Why do we bother, on frigid mornings, to shuffle down icy paths to the horse barn?
What compels us, on days so hot even the flies are hiding from the sun, to stack itchy hay bales for hours?
We muck stalls day in and day out without a day off, rinse buckets that inevitably soak us too, mend fences and stall doors, sweep aisles that never stay clean for more than 10 minutes – and don’t even get me started on the endless tack to be cleaned and oiled or the arenas that need dragging, manure that needs spreading, legs that need icing, vet bills that need paying, manes needing braiding with our grimey, cramped fingers….
The list is never ending. Why do we do it? Why are we so determined to put another animal’s needs before our own, no matter the cost to ourselves? Any weather, any time, any place, our horses get us when they need us (and even when they don’t).
I guess I can’t speak for any of my horse crazy compatriots, but for me?
It’s the young horse that follows me everywhere I go without halter or lead rope, and whinnies at me when I go to leave.
It’s the wise old mare that made me work hard to earn her trust, and became the most willing partner who seemed like she could read my mind when we went riding.
It’s the gelding that came to me so aggressive the barn workers refused to feed him or clean his stall because he bit and kicked any who approached. Watching him learn to trust humans, sitting outside of his stall for hours not saying a word, turning him into a steady-eddie mount I would have put anyone on….there’s no drug like it in the world.
Connecting with another animal on an emotional and spiritual level is a reward greater than any ribbon or silver plate. And these animals, imposing in size, the very embodiment of the wind on Earth, so compassionate, so curious, so willing to forgive and change, make it that much sweeter.
Every time I go to the barn and see my little filly abandon her friends and her food in the pasture to meet me at the gate, I remember why.
When I’m mucking stalls and that strange, wonderful sense of peace envelopes me, I remember why.
When I’m sitting on a stack of hay, enough to last the long cold winter, thinking of my horses fed and happy, I remember why.
So, “Why horses?”
What a stupid question.
Because they’re my friends, my therapists, my teachers, my sport, my hobby, my living.
They’re the place I go to remember who I am, and who I want to become.
Every day I spend with a horse, I’m growing. And there’s nothing else like it in the world. THAT’S why.
And I thank the powers that be every day for the chances I’ve been given.