Research shows that one of the most common causes of failure in relationships points to a breakdown in communication. According to Mehrabian’s communication study; only 7% of what we say verbally with words actually communicates, 38% is based on tone of voice and 55% is communicated through body language. This is where we believe that horses can help couples to either establish or improve their communication and in doing so improve their relationship.
Today is unlike any other day in the life of this horse girl. It is morning time, and a chilly one at that. Feeling my body’s pain I gingerly prepare myself for the bitter cold weather that has blanketed my field overnight painting it white against the early morning light. It is definitely a day to bundle up as I tentatively make my way out to feed my horses. Greeting me with their sweet sounds of horse’s eager to be fed I begin my routine; one that I have done so many times before. Moving slowly, but surely I feed each one of the fifteen rescued horses and ponies that participate in our Equine Assisted Skills for Youth Program until all are happily ensconced in their favorite morning ritual of eating.
It was the summer of 2007 when we first met. Her registered name was Laundering Money and she was running in the twelfth race at Sonoma County fairgrounds. One could not help but notice the big bodied mare throwing an even bigger tantrum in the staging area. With no less than four handlers manhandling her in their futile attempts to keep her feet on the ground, a war was waging to get her tacked up in time to race. Fighting for her life, or so she thought, I watched her hurl herself every which way but loose in her attempts to loosen her handler’s grip on her mouth. As I watched I couldn’t help but notice the whites of her eyes literally screaming for help. But with all of the frenzied attention focused on slamming her squarely into a hole that did not befit her, no one cared and not one was listening. Her eyes caught mine and the whites glared out from under her panicked big browns. Finally saddled with grooms running alongside I watched as they jumped the jockey onto her back only to have her just as quickly hurl him to the ground.
Milo is a proud and handsome bay gelding. Part Peruvian Paso and part who knows what, he stands tall even though by horse standards he is quite short. One can barely see his arresting brown eyes hidden beneath a mass of wild forelock. They say the eyes tell all and Milo’s both beckon and caution one to approach with great care. Once upon a time not too long ago there existed a barn-size chip on Milo’s shoulder, one of defiance born from distrust. A nearly impossible burden to bear, Milo retaliated as his attempts to communicate a growing discomfort with his human partners continued to fall on deaf ears and untrained eyes. It was as if no one was listening.
Today, I had to do something I have never done before. And that is to put down a healthy horse; an old, but otherwise healthy horse. Granted, this horse’s years of service had long since come and gone as his ability to shuffle all four feet in time with any regular beat had sadly, accepted defeat. But none the less his appetite was good, his weight was good, and his spirits were good. And he still had a spark in his eye. In his eyes, life was good, no great. So why you ask, did I put this horse down? Sadly, it all comes down to one thing, money, dollars and cents, or the lack thereof, and timing. And there is never a good time to run out of money.
As the Director of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that includes a life skill/leadership program for youth utilizing horses as both guide and teacher, you always go in search of happy endings. It is the ultimate gift and reward to be rewarded not necessarily in dollars and cents, but in the sense that you have made a difference in the quality of the lives of both the horses and riders that come your way. Such was the case this sunny Saturday in July.
The story is a common one. If you have spent any time in the saddle it has probably happened to you or someone you know. You were on a horse and somehow, someway they knew that you were a little, maybe even a lot afraid to be on their back. Sensing this, at some point during the course of the ride your horse decided to do something about it. Perhaps he spooked at something, drug you through some low hanging branches, decided to run back to the barn, or all of the above. Your horse’s attempt to dislodge you may or may not have been successful. Either way you’re even more afraid to ride and convinced that every horse you get on knows this about you. It’s true, they do so let’s take a minute to look at our equine angst and how we can go about getting to the other side of the equine fear factor.
According to Webster’s the word ‘whisper’ is defined as “to speak or utter softly, using the breath, but not the vocal cords.” We whisper to one another when we want our words to remain hushed and in the confidence and confinement of closely guarded quarters. We whisper to convey secrets, deliver intoxicating revelations, or special utterances of the heart that are meant for only certain ears. So how and when did the whisper come to be associated with horses?
Midnight was inducted into the Equus Awards Hall of Fame for his commitment to making the days, and the dreams of young aspiring equestrians everywhere come true. Though small in stature, Midnight is mighty big in his ability to bring a smile to any and all of the children that know him by name at the Howarth Park pony corral.