Horses and Love: There’s No Trick Riding Without Trust
I grew up around horses. When I was three years old, my parents got me a pony. Well, two ponies. They were, in fact, rescue ponies. Their original owner decided that he simply didn’t want them anymore, and he just…let them out. They were found by someone who knew my mother. And by ‘found,’ I mean they were grazing on her lawn. So, there are pictures of my third birthday where I’m unwrapping a small saddle, insisting I can carry it – even though it weighed more than I did. (I was a peanut.) There’s a video, too, and I distinctly remember holding the saddle, asking my dad, “Where’s the pony?” I was too smart for my own good, sometimes.
They were two of the best ponies, ever (if I can dig up a picture, I’ll add it later). Sweet, gentle, and loving. Once, *someone* forgot to tighten the girth (the belt that holds that saddle in place); I ended up hanging upside down, with the pony staring at me through his legs. He was smart enough to stop moving, once he realized I was slipping. He knew that something was amiss. If he had a different disposition, he could’ve killed me. But he didn’t. A few seconds later, my mom rescued me – but I will never let her live that down. Some things just are too good to let go of.
There are days where I think I understand horses better than people. Sure, they can’t throw up. And yes, they can’t talk. But most of them want two things: food and love. Who can argue with that? Not me. Most of the time, I want the same damn things – except coffee, too. Without the Coffee, I cease to function. Or I run into walls. It’s not pretty.
When I was in high school, long after my two ponies had passed on, I attached myself to a damn crazy horse. He wasn’t mean. He had energy and spirit. I was, in short, determined to ride him. I harassed my mother for a good long time, until she finally agreed. I think she was either trying to shut me up or get rid of me. You see, this horse? He was gorgeous. He was a dark bay, which is close to black; his muzzle (nose) had brown on it, which mean he wasn’t a true black horse. He would bleach lighter in the sun. But in my eyes? He was Black Beauty.
His previous owner was a very heavy woman who mistreated him. Due to her errors, he flipped over a cross-country jump (made of telephone poles). She was injured, though not seriously. He ended up laid up, and developed scars on his back. By some miracle, he healed fine. But the woman resented him, stopped going by to see him and stopped paying his board. The barn repossessed him for back board. He then spent at least a year being tortured by people who pulled on his face. They rode him roughly, which meant shouting and kicking. He’d jump ANYTHING you put in front of him. It didn’t matter that he was a midsize horse, and he SHOULDN’T be able to jump that high. He had heart. He was ridden in Hunter Jumpers, and by the time we got him, he was damn near nuts.
He didn’t know what a carrot was. He didn’t understand petting. He was an ex-racehorse, too, which meant if you didn’t pay attention – he’d run. (I know some people like that. I’ve loved them, too, even when I wanted to punch them.) It took a YEAR of patience, of starting at square one, of walking and trotting – nothing else – to get him to understand that not everyone was going to hurt him. Not everyone was going to abuse him. It took three years before my mom agreed to let me on him. In that time, he ran away with at least two people who couldn’t handle him.
Here he is, although it’s not the best picture. It’s what I have on hand:
But I knew. And he knew, too. That I loved him. And we trusted each other, implicitly. There was nothing I’d ask of him that he’d refuse, and I knew he’d get me through it safely. Jump grids, trail rides, and bits of dressage (leg yields, turn of the forehands etc). Sure, there were times he’d toss his head and want to RUN. But it wasn’t bad behavior. It was that he just wanted to have fun.
I used to sing to him whenever he needed calming down. It worked like a charm. I taught him to bow on command. If I laid myself sideways across his saddle and said, “Go home,” he’d take me into the barn and stop. On him, I taught myself a little bit of trick riding (backwards, sideways etc). There was complete faith between us, and it was something miraculous.
When he died, it broke my heart. To be honest, I haven’t felt the same about a horse since. I know that I’ll never feel quite the same thing again; after all, no two loves are alike. But I do know that they require the same things: trust, understanding, and faith. Love should allow you to task risks, without having to fret about the consequences. Love makes you braver, although it occasionally makes you stupid. (What sane person would’ve ridden that horse? Or dated that boy? Or been that trusting? Yeah, that’d be me. Always.)
Being around animals can teach you a lot about who you are and what you want. It doesn’t matter if things look scary. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t entirely safe. It doesn’t matter if people look at you like you are a lunatic. They don’t matter. What’s in your heart? What you know in your marrow? That’s what counts.