I brought hay to the horses this morning while the doors of their stalls were still closed and threw it over the top of the Dutch door. Then, I dropped a flake out in the corral and opened their doors. Immediately, Siete, who is nicknamed the Inspector, had to come out and try the hay in the corral to see if it was tastier and better than what I had given her. This is such a strong element of my little horse’s personality. She always has to be certain that no one else is getting any special treatment that she might want for herself. Her mother, Silk, is far more generous and trusts that I will always give her a share of the best that I’ve got and be fair. I believe that her faith in me comes from all the times that I have been her advocate and stood up for what my horse needed most to feel well-cared for and safe.
I’m part of a group on Facebook that discusses the down home but eloquent philosophy of horseman Tom Dorrance. Recently, someone posted this quote by Tom: “"I wish I could describe the picture to you of what I see in a horse as I look at him and watch him and try to see him as he is, A Horse. I try not to think of him as anything other than a horse. In watching horses, I try to let them tell me what is going on within themselves. There are so many things to try and bring out, it's hard to get it separated and get it in order, so that people understand. When I say I want the person to think of the horse as A Horse, some people might think that isn't much, but I'm trying to bring out that the horse is really, really something special in his own uniqueness. I'm trying to stress the importance of the horse, of really seeing that horse as a horse, of seeing what he is and his potential."
I think that every interaction with my horses, from feeding to riding to medically treating them if they are sick, is an opportunity to strengthen my understanding and my bond with them. While I don’t expect them to be anything but horses, I have had opportunities to learn so much from both Silk and Siete. Through being an advocate for them, I have learned how important it is to support and defend not only my animals, but the people in my life who might not really be heard even if they are able to speak up for themselves.
Recently, when I visited my 99- year old mother in the nursing home, she was wearing these elastic socks that were too tight for her. The nurse insisted that they were necessary because her ankles were swollen. I pointed out that they needed to be a larger size and took them off my mom’s feet. Next visit, they had fitted her with a bigger pair of these socks, but she told me that she really hated wearing them. I spoke to the head nurse and contended that at the age of 99, I really didn’t see any good reason to force my mother to wear something that she hated. The nurse seemed surprised that I was questioning her authority and her decision, but admitted that there wasn’t any serious medical necessity for the uncomfortable socks. My mom was so grateful when I pulled them off once again and forever, and she could freely wiggle her toes.
There’s always a moment of fear that grips me as I step up to advocate, but I’ve never regretted doing it. Challenging a doctor or one of my daughter’s teachers is not something that comes easily for me. Yet, I know that’s the foundation for building a bond of trust between you and someone – two or four legged – that you love. People who know me probably get tired of hearing me say that I’ve learned some of my most important life lessons from my horses, but this is definitely one of them. Again, I think about one of my favorite things that Tom Dorrance said: “The rider needs to recognize the horse's need for self-preservation in Mind, Body and the third factor, Spirit… He needs to realize how a person's approach can assure the horse that he can have self-preservation and still respond to what the person is asking him to do… I didn't use to elaborate on the third factor, Spirit: I only just mentioned it. But I've begun to wonder about it in the last few years. Maybe if people got to realizing the importance of that part of the horse, they could be more understanding from right in the horse's innards. Then, they could try to figure out the mental and physical parts…I've felt this in horses all my life, but I don't think I realized how important it was to try to calm that inward part down. I was always working on the surface, both mentally and physically - not getting down to the inside of the horse. No one is going to get this without coming right out of the inside of themselves. The rest of it has to come from inside the horse. Mind, Body and Spirit is what we are talking about here.”
Wise words from an old cowboy who really listened to the horses. So much of what everyone needs is the self-preservation of Mind, Body and Spirit. If my loved ones feel for some reason they are lacking this, I am not about to stand by and not try to remedy the situation. And I promise also to try not to see them as anything other than who they are -- each “really, really special in his/her own uniqueness”.