Friday, September 18, 2009

Horse spirit

"We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back." Peter Gray (Calvary from Hoof to Track)

I know I'm nuts about horses but really, how can you NOT go nuts with up to a ton of sheer power beneath you? A ton! A force not merely passive and only grunts into action when you turn the key in the igntion but is headstrong, willful, defensive and has a heart for literally unbridled freedom. Never mind that the gorgeous bulk of muscle comes with a furry coat, wet lips and a deep chest I could cling to all day. I am mad about horses and for good reason; they represent a life and a lifetime I dream of, that I want, that I long for, that for the best in me I cannot explain except that when I look upon the horse, I know whatever it is I'm searching for is embodied in that creature.

There is a sign on my bedroom wall that simply reads "HUMILITY." I scribbled it on a piece of paper and stuck it up to remind myself to appreciate each day and no matter how awful things got, to always remember my place and that I have much in Jesus Christ that even if everything were taken from me, I would still have all I needed and all that really counted. Friends are fickle and families don't always know best but there are few secrets between a horse and its rider. What others miss in hyped-up talk, horses catch on in conflicting body language. When I used to have a bad day at college (or with another horse for that matter) Starshine would instantly pick up on it, becoming agitated and tetchy and our sync would be thrown off balance because I couldn't concentrate and she could tell something was wrong.

Humility has taken a different meaning in life lately. As I dream as much as I could ever dream, adapt more and resist less, I find myself looking back at the horses that I love. We take for granted that the horse should listen when we pull unkindly on their bit, that the bus should come on time, that the people standing in the train should give us breathing room. We complain when bad timing makes us late for events due to unforseen circumstances or when the rain suddenly pours, catching us unprepared without an umbrella. I've had many a day walking around like a deranged psychopath muttering to myself like some grumpy old woman. As politics in life and self-interest took its toll, I saw no reason being nice to people I don't like, no reason in making the effort to make new people feel welcomed and no reason to invest in anyone other than myself. I saw myself as a restless colt (or filly), angry at the world and at the people trying to saddle me at their own whims and fancies without asking me if it was what I wanted and I felt proud when I bit the hand that in my mind tried to herd me into the same category as other stereotypical farm animals.

And then for some reason unknown to me, I saw humans from my mount's point of view. We truly are feeble in the animal kingdom with no biological superiority over those on four legs or those with wings, with the possible exception of owning a cynical brain and a tendency to bear lifelong grudges. I look at myself through the eyes of Black Magic, the first Welsh Cob I managed to get on (although not stay on). There I was, an 18-year old ball of excitable (ignitable) energy; the over-concentrated perfectionist with the dreamy oxymoronic mind to boot, waiting to get on my horse. If I had been Black Magic, I would have rolled my eyes, stepped sideways and not let 'humpty dumpty' get on my back.

I wonder if animals know God's mandate that humans are to rule over the beasts of the air and the field better than humans know it themselves. How else will a ton of self-preservation, with great humility, allow a chortling child to rub peanut butter fingers over its muzzle or change footing at the slightest shift of command from a dressage rider? I wonder what my horse sees when she looks at me. I hope she likes what she sees but my heart is broken because I know that even if my flaws break out like mould on a piece of cheese that's been left out too long, I have her unconditional devotion as she plucks the mould out from my character and then gently bows her head and allows me the pleasure of scatching her behind the ears.

How much I have been given. How much I should give. How little it is that is asked from me to give up.

"A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves — strong, powerful, beautiful — and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence." Pam Brown (Australian poet)

No comments: