Friday, July 20, 2012

Horsepower...Does Not Always Mean Strength and Speed

Holly Grace - survivor of starvation, healer of hearts

At some point in their lives, many young girls have fallen in love with horses. The beautiful flowing manes, the soft muzzles and picture of the handsome prince astride his steed on the way to rescue the fair maiden has a timeless appeal. I would bet that most outgrow this fascination but some retain it into adolescence and beyond. What's interesting about this interest is that once you spend time with horses, you will realize that what they bring to you far exceeds what you bring to them. 

Currently my family is volunteering with a local horse rescue organization, LEARN, because we wanted something we could do together and that we all enjoyed. Over the past two months, I find myself finding myself again. I was that girl - the one with the Breyer and Barbie horses, the one reading The Black Stallion series, and the one who wrangled every moment of horse time I could as a younger person. But by the time I got married and began a family, this interest became a distant memory and a far away dream. 

As a 30-something (a-HEM) year old woman, my girlhood notions have all but vanished, but my time spent volunteering with LEARN have given them a new slant. Where I used to want to gallop and jump, now I'm content to pet, groom and just talk to them. Some of this is because my body is certainly not what it used to be, but mostly I just simply enjoy being with them. Winston Churchill said it best: "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." These words have been repeated in the horse world an infinite number of times, and I have believed this statement my entire life. 

Just last night, I had my own small moment of grace. While helping take care of the horses, I severely bruised my arm, was really struggling with my stupid foot arthritis and about knocked myself unconscious when I hit my head on the oh-sh*t handle of the "mule" (a suped up gas powered golf cart for lack of a better description). None of these things were anyone's fault, but I was starting to feel a little beat up and picked on by the end of the night.

I shed a few tears over the probably dented noggin but then I slipped some treats in my pocket and scaled the fence to go visit with my favorite horse, a bottomless pit of sweetness named Holly Grace. It was totally dark and I could just make out the individual mares as they milled around trying to get into my pockets for the goodies their keen sense of smell told them were there. 

For the most part, none of the normal pecking order pushing around happened - we just hung out. My tears (yes, I cried - my head hurt so bad, I was tired, hungry and frustrated so be quiet) stopped rolling and I began to feel better. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when a crooked legged little pony is gently pulling on your shorts pocket with her soft lips, her nosy pasture buddy is checking out your pony tail and another one is blowing sweet warm breath on your ear. I spent less than ten quiet minutes with these animals and my entire attitude changed. Just like that. 

The way I felt my spirits lift was minor in comparison to the experiences of some who have suffered far worse and yet I'm finding that the more and more time I spend in the company of the animal that changed modern human-kind, the more I find myself in touch with my own humanity.  I'm not naive about horses - I know that they aren't all super wonderful magical beings. There are a few who, given the opportunity, will hurt you. But some, like Holly Grace among many others, will heal you, will sooth your hurts and will somehow carry you through some of your darkest hours. There is indeed, something about the outside of a horse...

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