Vav Simon
(Mhairi Simon)

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In The Press

Horse Healers

Extracted from


written by


published by

Weidenfield & Nicholson

VAV SIMON IS IN SUCH DEMAND as a healer of horses that she often treats 10 or 12 animals in a day. As she runs her hands over one, it often goes to sleep, so soothing is her touch - and yet strong forces are involved. On one occasion, as she finished working on a horse with a swollen foot, the stable girl holding the animal was hit by such a charge of negative energy that she went into a trance and began to sway about.

As Vav moved to help her, she too was hit. 'I felt as if I'd been kicked in the solar plexus,' she remembers. `I called, "Get her out of the box!" As I brought her out, I was gasping for breath, and had tears streaming down my face. My husband, who didn't know what had happened, said, "Oh, my God - is the horse dead?" The horse was fine, but I had to rebalance the girl, ground the energy and settle her down. She didn't come back to work for a week, but when she did, she felt terrific, and had no memory of what had happened.'

A direct and friendly person, not in the least fey, Vav came from a farming family on the Isle of Lewis, and only by degrees did she realise that she had inherited what were known as `the old ways'- ancient methods of healing. One day when she was six she was sitting at her grandmother's dressing table, admiring the mirrors, the silver-backed hairbrushes, the powder bowls – ‘all the things that fascinate young girls.' In one of the mirrors she saw her granny approaching with a blue velvet cloth in her hands. From the cloth the old woman brought out a crystal ball, which she handed over with the words, `One day you'll know what to do with this.'

At that moment Vav's mother entered the room, and a terrible argument broke out, the mother screaming from a mixture of fear and anger that the child was being initiated into dangerous mysteries. The scene has haunted Vav ever since, and it took her many years to understand the cause of the tension. The truth was that ever since Christianity had become established in the Outer Isles, `the old ways' had come to be seen as something sinister and unpleasant, and women like her grandmother who practised them 'were put into the witch class'. So for much of her life she hardly dared trust or speak about the gift which she knew had passed to her.

For a long time her career lacked direction. After dropping out from a physical education college in Dunfermline, she went to live with her boyfriend, whom she later married, and with whom she had two children. She worked as an accountant in a bank until she found the job too boring, then became a personal assistant to a potter. She also trained as a dancer with the Scottish Ballet, and taught dance to children.

All this time people were bringing horses, cats and dogs to her, because healing was in her blood. She was also treating dancers, but she thought it important to get proper qualifications, and so she trained in massage and physiotherapy, took a degree in chiropractics at the McTimoney School in Oxford, then an MSc in chiropractic for animals. After the break-up of her first marriage she spent some time on her own, then met her present husband, David, a psychologist: with her own two children, two of his, and two more jointly, they have amassed a brood of six.

She still often uses Gaelic phrases to soothe animals, but in fact her grasp of the language is fragmentary - and once, when provoked by an insistent journalist to explain an aside she had just made to a horse, she instantly invented a bogus translation: 'I told him I'd said, "Stand up, you silly bugger. The knackerman's coming!"'

She has such a rapport with animals that her mere presence soothes them, but her work sometimes involves the expenditure of considerable force. To straighten a horse's pelvis, for instance, she may have to hoist one of its rear legs high off the ground - no easy task for a person of modest size.

She sees herself as a channel for the powers she possesses, and feels honoured to act as such. Yet she is by no means as ordinary as she looks. She now knows that the energies to which she tunes in work through the prehistoric stone circle at Callanish, on the island of Lewis - but she found this out only through a chance meeting with a North American Mohawk elder at a healing conference in Cirencester. Her ambition is to take part in scientific research which may establish exactly what happens when she heals.

She is not surprised to find that her daughter seems to have inherited her gift. At a Welsh pony stud the little girl, then aged three, saw her inspecting an old horse in a field, and immediately said, `Mummy, that horse has got a sore foot'. When Vav asked, 'How d'you know that?' the reply was, 'I can hear it'. She did not challenge this curious answer, because she realised that the old powers were surfacing again, in another generation.