Thursday, May 14, 2009

Help me.

For a long time I have had a need to write about something that happened to me last year, but, until now, have simply not found a way to describe the incident. I have recently been reading Linda Kohanov’s book “The Tao of Equus” and her writing has helped me piece together a coherent explanation of what happened that day. But even now as I sit down at the computer, it seems as if my words escape me and all that is left is lingering emotions; sadness, frustration, pain and ultimately guilt.

It was early winter morning and the weather was cold. When I opened the door to the riding hall, the tension was immediately obvious, as if the entire world was holding its breath, waiting for something to go off, to explode and shatter.
My student was sitting on her horse, warming up at the walk and I remember another lady riding at the very end of the hall. But what truly caught my eye was “Horse Owner X” hand walking her young horse in a halter. There was something overwhelmingly aggressive in the way the woman was leading her horse.

My student rode over to me and from her face I could immediately tell that she was feeling the strain of the situation.
“I don’t know if I can ride in here,” she said as she stopped in front of me. “Horse Owner X is walking her young horse with the leg injury and I’m afraid something will happen.”

I looked over to the pair walking side by side and the look in the horse’s eyes was quite alarming, I could literally FEEL his need to escape and run away. The young gelding had a reputation of being difficult and unruly and frankly, I couldn’t blame him, I had seen the methods his owner used to “control” him.

The horse tossed his head and immediately Horse Owner X smacked him across the face with the end of the lead rope.
“Stop it, you shit!” She screamed and hit him again as she approached us down the long side. I could see the whites of the young horse’s eyes as he looked straight at me and it was like a knife was pushed into my heart at that very moment, the emotion from the horse traveling right into me like a sharp dagger thrown through the air at its target.
My student’s horse jumped forward a few feet and my student grabbed the reins in panic.
“This is what I mean. I can’t ride here, what if the horse gets loose?”

My student had barely had the time to utter her words when the young horse lunged forward and Owner X, who was dangling on the end of the lead rope, started running by him, trying to keep up with her horse.
“Stop it!” She screamed as they barged past my student, her horse and me. They made it to the next long side, but then, with a strong jerk of its head, the horse broke free. It bucked once or twice and then made a sharp turn and headed right at us.

The horse barged to our end of the arena and came to a screeching halt. As he stood there panting, his eyes bulging out of his head, his nostrils flaring, I carefully extended my hand out to touch his shoulder despite my heart that was racing in my chest. When my fingers stroked his skin, it felt like an electric thread had been weaved from the horse’s heart and through his body into mine, as if we had been attached to each other miraculously with an invisible umbilical cord.
Help me, he said. Help me.

Through touch we were bound together and I believe the love and pain I felt for this horse traveled from my heart to his. It was as if we had entered a bubble, with just the two of us in the world. He took a deep breath and lowered his head. And for a moment, it was alright, everything was okay.

Then the owner marched over and hit the horse in the head. The horse ripped away from me, severing the connection, cutting the cord. It hurt like hell, I wanted scream aloud from pain, but instead I froze in place. I didn’t know what to do, as I knew Horse Owner X would not listen to any advice from others, especially someone like me. The difficulty with people like her is that if you make them angrier, they will by default take it out on their horses. On the other hand, how do you NOT say anything, DO anything?

Fortunately my student and I were able to get Horse Owner X to calm down enough to catch her horse so she could return it to the barn safely. But both of us knew that the calm was just temporary before the next storm, as we had seen before what this woman was capable of when it came to abusing her horses.

After the young horse had been taken away, I felt myself shaking. Something profound had stirred inside me, a part of me was permanently dislodged and this piece now floated precariously towards an internal waterfall I had never known existed. I looked at my student who was staring at me quizzically.
“When I touched that horse…” I started, but choked by emotion. I had no words to continue.
“I know, I saw it,” My student said. “It was like he melted into you through your touch, like you came together.”

I have not been able to forget that little horse, even though it has now been over a year since he was "sent away". What happened between me and the young horse was one of the first incidents in a long string of events that have since changed the way I think of horses.
And then there is always the guilt, the infinite, unbearable pool of guilt. Why did I not do something more? Why am I afraid to openly defend these horses I see abused? Am I making enough impact with my diplomatic and silent resistance, or should I be more outspoken, more insistent, more aggressive? What should I do? Sometimes I feel like my hands are tied, but are they truly?

Some day I hope to have the courage to know the answers.
Take care, K

1 comment:

  1. You are doing very much for horses by writing down your thoughts and realizations in here, so that others can learn with you!