equine therapyThis blog is the second in a series describing a personal accounting of a healing experience with a horse, and is also an excerpt from my most recent book, ON THE BACK OF A HORSE: Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human-Equine Bond, now available on Amazon.

Six hours old, and he thinks he owns the world. I quickly shooed him away, to let him know that charging people was not acceptable. Surprised as much as I had been, he jumped away. Then, he turned around and came right up to me again. This time, though he seemed to be approaching me out of curiosity. If I was as tough as him, maybe I had something to offer.

Thus began the pattern of our relationship. From that moment on, he was always curious about me, watching as I worked the other horses. Every time I walked by his pen, he’d neigh. Pretty much the next two years of his life seemed to be spent trying to get me to notice him. Of course I loved him, but I had five other riding horses preparing for competitions at the time. Nimo was too young to ride, he just would have to wait. As the months rolled by, I felt as if I was anticipating that first ride as much as he was. But not just with eagerness and excitement – with some fear too.

The determination Nimo showed about everything unsettled me when I thought of starting him under saddle. Independence is a primary characteristic of a stallion, after all, and having me on his back would very likely jeopardize that need. He had always been the master of his world and being ridden would change all that. Moreover, while he wanted my attention, I also knew how much he loved to challenge me. This is what had kept me from starting him.

Standing there, on the front porch now, looking out across the arena, and the pastures stretching out beyond, it occurred to me that I had not spoken to a single person about what had just happened. Nor had I any intention of doing so.

And then it hit me, just as it must have hit Nimo. “You need to focus here-on me,” his look seemed to say. Horses were the only thing that hadn’t seemed to let me down. And there was an increasingly large part of me that would rather have been one. Nimo knew it, and brought my attention to it. You’ve always been here, with us. It seemed to me as wise a thing to believe as any other at this point, everything in my world having just collapsed.

Or maybe Nimo just knew I was going to ride him today.

I pulled him out of his pen, and brought him over to the grooming area. He was his characteristic macho self, taking his steps with confidence. He knew how magnificent he was. Running the brush down his neck, and over his back, I thought about how he never seemed to question himself, never worried. And it wasn’t just because he was a stallion. He’d been this way from the day he was born. He loved life, and acted as if life loved him back. In a way, it did. Everybody loved Nimo. Often, when people came to look at the other sale horses, they asked to see Nimo instead. Neighbors and friends –   even people who didn’t know anything about horses would always ask about him. He just had this magnetic quality. It made me want what he had. And today, as I was grooming him, still shaken, I could have used some of that confidence. I too, wanted life to love me back, and lately it felt as if it had been doing just the opposite.

Due to the fallout of my family’s trauma, I was utterly alone, with no idea what really caused it, much like I suppose many of us are when unexpected and tragic things happen. While I felt stunned and paralyzed in every other area of my life, the only thing I could seem to be able to focus on was whether or not Nimo would let me ride him. Would he want to share his confidence, or would he be angry with me for wanting him to? Would he become aggressive? Would he buck, or bolt? Any of these responses was possible, and I would be no match for him.

I had grown up riding and training horses, had started several horses, and even galloped a number of racehorses, but I had simply never known a horse as athletic as Nimo. Not a big horse, he stood at only 16 hands, but he was incredibly balanced in everything he did. I had spent many hours just watching him play; it was captivating how he could move so fast, and change directions so rapidly, never once losing balance. Indeed, his gymnastic abilities made the other horses look like slow moving elephants. There was just no comparison, and he knew it. It’s what made him such an incredible horse.