My office at work is at present filled with horse paraphernalia as is my home. I still own the same horse I showed as a youth and we celebrated our 25th anniversary together this past May. He is retired and will live out his life peacefully and happily with me while I return all the love he deserves for making my little girl horse dreams come true. I have added four horses to my herd and married a fellow horse lover.
So I feel uniquely qualified after a lifetime spent in their wonderful presence to put forth an opinion on why horses are special. Although I think the myriad of reasons could fill several tomes, I will do my best in this one small article to expand on some of them.
I would argue that no other animal on earth has had as much of an impact on humankind as the horse. The horse has inspired artists and poets since ancient times. He has nobly and courageously gone into battle with us, transported us across continents, carried our mail, plowed our fields, left us in awe of his speed and enamored us with his beauty. How would history be altered had it not been for Brown Beauty gallantly carrying Paul Revere on his midnight ride to warn of the British invasion? Would George Washington have lived to become the first president of the United States had not Nelson and Lexington kept him safe during battle? How would the first settlers have survived if horses had not been there to help them plow the land and grow food, tend to their cattle and pull their wagons? I dare say that we are where we are today because of the horse.
But now that the horse’s usefulness in many ways has been replaced by modern machinery, we are at a rare crossroads in the history of the horse. At this moment we are blessed to be able to cherish the horse for his true gifts - as a beautiful and constant companion and an intelligent teacher. Horses possess wisdom beyond our imagination. They have a keen perception of what people are feeling that goes deeper than we can understand. Horses can sense something in us that we may not even know is there.
I have seen this wisdom at work in my own horses. My Arabian was abused as a young horse and has never been very comfortable around people other than myself. He is often standoffish and skittish around others. One day after finishing a ride, I was grooming him in the aisle of the barn. A friend of mine who was going through a difficult time was sitting across from him on a bench holding her head in her hands. He kept turning to look at her. After glancing her way several times, of his own accord, he walked over to where she was sitting and put his head in her lap as if to comfort her. I was astonished as this was so out of character for him! My friend burst into tears at first, but then he had her smiling at the tenderness and caring he showed.
This incredible insight is why horses seem to know to be gentle with children and the handicapped and is also being used in equine psychotherapy programs across the country. Horses have an almost mystical aptitude to pull out emotions and past traumas that a trained therapist cannot even coax to the surface of a patient’s mind. We are slowly coming to realize that the horse is the mirror to mankind’s soul. He faithfully reflects back to us who we really are without judgment or malice. He simply shows us what is.
I hope the next time a horse crosses your path that you will not only admire his outer beauty – the gallant arch in his neck, mane and tail flying as he gallops across a pasture. But also remember his inner wisdom and think of what he is beyond the physical. A reflection of ourselves and man’s special and true partner in the world.