TO HAVE A HORSE IN YOUR LIFE
To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short
years, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab
mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is
mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling
off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a
horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be
Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a
horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty
and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen
to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose
responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily; we
know we've made the right choice.
Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are
easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of
hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll
struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have
their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so
accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to
If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have
unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed,
there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense
of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to
escape from the barn when you least expect it.
Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing.
You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you
altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people-
which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.
If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple
thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics
on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a
living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition
and putting the car or tractor in "drive."
In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a
few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go
along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day,
you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps
he' fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless,
the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which
can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you
over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and
partnership is what it's all about.
If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at
it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in
addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard
you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how
much you have to learn.
And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you 'll be
challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you
completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest
you'll get to heaven.
You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to?
The results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as
graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to
listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense
of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual
understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you
know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.
If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us
have to squeeze riding into our over saturated schedules; balancing
our need for things equine with those of our households and employers.
There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like.
Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.
If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them.
Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and
whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an
unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are
clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of
regular meals. Some of us need these reminders.
When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love,
life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the
birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same
day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to
sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the
accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love,
loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our
partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.
We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have
been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute
union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and
willingness to give.
To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our
muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We
celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses
have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields
Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made
and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set
before them, asking little in return.
Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human
heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering
taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or
whether to end the life of a true companion.
In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or our
horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse
in the first place.