- While attending one of the HITS Culpeper (Va.) shows
last summer, Mark Leone shared some shade with "a very unassuming,
nice gentleman" one afternoon. Leone enjoyed talking with the quiet,
southern accented man, but when he said he was an animal communicator,
Leone was leery.
- "I had no experience with any kind of communication
with animals," said Leone, who ventured a try with his horses anyway.
"I found most of his insights into the horses almost eerily spooky.
He was pretty darn close to right on, and he didn't know me or my horses.
For a fellow like me who's a pretty black and white guy, it's intriguing."
- Leone, of Oakland, N.J., now considers Bill Northern
a close friend and has put numerous other trainers in touch with him. "I
don't know how or why it works, but I'm not going to question it; I just
go with it," said Leone.
- Northern, 64, of Warsaw, Va., isn't completely sure how
his abilities work, either. He didn't discover his talents until he'd retired
from running a paper supply business and office supply store. But the signs
were always there.
- In the second grade, Northern's teacher sent home a report
card that said "Bill can't keep up with the rest of the class because
all he's interested in is his book of magic tricks."
- "I'd lost my father when I was 7, and I was doing
all I could to bring him back," said Northern, who wrote his school
papers about the paranormal or metaphysical whenever possible. "Even
today, if I pick up a book [that's what I like to read]. I'm now reading
The End Of Time by an English physicist."
- Northern approaches animal communication through dowsing,
which is the age-old art of finding water with a divining rod, or pendulum,
as Northern uses. He learned that he could dowse by accident, when the
septic line at his store stopped up. He couldn't get a plumber and called
the town office.
- "They came out with plans and dug, and the sewer
wasn't there," he recalled. "Finally, the town sent someone out
with dowsing rods. I was getting reactions [from the rods] and I got all
excited. I went to the library the next day and started reading."
- Northern found a society of dowsers and attended their
1994 convention. "They had horses at the convention and were asking
them questions, like does this horse like women, or does this horse like
to jump," he said. "I wasn't getting anything, but I saw all
these people from New York who didn't know anything about horses doing
it. I said 'if they can do it, then I can."
- Northern, who'd owned Standardbred race horses, kept
practicing. At the encouragement of his friend Fred Fletcher, in New Zealand,
where Northern spends his winters, he started doing six to eight horses
a day. "Pretty soon the people [in his barn] were wanting to know
when the Yank with the crystal was going to be there," he recalled
with a laugh.
- A Thorough Conversation
- Northern begins each conversation by asking the horses
if they are on a balanced diet or if they have any internal problems. "I
don't solve that; I just tell the vet where it is," he said. "And
I can tell if a rider is balanced, or what they need to do differently,
or if the saddle fits. The only thing I need to know up front is if there
is a behavioral problem, because those need to be negotiated."
- He said he does this by "leaving this physical body
(through your spirits) and communicating on a subconscious level. They've
done brainwave tests on people doing this. For years, we always thought
that when dowsing, the 'awake' part of your mind shut down and that you
just went over to the other part. But in the last few years, they've found
by putting brainwave sensors on dowsers, that our whole mind becomes active.
Instead of going to sleep, like we thought, it goes crazy! Which is probably
why you get so tired doing it."
- Leone's grand prix horse Casino told Leone, via Northern,
that the veteran rider was off balance and needed to shorten his left stirrup.
"I checked, and my stirrups were uneven! He also said that sometimes
I don't make it clear where I'm going, that I need to tell him," said
Leone. "People might think I'm crazy, so I chat with him confidentially.
Those are just some of the little things I've been doing with him that
are quite handy."
- A session with Northern came just before Leone and Casino
won the 2001 $50,000 HITS Grand Prix (Va.).
- Pinkata De Longpre, who Leone plans on riding in the
World Equestrian Games selection trials, told Leone that his job was easy,
but that Leone needed to be more in synch with him. "Bill told me
I've got to practice with him more, that I've been saving him, and that's
- I'm an under-trainer and ultra conservative. Every time
I get on him I'm nervous; there is tremendous pressure to do well every
time, and I don't want to hurt him. I never really practiced on him; I
just went to shows, and the horse was picking up on me being tense, too.
Those are two situations where I found he gave useful, helpful insight."
- Leone has Northern go over most of his horses at shows.
"It's another tool to help incorporate into the whole process,"
he said. "It's [Northern], the blacksmith, grooms, vet-it's a whole
- Candice King, of Wellington, Fla,. enjoyed a second-placed
finish aboard Quintin at the $50,000 Budweiser Upperville Grand Prix (Va.)
in June of 2002 after consulting Northern the day before. "There was
an area on his shoulder that was sore, that needed liniment and rubbing,
and it's not a spot you would normally notice," she said. "He
jumped super the next day, and I think [Northern] helped to get him to
where he was that day."
- Bob Crandall, a hunter/jumper trainer in Baltimore, Md.,
said Northern gave him some insights into what some of his horses were
and weren't happy about, and Crandall accomodated his horses' requests.
"This is a hard subject, because there is so much skepticism, including
me, yet he had so many interesting things to say and came up with things
out of the blue, and you'd say, 'How did he know that?'" recalled
- "I'm very open to things, willing to try,"
he added. "You never know where you're going to get an insight. I
would definitely recommend someone trying this, especially if you're at
your wit's end and don't know what to do [with a certain horse]."
- Everyone in Crandall's barn enjoyed watching Northern
ask the horses who their favorite grooms were. "He hit it on the head
with each one," said Crandall. "He went right to the person that
horse was being cared for by or who had a way with him, and that interested
me a lot."
- Northern's mannerisms gave Crandall his trust. "He's
an incredibly nice man-very quiet. He's always been very supportive and
kind about everything, and he's obviously interested, because he's not
getting rich off it. He has a very kind way about him And this really interests
me; I do think there are people out there capable of this."
- But if you aren't sure you want to know the answer to
a question, cautioned Northern, don't ask. He doesn't "sugarcoat"
the answers the animals give him. "I'm fortunate not to have to do
this for a living, so I can tell people like it is," he said. "I
don't have to tell them what they want to hear."
- Northern charges $50 per animal, and although he doesn't
need the money, he said the work is exhausting, and if he didn't charge
something, his phone would be ringing off the hook (from people, not horses).
- Northern insists that horses (and other animals) can
understand what people say. "They know exactly what you are thinking,
and if you're not saying what you're thinking, they know that," he
said. "We're communicating telepathically with them. They know if
you're thinking about selling them, and they know your problems and your
joys." Material things aren't important to horses, as most people
would guess. "If you get a new car, what's the big deal?" said
- "They don't put the same value on things that we
do. One guy asked me to tell his horse how much he appreciates the million
dollars the horse had won, and the horse said he'd just like it if he'd
get an apple now and then."
- A New Outlook
- For Northern, who never learned to do more with a horse
than sign his trainer's checks, communicating with them has given him a
perspective he'd never imagined. "Before, the horse had to please
me," he said. "Now I realize that doesn't happen; you have to
ask them. I could go to a fence with a barrel of apples and they wouldn't
come to me [before]. Now I go with my pendulum, and they're all there.
I never realized they had such feelings and thoughts; I thought they were
just dumb animals.
- "A lot of people are raised to really pay attention
to animals," he added. "They know what every look and movement
means, and I will never be able to do that. But I see things with my eyes
closed that they miss."
- When he owned Standardbreds, Northern said he threw away
$300,000-400,00 on horses who weren't going to make it "It's such
a gift now to be able to look at a horse and see if they're going to make
it," he said. "When I learned to do this, I said, 'Won't it be
nice to keep people from buying those horses [that aren't going to work
out].' And now I can find out if a trainer is trying to pull something
over on me!"
- Northern can tell if a horse's hocks have just been injected
or if something has been done to make the horse sound. "I've had a
fair amount of people buy a horse my angels don't particularly care for,
but they'll never buy the second one," he said with a smile. "It
may take 20 horses, but once they find the right one, it's a marriage made
in heaven. It's important to have a horse like you; they try harder."
- Ironically, Northern's abilities have also made it too
frustrating to own race horses. "I'd get too mad at a trainer now,"
he said with a smile. "I'd be too bossy."
- However, he did purchase a yearling in New Zealand who
was telling him how she could really jump high. He plans to find a trainer
for her in the U.S. when she is older.
- "When you go to the track, the horses have a good
idea of who can win, but the trainers and riders screw it up," he
- While at Colonial Downs (Va.) once, Northern came across
a horse who said he could win, but that his jockey was going to hold him
in the back of the pack. Northern told the trainer that the horse wanted
to be up front. But the trainer insisted that the horse had won on the
front before, and the jockey would never hold him in the back.
- The next day, Northern got a call. "The trainer
said, 'You know, that S.O.B. did just what you said,'" recalled Northern
with a laugh. While Northern has helped many riders, he ultimately does
his work for the horses. "I want people to understand that they don't
have to put a horse down because they can't understand it-because it rears
or bucks or won't jump," he said. "I'm helping people and animals-putting
them together and helping them to understand each other, to make a partnership,"
- "I have a great respect for Bill; he is one heck
of a tremendous guy," said Leone. "He gives me a great deal of
confidence when I talk to him, and we're all always grasping for that.
I don't know if it's the twinkle in his eye, his accent...something. When
I won the grand prix in Culpeper, he had tears in his eye, and I'd just
met him. That really meant something to me."
- Saving Lives And Finding Fugitives
- Bill Northern uses his ability to dowse for answers from
"his Angels" for many things other than speaking to animals.
Most notably, he saved his own life during a cerebral hemorrhage. His wife
Ann, who works as a clerk at the health department, rushed Northern to
the hospital, where he was met by a neurologist who told him a neurosurgeon
was standing by. But Northern, as usual, was patient.
- The neurologist explained to him that his red blood cells
were "shorting out my brain and that the surgeon could help clear
them," said Northern. "I told him that my angels could also do
that, and he agreed that if I could visualize it carefully they could do
- Amazingly, the neurologist didn't dismiss him. "The
next morning when his associate came in and I told him what the doctor
had told me [the night before], he had a hard time believing it,"
added Northern, who was out ofthe hospital 48 hours later. While he took
months to recuperate, he avoided a procedure that few patients survive.
- Northern used to help his next-door neighbor, a now retired
state police trooper, find lost people. He usually tracked the person or
body in question to within a few miles of where it was eventually found.
He's even tracked the most famous missing person -Osama bin Laden.
- "He's in China," said Northern with certainty.
"He doesn't have nearly the accomodations he did [in Afghanistan,
where Northern had also found him before he fled]. But he's very safe."
- Of course, Northern did his civic duty by notifying President
Bush of his discovery. "I got back a very nice letter, but I'm sure
he never read mine," said Northern.
- Reprinted by permission of The Chronicle of the Horse
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