangs and humans. To him, the new mustangs felt broken, in the same way that he had felt broken. As the mustangs were trained, they stepped into their magnificence and became whole. Hugh realized that this was the visual experience that he was looking for.
His Life’s Calling
Within eight months after receiving his inspiration to train horses, Hugh had shared Mustang Medicine with about 400 people, all coming through word of mouth. While what was shared by Hugh and the mustangs was similar, what each person took away from the experience was unique.
Two years later, Hugh has become more whole and is helping others to do the same with Mustang Medicine. In the first year, he shared mustang medicine with more than 1,400 people.
“I feel like I’m doing my life’s work,” he said. “I’m doing my calling. All of my life’s experiences have been leading up to this moment.”
The next step for Mustang Medicine is scaling. They are looking to expand through donations for a larger facility that they can use all year round. They are also expanding their workshops so that people can experience their wholeness on a deeper level.
For more information on Mustang Medicine, click here.
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