Zoe… She has a piece of my heart. People ask about my horse and I say that she’s changed my life. Sometimes I say that she has saved it. Then they get a curious look and ask how. It’s true and so hard to sum up with words when it’s all feel.. I usually just tear up and say, “she’s a really good horse…”
The truth is I can’t answer that question with words.
She’s about eighteen years old and stands 15.3 hands high. She’s a bay with one white sock and a little white star. I can tell you about her scars and her dings and dents but I never get much past this when I talk about her… I try to talk about asking a horse to move across an obstacle and not getting results so you have to look inside for more options. It’s true from a horse training perspective and it’s definitely true from a relationship point of view but there’s more. It’s deeper than that with her… When she’s tired I can feel her under my leg and I can give her a little more forward to help her along. It’s not with leg or spurs.. it’s different… and I can feel the try in her. I feel her fill her lungs with a breath and lengthen her stride… and her head lifts. She doesn’t like to stand still in the arena and she knocks me with her head and I know she wants to move her feet… How do you explain the heavy heart and tiredness inside when it’s time to go home. How can I explain the peace I feel while sitting on the down fir tree with the sun shining through the poplar trees… There is my horse with her lead rope draped over a branch in the bush… she’s standing and waiting quietly with a foot cocked and a sleepy look in her eye.
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How can I explain the steady push of the Fraser River on my legs and the sun on my back or the late summer flies swirling and dancing in the evening sun… How can I explain the feel of un-tacking Zoe, undoing her halter and turning her loose to roll in the sand and graze freely by the river as I fish. There is peace in knowing that she is content. She waits and watches. How do you explain the ache.. “please just one more minute, I’m not ready”, when I can’t go home. I can’t go to work, I can’t look inside my own head… How can you explain that it’s a horse that reminds you that it’s time to come back to the world. How can I explain being exhausted and not being able to sleep. My mind going around and around and around… and then being curled on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping while my horse feeds above me while the sun rises on another day.How can you explain loping through the forest after dark. Blind and trusting her to know the way… my face pressed into her neck and feeling her tell me when its time to turn, to shift my weight, to close my eyes because I can’t see anyway… I can’t see but we’re not lost. it’s just darkness and the light will come.
How do you explain feeling your horse’s fear… her feeling yours… feeling bold and confident together… The trust. Her shoulder lifting under my leg and the slow sink in soft ground until her hooves hit the solid bottom that I know is there. How can you explain giving your horse her head and letting her feel her way across the muddy banks of a creek and having her relax and refuse to move forward… “You’re right Zoe. We’ll find another way this time”. How can you explain the feeling when the Elders look at me and say that this horse is special…. The feeling when she is named a Spirit Horse and I’m told that she will keep me safe… You can watch us when we approach the shiny black expansion joint on a narrow walking bridge, or when we’re framed in a gateway, or when we ride in busy city traffic, or when we walk into a crowd of people. Watch us when come across hair and bones in the ditch or when the thick smoke fills the valley and then watch us move forward anyway. Maybe you can’t see it from the outside… when we’re tired and alone in our heads with the demons… “Shake it off, let’s go. We need to move our feet”.
Zoe? She’s a really good horse.