My Horse Heritage

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk.  He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.”              

William Shakespeare


“Put your foot in the stirrup.  Grab the saddle horn. Sling your leg over.  Take the reins. Hold on with your legs. Wait a minute.  Let’s untie your shoe strings.” Those were the instructions given to my sisters and me as we took turns riding our Shetland ponies, Daisy and Frosty.   Daddy insisted we untie our shoe strings whenever we rode a horse. When (being the operative word) we fell off, he didn’t want to risk having our foot caught in the stirrup, being dragged by a runaway horse.

There is nothing more frightening than a runaway horse, especially when you are the rider.  One late autumn afternoon, back in the 60’s, Daisy decided she’s had enough of me tugging on the reins and kicking her in the sides.  We did it her way. She took off at a trot, which escalated into a run. The reins were dropped, but not by choice. The only stationary item was the saddle horn, which I grabbed with a death grip, holding on for dear life.  It didn’t take long for Daisy and me to reach the barn gate. She went from a run to a dead stop. The sudden stop was my demise. Losing my grasp on the saddle horn, I toppled over and hit the ground. Daddy was there to help me up and find my Keds.  Before I could tie my shoes, my sisters had arrived, panting, out of breath, fear, and concern evident in their faces. I wanted to cry. The embarrassment and fear were secondary to the one option which remained to bring this riding fiasco to its conclusion.  Get back on that horse. Thankfully, Daddy led Daisy and me back to the barn, while I held onto the reins. And, the saddle horn.

Those were such great days.

Afternoons with Daddy taught me something important about the heart and soul of the horse.  If we quietly listen, the Horse will tell us that we are loved, we are accepted, and we are needed.

Those were qualities my Daddy had, too.

As humans, we have a long-standing relationship with the illustrious horse. In poetry, horses embody the freedom, spirit, and sense of adventure for which we long. We admire their drive and perseverance, their ability to combine high performance and graceful effort.

More personally, I have always found that the qualities of life for which we search are seen much clearly on horseback. Horses, like our dear Tuff, offer the gift of unconditional love. In his day, Tuff listened intently, sharing thoughts, dreams, hopes and life’s troubles.   He was never judgmental. Tuff was gentle, loyal, and a beautiful friend, the kind everyone should have.

Thankfully, you do not have to be a skilled rider, to bond with horses.  Riding is but one aspect of the horse relationship. If I fell off my horse today, it is unlikely there would be anyone there to pick me up and find my shoes, so I choose to spend time just being with the horse.  Grooming his silky coat, brushing tangles from his mane, smells of the barn, a 50-pound bag of sweet feed, and the leather in the tack room… these things have a deep, calming effect upon me.  

Time spent with a horse is never wasted.  These treasured opportunities allow you a sense of peace, a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Time spent with a horse offers a time of understanding and acceptance of ourselves, for with horses we enter a rare relationship that becomes the mirror to our souls.  We can unleash within ourselves the grace, the beauty, and the spirit found within our horse.

Natural horsemanship trainer John Lyons said it best.  

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine…you know you are loved.”

Don’t worry. If you don’t have a horse, I’ll be happy to introduce you to mine.