By Linda Aldrich
Today is unlike any other day in the life of this horse girl. It is morning time, and a chilly one at that. Feeling my body’s pain I gingerly prepare myself for the bitter cold weather that has blanketed my field overnight painting it white against the early morning light. It is definitely a day to bundle up as I tentatively make my way out to feed my horses. Greeting me with their sweet sounds of horse’s eager to be fed I begin my routine; one that I have done so many times before. Moving slowly, but surely I feed each one of the fifteen rescued horses and ponies that participate in our Equine Assisted Skills for Youth Program until all are happily ensconced in their favorite morning ritual of eating.
Surveying my contented herd, I too feel a sense of contentment for when they are happy, so too am I. Taking a deep breath I feel both a sense of gratitude and relief for I am back doing what I love to do. I have spent the better part of my lifetime taking care of my horses, now it is their turn to take care of me. For even though today seems like just another day at my ranch it is different; I am different. As the Director of an equine rescue, I am used to dealing with life and death issues as they relate to my herd and my horses. Now I have my own. One month ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one week ago I had surgery, and from here on out I will take my life one day at a time. And as much as I have always wanted and needed my horses, I know I will need them even more now.
As the founder of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that provides a life skill/leadership program for youth that utilizes horses as both guide and teacher, I talk a lot about the healing power of horses. If we let them, our horses can be the greatest teachers possessing a special equine power that allows one to heal from the inside out. Knowing that it is now myself who needs to heal from the inside out, I pondered this power that my horses have. What is it about horses that allows this to be? As I continued my daily routine that now had me scrubbing out grain buckets I questioned this question.
Horses are simple creatures. They live to eat and breed, literally. We on the other hand are so complicated, by our own design. As luck would have it, we can’t drag our horses up into our crazy, chaotic lives and lifestyles leaving us no choice but to go down into theirs. And in doing so, our horse’s keep us grounded in what is real, and really important. For them quality in life has nothing to do with quantity, and today I feel lucky to be sharing ground and quality of life with my horses. Lessons in life learned both on and off the back of a horse.
As I continue on with my daily horse chores, albeit one handedly as I am still much on the mend, I think about their role as teacher that my horses have played so well in my life. Many, if not most of my horses had come to me with their own set of challenges. Oft times they had ended up in homes that were not a good fit, leaving them feeling that they needed to fight the good fight to survive. And so they did.
Once in my field they soon realized that I would give them nothing to fight about, hence they slowly but surely decided it best to fit in. This meeting of the minds, both equine and mine was best accomplished by learning how to be a more accomplished communicator. My horses had taught me how to listen not just with my ears as we are taught, but with our eyes as much is said that can’t be heard, only seen. Listen more than you talk, and when you do talk, mean what you say and say only what you mean. Lessons in life learned both on and off the back of a horse.
As I continue on with my daily routine, removing blankets and turning horses out I thought about gratitude. I was grateful. My horses had given me the opportunity to take my passion, my purpose, and make it my profession. How lucky am I? And yet as many say, there is no such thing as luck, as it is the result of timing, dedication, determination and good old hard work. The kids that participate in our Equine Assisted Skills for Youth Program can attest to that as well. Taking good care of another teaches us how to be accountable, dependable, reliable and trustworthy. Our relationship with our equine partners relies heavily on the trust factor. Without trust no relationship can survive. Lessons in life learned both on and off the back of a horse.
Now out in my arena I watch as the kids independently work their horses. Knowing that I am still slightly under the weather they must take what they have learned and apply it, using their newly acquired equine knowledge and putting it into practice. I think its called problem solving, the old fashioned way without benefit of Google or face book. Hard to believe, but in the end we have to believe in ourselves. Ride every stride in life with intention and purpose, both in and out of the arena. Best not to be a passenger, not in your life, and not on the back of a thousand pound prey animal with a strong flight instinct. Lessons in life learned both on and off the back of a horse.
My day is nearing an end as the feeding process once again begins. As I take care of my horses I trust that my horses will also take good care of me now. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be a part, and have a part in a life that is real and really important. The healing power of horses will heal me, one day at a time. And for that I am grateful. Thank you.
Linda Aldrich is the Director of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that provides a life skill/leadership program for youth ages 12-18 years of age utilizing horses as both guide and teacher. Check out their website at www.theponyepxressrocks.org.