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  • Courageous Connections

The Long Wait

I’ve been on the extreme edge of the horse world my entire life. Last week, I was reminded of it by a call from my best friend which began typically with, “Do you remember…?”


What she remembered was the incredibly unflattering incident of a horse running away with me – me hanging on for my life to the saddle with one hand, yanking the horse’s head practically to its flank with the other, and shrieking every curse I had ever heard.


I survived. The moment embedded on my brain was not fear – because I felt none – it was the outrage of the horse taking me on a joy ride. I remember that hot, dusty, horsey smell, the shouts of the trail ride leader, and the view of branches going by way too fast.


I remember the feeling of his great strength beneath me, and of his surprising determination to do what he, not what I, wanted. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to blend our spirits and wishes, to share a sublime union of existence as we trotted, as one, sharing the natural world. On my terms.


I was nineteen and, of course, knew nothing.


There were a few other attempts at connecting with horses, usually at stables that, for a set fee, boosted you onto the back of a disinterested animal for an hour. Scraping together the money for my middle daughter to go to a horse camp. Holding the halter of a friend’s restless gelding. Allowing a neighbor to leave her mare in my field for three weeks. A different mare watching me putter in my garden.


Every time there was a sense of lost opportunity, of a secret equine language I didn’t speak. Would probably never learn.


When I began volunteering at Courageous Connections, I instantly saw what I had missed – that thread of awareness between two living beings, without the drama, misconceptions, expectations, or endless words that we surround ourselves with. Humans in physical or emotional pain were able to touch and simply breathe with the horses, to feel their strength and the reality of a different existence. To connect on the most profound level.


When Kathy showed us how to offer a “horsey handshake,” by standing to one side and allowing the animal to smell our hands, I finally got what I had wanted – a chance to say hello to another creature that also walked the earth.


It wasn’t the desire to ride, control, or own a horse. I had wanted simply to be able to connect with a being so beautiful and distinct within its own life. I had wanted to learn to say, “Hello,” and know that I had been heard.


It was sublimely worth the wait.


Contributing Author: Susan Brown

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