Feed on

two-spiritsStanding in front of the noble head, the arching neck, the muscled shoulders and graceful legs of the horse, a human is asked a single profound question each and every time: Who are you? Are you two spirits: the one whom I sense you are and the one whom you claim to be? Or are those spirits one? Is there congruence between yourself and your sense of self? Or is there a gap between the two so wide that I can put my hoof through it? Who are you? When you stand before the horse, can you answer that question as unambiguously and truthfully as the creature before you can? And if there are two spirits when the horse expects only one, what do you do to unite them in the single human whom you are?


Two spirits

The notion of two spirits is derived from native American culture, in which it denoted what is potentially one of the most extreme forms of alienation between self and sense of self, where each is located within a different gender identity. A human might have a male body (their external identity) but a female consciousness (their internal identity) or vice versa, a situation which manifests itself in transgender behaviour.

Dance to Two Spirits

Dance to Two Spirits

Perhaps the most obvious example of such transgender behaviour in contemporary Western society is where a human with a male body but a female sense of self adopts feminine mannerisms and dresses in women’s clothing. Taken to its logical conclusion, the human may even undergo hormone therapy and reconstructive surgery to remove the external vestiges of their sex and attempt to replicate female bodily characteristics. Although perhaps less obvious, there are also numerous cases of humans in a female body who seek to do the opposite.



Humans may express their gender identity in a variety of forms in between these extremes (from male to female and vice versa). For the sake of convenience we refer to this as transgender behaviour. Essentially it merely refers to a situation in which a human’s sense of self does not strictly conform to society’s general expectations in relation to the biological sex assigned to them at birth.

Returning to the terminology of indigenous American culture, two-spirit humans are not peculiar to Western culture. They may be found in a multiplicity of cultures right around the world from the Americas to Asia, where their existence is recorded in numerous countries including China, Japan and India. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of India even went so far as to recognise the existence of transgender as a third gender in order to uphold human rights. To this extent, although they may not be as numerous as their “straight” heterosexual human cousins, the presence of transgender individual around the globe is by no means extraordinary.


From saint to singer

Neither is the transgender phenomenon merely a modern “aberration”, as some would have us believe. Not only are there documented instances of transgender humans featuring in history but some have even attained highly popular status. Even the great religions of the world have not been immune to their presence. Saint Wilgefortis, a bearded woman frequently depicted on a crucifix, was a saint venerated by popular imagination in the Middle Ages to such an extent that she inspired the growth of a sect which spread throughout Europe and a statue of her on a cross may still be viewed in the diocesan museum of Graz in Austria.

Saint Wilgefortis in Graz, Austria

Saint Wilgefortis in Graz, Austria

(click here for copyright details)

Perhaps it should therefore come as no surprise to greet the resurrection of the bearded lady from Austria seven centuries later. This year the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the most popular music shows in the world, was won by Conchita Wurst, the “female” alter ego of the bearded performer, Tom Neuwirth, a 25-year-old male who describes himself as gay and who moved to Graz in his teens to study fashion design. Little imagination is required to guess the source of his – or should it be her – inspiration. Like the medieval forerunner of Mr Neuwirth, aka Ms Wurst, the 21st century’s bearded lady proved to be exceptionally popular throughout Europe, winning the Eurovision Song Contest with a spectacular margin from the runners-up from the Netherlands.


So what?

So what has this got to do with the horse? Like death, the horse is a great leveller. Whether you are as powerful as the reincarnation of Napoleon astride his white horse, as successful an equestrian as the Dutch dressage rider, Anky van Grunsven, as straight in your gender preferences as Vladimir Putin or as bent as Conchita Wurst, or as socially insignificant as you and I, when you stand before the horse, you are still only asked one question: Are you the authentic you?

Jasmijn Wauters with the stallion, Stanley, before the transition to Jason


Ultimately, to the horse the appearance of the human before it is entirely secondary to the nature of that human. Are you two spirits: the one whom the horse senses you are and the one whom you claim to be? Or are those spirits one? Is there congruence between yourself and your sense of self? Or is there a gap between the two so wide that the horse can put its hoof through it? Who are you?



There is a human whom I know, respect and admire, because of who they are, what they have experienced, the journey they are embarked upon, and their prowess and sensitivity with the horse. Although I had been familiar with their story for some time before, the first personal contact I personally had with that human occurred in the form of a photograph sent to me from their mobile phone within hours of fleeing Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s one-year school on 20 July 2012.


At the time I knew that human as Jasmijn, a young woman who felt an urgent need to abandon the master whose work with horses she so admired and her dream of becoming a Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling body awareness and horse practitioner, a prospect which the master who dances with horses had held out to her and her fellow students in return for a truckload of cash. And I wondered at the amount of pressure she must have felt she was under at the hands of her remaining fellow students (with the exception of the only other young student) and her teacher to have abandoned so much, including the prospect of losing the remainder of her fee.



Today I know that same human as Jason, a young man who feels so ill at ease in the body into which he was born, that he has decided to do something about it. He has embarked upon what is perhaps the most challenging journey of his life to become the man whom he knows he should be. This is the same human whom I respected and admired as Jasmijn, and whom I now respect and admire as Jason.


Since Jasmijn has embarked upon the transition to Jason, I have seen him at play with horses and again I have been so impressed by what I first saw when she danced with her young stallion, Eno del Cid, before Vicki and myself in Belgium in 2012. Only this time I detect a major difference. Jason is far more self-assured than the Jasmijn of the past but without having lost that fine sensitivity and alertness to the horse before him. As the pressures grow to become a man – and as a man I can tell you that there are many – it is my fondest wish that Jason never lose such sensitivity.


The same human

When Jason is before the horse, he is asked the same question that he was asked when he was still Jasmijn, the same that all of us are asked when we stand before the noble head, the arching neck, the muscled shoulders and graceful legs of the horse. Who are you? Are your two spirits one? Judging from the response of the horse, as I saw then and see now, Jason’s answer is essentially the same, only this time he is able to answer the question more emphatically: whether my hair is long and girlish in a ponytail or short and boyish in a cropped style, I am my authentic self.

Jasmijn/Jason features briefly with Esperado, the second stallion which she/he took to Hempfling’s one-year course, from about 8:38 on the timeline.


Jason Wauters is the same human who can boast the extraordinary achievements of Jasmijn Wauters in their relations with horses:

  • he studied Hempfling’s approach towards horses through the latter’s books and videos;
  • he attended Hempfling’s Pure Practical Performance in 2010;
  • during the period from September 2011 to July 2012 he spent a total of a little over seven and a half months attending a full-time course with Hempfling along with nine other students, a course which finally ended after two years with only seven students left;
  • during his studies with Hempfling he worked with three different stallions, which he had taken with him to Hempfling’s school;
  • he was the only student who regularly worked with a stallion during his studies with Hempfling;
  • he was only one of two of the one-year students whom Hempfling felt were good enough to feature briefly in one of the numerous videos featuring the one-year course; which he published on YouTube
  • he is the founder of EDEN – Escuela del Equilibrio Natural, a successful school dedicated to helping humans and their horses find each other.


Next month Jason will be starting a programme of lessons and activities with Pip and myself in an effort to help my mare and I bridge the last gaps that separate us, especially when she is at liberty and is required to find her own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance. I hope to share that experience with you in this blog.

Jason’s Facebook page for Eden is due to go offline soon. A website is planned for later this year. In the meantime, if you are no longer able to access the Facebook page before the website is up and running but would like to contact Jason, just drop me a line using the email address on the About page, and I will be happy to pass your details on to him.




10 Responses to “Two Spirits, One Human and the Horse”

  1. Hi Andrew and Vicky,

    I am a student off the one year school wich is lead by Jason .He just started to educate 4 students this year to work at the same way as he does after this year for EDEN.
    I am so lucky that he also picked me for this education .He is a great teacher and i do learn so much. His transformation is so strong and beautifull .I knew him already as Jasmijn for almost one year ,he helped me so much to work with and to understand my mare Faye Belle.I underscribe everything you wrote about him and even more .He is the best man i know with horses and so gentle to with human like me. Have a lot off joy and fun together soon , Yvonne

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Yvonne

      It is good to hear that Jason has helped you to understand your mare, Faye Belle. At the end of the day it is all about the relationship that you have with your horse. Everything that horse and human do together follows from that.

      Thank you for your good wishes.

      Be well!

  2. Hi Andrew ~

    Another beautiful, thoughtful and inspiring post! Thank you for your insights and your eloquence. I am honored to be a small part of your world-wide group. What a wonderful journey you (we) have been on! More depth, breadth, understanding and joy every day!

    Deepest appreciation to you, Vicki, and all the people and horses whom you have touched.


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Susan

      In turn I am deeply appreciative of the inspiration I receive for all my posts, including that offered by people like yourself who read them.

      Be well!

  3. Gabrielle Adams says:

    Hello Andrew and Vicky.
    It was wonderful to discover your site via Jason Wauters and I can’t wait to read about your experiences training with him and Pip. Working with Jason has changed my life on so many levels it is impossible to put into words how grateful I am to him for opening my heart, eyes and mind. It is also wonderful to discover that there are other people out there who are seeking a better way of being with our horses and who are questioning so-called accepted practices and making positive changes. It sometimes feels very lonely out here; just wanting to do the right thing and being brave enough to go ahead and get on with doing it. We are so fortunate to find ourselves as guardians to these precious creatures and we need to take on board as much information and enlightenment as possible from people like Jason Wauters and then pass it on to others in order to improve the lives of horses.
    Love and light to you all. Gabrielle.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Gabrielle

      It is important to realise that you are not alone. All around the world the numbers of people who are seeking a better way of being with horses is growing, as are the positive effects of this on the horses and humans themselves.

      Be well!

  4. Penka says:

    Dear Andrew,

    absolutely beautiful & thought-provoking message.
    I look forward to reading about your experience with Jason’s program.

    Thank you for sharing & allowing us to follow the journey with you,

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Penka

      It is reassuring to know that you are sharing the journey. On its own the journey is worthwhile. With fellow travellers it becomes a celebration.

      Be well!

  5. Dear Andrew

    Just a note on a term that might prove helpful:

    Winkte (also spelled wintke) is an old Lakota word, “Winyanktehca,” that has been contracted through long use. Its meaning is “two-souls-person,” or more …

    I am not exactly sure as to the specific relevance of your preamble but I guess you will be explaining more soon:-)

    Best wishes


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Ian

      Your reference to the Lakota term illustrates helps to flesh out the indigenous American concept of two souls. Thank you.

      The preamble is an attempt to situate the story of Jasmijn’s transition to Jason within the context of some of the more challenging aspects of normal human experience.

      Be well!