Nicole finds love
“There’s something about kids and horses,” is an often heard statement in the horse world.
Kids and innocence, kids and hope, kids and the belief in magic…. Most of us seem to lose that special thing that kids have when we get older. The realities of the world cloud our childlike vision of life, turning us away from the magical belief in a world made of wonder and mystery.
Nicole is a beautiful little paint miniature mare that had her dreams shattered by some force that left her hip broken in two places. For three months she lay in a dark stall until a phone call brought her to Habitat for Horses. X-rays showed that the break had calcified. Surgery would not heal her, nor could we do much more than heal the open sores and provide the nutrition necessary to bring her severely underweight body back to normal. In both of those we were successful.
We keep her in her own little yard, with a shavings-filled stall and a tree to lay under. From one branch of the tree a hay net twist gently in the breeze, from another drops a plastic apple. The birds are her constant companions and, on occasion, old Harvey, the elderly pony, wanders by and pins his ears back at her. Nicole spends her days and nights in a world filled with fears, afraid of other horses because she can’t get away and afraid of people because of the harm they did to her.
So she stands, waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for the next meal, waiting for a passing volunteer to toss her an apple. She won’t come close, won’t let people touch her, doesn’t like people to look at her or to speak to her. Her world is inside a shell that she has built around herself, where she feels safe.
Dozens of volunteers pass by her during the week, on their way to other horses, seeking more responsiveness, more beauty. Perhaps they are inclined to find their own quiet moments with the bigger horses, perhaps they don’t want to be face-to-face with the obvious horrors of other people’s abuse.
A couple of months ago, one of our new volunteers brought her daughter by, a teenager I’ll call Amy. Mom is one of those special people that like to come out and spend quiet time with the horses, grooming them, loving on them. She already knows of the rejuvenating power of horses and she doesn’t need to tell me that she’s wanting to pass it on to her daughter. Amy is rebelling, typical teenager stuff, not wanting to do what mom does.
Amy didn’t come for several weeks, then showed up one afternoon with her friends. I didn’t stand around listening to her conversations, but I could tell that her friends weren’t attracted to the horses and Amy got a little defensive with them. I didn’t see Amy for awhile, mom always came alone. Two weeks ago, Amy showed up again, assigned to “community service” for some infraction at school, and headed for Nicole’s paddock with brush in hand.
Knowing Nicole’s problems, I went in behind her, showed her how to approach Nicole, showed her the no-no things, talked about brushing gently, talking softly. “Nicole is like a lot of teenagers,” I told her, “wanting to be left alone. But being alone isn’t very much fun, is it? Perhaps all Nicole needs is to know that there is someone in this world she can trust.” And with that I left them alone.
Unknown to a lot of volunteers, I’m never out of sight. I leave them alone, but I’m around somewhere, keeping more of an eye on them than they realize. I watched Amy try her best to calm Nicole down, try to brush her, getting frustrated because Nicole’s only desire was to get away.
And that’s when the moment of magic happened.
Some adults still have it, a lot of kids have it, most very young kids have it all the time – the ability to connect. Instead of jerking on the halter, instead of raising her voice, instead of walking away, Amy was hugging Nicole, her face buried in Nicole’s mane, whispering softly. Nicole’s shell came tumbling down, along with Amy’s shell. There was no longer a teenager and a rebellious, frightened horse in that paddock, there was two souls, meeting on common ground, reaching out and healing one another.
Nicole was due to be moved to a place near Dallas in a few days. I couldn’t do that to Amy, take away someone she felt that close to, nor could I do that to Nicole. The adoption was cancelled. Nicole is Amy’s horse for awhile. If Amy leaves, perhaps there will be another. Then another after that.
We can take in old, abuse, sick horses and bring them back to some level of health. We can give them feed and hay, show them love, offer them our hearts. There is no magic in that. The magic happens when the horse decides to give back, when the horse offers its heart to a little girl, a young woman or an old man. We heal them and, if we are very, very lucky, they, in turn, heal us.
you, Nicole, for giving Amy your heart, for seeing that a little girl needs you. There’s something about kids and horses. It’s called magic. It’s called trust.
It’s called love.
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Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.