She just sat on the ground, unable to sit straight and tall like her mother had always admonished her to do when she was a child. Today, it would be impossible. And tomorrow it probably wouldn't be possible then either. Her mind was too busy thinking about the horse that just came in to the rescue barn. When he came to be with the rescue, he had no name. She remembered that day very well. The first sight of him was enough to break her heart into little pieces. The woman, who had taken this horse from neglectful owners where he had lived, had tried to save him because she was unable to watch him ravage to find his own food by eating tree bark and his own feces. Nobody cared that he was gone. His fur was very thick; and mane so matted, so thick that she had to wiggle her fingers down to feel his bony body. And as she pulled her fingers away again, they were coated in old dirt. Black and white, he was supposed to be. But on that day he was beige and dust. He rode in the horse trailer, head hanging down for he had lost his courage and couldn't keep his head proud and tall. He rode motionless, waiting and listless. But the thing that was the most disturbing was the look in his eyes. They were quiet eyes, sunken into his head - and they watched her. They were alive with thought. He was waiting for her to do something "to" him. Little did he know at the time that, instead, she would "give" something to him. She gave him one of the little broken pieces of her heart. She reached out to stroke his head and he instinctively flinched his eyes shut and dropped his head, waiting for the heavy hand. With that little bit of movement she gave him another one of the broken pieces of her heart. She took him in the barn and gave him a bath. She groomed for hours and brushed some order back into his mane and tail. For that, he was grateful and even though his own stomach was loaded with worms, he accepted yet another piece of her heart, for it would help to heal his own. "Would you like some water, big boy?" She whispered to him as she filled a large trough with fresh water. He drank it up happily. He had been dehydrated for a long time and she knew it would take him most of the week to re-hydrate. He wanted more water - but it was gone. Ah... that's how it is, he thought to himself. But he was grateful for what he had been able to get. "Would you like some more?" and she filled the trough again with another little piece of her heart. "I know that you are hungry. You don't have to find your own food anymore. Here's a bale of hay. I've added a little piece of my heart." Over the four months that he stayed with her, his health improved. The stomach full of worms was replaced piece by piece with little bits of her loving heart. And each little piece worked a very special kind of magic. When the warmth of love and gentle caresses are added, the little broken pieces knit together again and heal the container it resides in. That container becomes whole again. She watched each little broken piece fill a gap in the gentle horse until his quiet eyes radiated the light from the little pieces. You see, kind words gently spoken turn the little pieces into illumination for the spirit that resides within. He looked for her each day, happy to be see her always. Never had he known such kindness, such gentle caresses; such love. His health had returned, his spirit was playful as a young colt's should be and he had learned about love. Now his heart was full. The healing was complete. It was time to go. There was another person who had another heart that was meant to be shared with him. So she sat shapeless on the ground because all the broken pieces of her heart were with the horse. It is difficult to sit tall when your heart is not with you. She wrapped her arms around the horse that stood with tall, proud ears for her. Lean on me, he said. And she gave him one last thing that would keep him strong; that would keep the pieces of her heart together long after he had gone on to live his new life. She gave him her tears and bound them to the pieces with a simple statement made from the ribbons of her heart. "I love you,." And the horse lived happily ever after. The foster mom sat on the Ground beside the pasture, straight and tall like her mother had always admonished her to do when she was a child. Today, it would be possible. And tomorrow... it probably would be possible too. Because her mind was busy thinking about this, the next horse that came to her barn for help. Where did she get the heart to help yet another horse, you ask? Ahhh... it came with the horse. They always bring a little bit of heart with them. And when the rescuer breathes in that little bit of heart, it quickly grows and fills the void left by the last horse.
Special "Thanks" for Our Horses...(and Mules)
To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few shortyears, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab maneand hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier thanthe tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one'stoes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirablefeat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.
Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horseneeds regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smellyand up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break thecrust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When ourhorses dip their noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the rightchoice.
Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easykeepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, anda trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keepthem from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularlyonly to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swearthey're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.
If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have uniquepersonalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Thoseprone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barnwhen you least expect it.
Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. Youwill 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 thewhole 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 aSunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a livingbeing is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and puttingthe car or tractor in "drive."
In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a fewthings to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go alongwith the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swearhe's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or per haps he's fed up withhow slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will havean opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make youa better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suitshim. It all depends on the partnership - and partnership is what it's allabout.
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 tobasic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing towork 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 bechallenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble youcompletely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closestyou'll get to heaven.
You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? Theresults may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful asthat gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well asto tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishmentbrought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horseand rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty thatyour horse is enjoying his work.
If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us haveto squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need forthings equine with those of our households and employers. There is neverenough 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. Ourhorses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisperour hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, asheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place tosleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals. Some of usneed 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 afoal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there isalso loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share theaccelerated 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 beenblessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. Wehonor 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 muddyboots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate ourcompanions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts ofwarriors and often carry us into and out20of fields of battle.
Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made andchallenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set beforethem, 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 oflong-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether toend the life of a true companion.
In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or ourhorses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse inthe first place.
- Author Unknown -
FCER is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.