Saturday, March 13, 2010
I am grateful that Little Love’s owner lets me spend time with her horse three days a week. We have an agreement and I take what I can get. So Little Love and I meet in this controlled time and space the best we can, we hang out and spend time together, we ride, we play. But our time is often tainted by the feeling of duty I have towards the owner, who, bless her heart, tries her best with this horse that is not only a challenge for her to ride, but has forced her to compromise in so many ways. Sure, the owner would probably be happier and safer with another horse, but after years of struggling with Little Love and finally finding a faint chord of understanding with the mare, she has decided to stick with what she has and make it work. I commend her for her perseverance and her love for this complicated animal; together they have come a long, long way from those days of abusive trainers and painfully controlling tack.
I also realize what a key figure I am in this delicate equation. Without my contribution three times a week, the owner perhaps could no longer ride safely and life with Little Love would be very, very different. In fact, it would perhaps be what it was for five years before I met the couple; a continuous battle of wills, a brutal power struggle where both owner and horse keep losing. So, I operate in this platform, and with my heart at times filled with frustration, but other times with love and gratitude, I do my best to balance the needs of the owner and the needs of this horse that is not mine. But, there are days when I can’t help myself from dreaming of another solution.
This week Little Love’s owner was gone on a business trip and I had the opportunity to be with Little Love every single day for eight days straight. What a difference it made! When I went to the barn, we continued from where we left off, not where someone else left off the day before. On the fourth day I could tell Little Love was waiting for me, waiting to connect, to spend time with me. And suddenly we had time, we had days of it.
We hung out, hours and hours of just doing nothing. I didn’t have to worry about making sure Little Love was mentally and physically in the right mind set for the weekly dressage lesson with her owner. I didn’t have to worry about her owner’s safety on the trail ride she was planning for the next day. I didn’t have to feel like I had to DO something, exercise the horse so she would be calm, or take her on certain trails in preparation for an upcoming ride. Instead, Little Love and I could just be together and enjoy each other’s company, no strings attached. And that’s what we did; nothing and everything. We took walks together and I let Little Love decide which turn to take. I sat in the straw and watched her eat her hay. I scratched the itchy skin around her neck and massaged her back. We hung out in the arena and dreamed. I didn’t even put the saddle on her for the first six days.
This wasn’t the first time we had had a week together. But it was the first time our connection was this strong, the peace surrounding us nearly too much to bear. Every time we connect it gets better and every time it gets harder not to dream. The dreams of the what if’s.
What if she was my horse? What if I could decide where she lived and how? What if she didn’t have to live in a stall, but outside and with other horses in a herd? What if she could have a baby, because I’m so convinced she would like to have one. What if she would never be ridden in an arena again unless she agreed to it? What if I could choose to never ride her again?
My hunger grew as I ate. What if I had my own property and she could live there with me and my family. What if I had some other horses there, too, and I could see them all out of my window and visit them any time I wanted. What if the only human she ever had to deal with was me? What if she had the choice of being with me or walking away? What if it changed everything? Would she still be scared or would she trust me? What if we bonded even more? What if I could go walking on the trails without a halter? What if I could ride her without any tack? What if we could be together for the rest of her life?
I know, I should stop. This is no longer a dream, it is insatiability.
Sometimes I hear of people who have an incredible bond with their horse, so incredible that they ride with no tack out in the fields, so incredible that their horses are not afraid of anything because they trust their humans, so incredible that the person and horse are no longer separate but have merged into one, a modern day centaur. And I am jealous, utterly and shamefully jealous. Because it takes me back to the what ifs. For surely if I had all that I dream of I, too, could transform my bond with Little Love to something entirely different.
Perhaps of all animals it is only humans who are designed to dream, and that is exactly what makes humans capable of intense unhappiness. We always want something we can’t have and because of that, we can’t enjoy what we have in the present moment. Little Love has taught me so many things, but one of her most profound lessons for me has been to learn to live in the here and now, and to be grateful for the small gifts life brings along. When I am with Little Love, I should be nowhere else, neither in yesterday nor in tomorrow, nor in someone else’s life, but just there, with her. And as hard as it is, I am learning to do just that. So when she is in liberty in the arena and chooses to come to me, to be with me, even if for a short minute, I savor that moment. And that moment connects me with unspeakable love. Sure, it may not last forever and Little Love and I may one day be separated, but until then, I should allow myself be tamed by the black mare who knows much more than I do.
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower . . . I think she has tamed me . . . " ………..
" [If] you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . . "
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time. "Please--tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . . " ……………
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near--
"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . . "
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."
- from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery