I have a confession to make. I’m not one of those girls who can claim I’ve always loved horses. In fact, the truth is for most of my life, horses have downright scared me. I much preferred it if there was a fence or two between me and them. (I know, hold your shock.)
Now don’t get me wrong, all you have to do is take one look at our Meet the Farm page to know that Cowboy and I are animal lovers of the highest magnitude. But I also understand that horses are bigger and more powerful than me, and definitely have minds of their own. Boy, do they have minds of their own. In fact, they’ve often awakened the fight or flight in me, and the few times I’d been around them in my past they had me on the flight side of the fence.
For example, as a kid I had taken a ride at a stable with our youth group, which seems to be a harmless right of passage for lots of kids. I was excited to try it out, but being vertically challenged, they couldn’t make my stirrups short enough. However, with a mischievous smile they told me not to worry, I was on a gentle ride, and all I needed to do was loosely hang on. Hmmm …. should have been warning sign number one, don’t ya think?
Warning number two – the guides told us absolutely no screaming, as the horses were trained to run if you yelled, thinking you were in danger. Fabulous, simply fabulous. So there I sat, feet dangling in the top of the stirrups keeping quiet. Not an easy task for a girl whose first grade teacher called her motor mouth and mouth of the south (but that’s another story).
Well you guessed it, my horse trotted, loped, and flat out ran for the barn. Picture a puny 13-year-old whisper-yelling, “Help, help, help!” while trying desperately to keep her bum from bumping right off that horse. Not surprisingly, the flight thing came naturally after that.
Enter 2008. Cowboy and I attended the Extreme Mustang Makeover, sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, in Fort Worth, Texas. Holy cats (or should I say horses), what a show! Patriotic, majestic, amazing. We walked the barns looking at these mustang horses, and there was just something in their eyes. It went right down to my soul. And a tiny voice whispered, “Could you possibly be a horse person?”
Then came the yearlings’ stalls. And one very special little guy trained by one special little girl did me in. She had done a great job with her fella, but had other horses at home, and so this one needed a fur-ever home. You know what’s coming next, right? One little mustang yearling was adopted that day and headed home with me and Cowboy.
Fast forward more than eight years later, and Lone Star Ranger has changed my life. We’ve got two more mustangs, one aging quarter horse, and two charming donkeys. I’m a horse person now. Who knew?
But what does that really mean anyway? No, my house is not decked out in western regalia; I don’t run around in cowgirl boots most of the time; and I don’t have a desire to be the rodeo queen (trust me, this is a good thing for all involved).
But these horses have a story and that speaks to me in a million ways. Most of the time when we meet other horse folks, the first thing they ask me is, “What do you do with them?” I’m not sure why this is, but Cowboy and I have experienced it over and over. Everyone expects you to DO something to justify why you have them.
I often feel sheepish as I know they are waiting for me to impress them with tales of riding or rodeo antics. And the truth was I used to always feel guilty because I wasn’t a great rider, heck if I’m honest, riding still scares me.
And then one day, someone asked me once again, and the right answer finally came to me. We love them. We simply love them.
Because that is the truth. They got their second chance at life and love at the farm, and they are our family members. We even moved to the farm so that they would have room to roam and play, and yes that is also why we ended up with more. (Just a friendly warning, horses are like potato chips. One is never enough.)
We’ve built stalls and runs. We brush them, share carrot snacks, and love on them. Sometimes Cowboy even rides them. (I don’t call him Cowboy for nothing.)
Could this have happened with any horse? Maybe, but I like to think it’s the magic of the mustang. The deep connection they make with their humans. They simply love us.
P.S. A version of this story was submitted to the America’s Mustang Essay Contest. While I was not a winner, these great equines make me feel like a winner each day.