The Thunder of Their Hooves
Jerry Finch / Habitat for Horses
It happened long before our time, before time even began, in a place of mist and trees, in a place of open land and brilliant moonlight, in a time and space far beyond our creation or knowledge. Aware, alert, in touch with the rhythm of the earth, they lived in a place we never knew, that we could never imagine. Their hoof beats thundered across the plains. Their cries echoed through the valley. In vast herds, in small family groups, they dwelled in a world removed from humans, in a world unto themselves.
What it must have been like for that first human encounter! Gentle, inquisitive, brave, that lone stallion who walked through the morning fog and stood before the hunter. Did the hunter stand in awe of his beauty, unprepared for the encounter, unknowing of all that stood before him? Did the hunter lay down his spear and walk gently toward the stallion? Did the stallion walk toward the hunter? Did they greet one another as equals, two spirits born of freedom?
I’d like to think it started that way, that the first encounter was of a gentle nature, that the two instantly understood, acknowledged, and eventually passed on through the fog, understanding that nothing, ever again, would be the same for either one of them. Tens of thousands of years ago, seen through the early morning mist – a brief meeting of two spirits that would forever change all that we are to one another. Our future, and that of the horse, would thereafter be entangled together.
They didn’t depend on us. It was us who depended on them. We mounted them and rode swiftly across the plains; they became our wings as we soared to distant lands. They
Once a wild horse, Voodoo, is a survivor of the Three-Strikes Ranch, now living with Willie Nelson
carried us, our families and our belongings. They expanded our world far beyond the horizons.
Through some twist of evolution, we were able to bring them into our world. We asked them to forget about their world, to leave behind all that was and become part of all we created. Far later, such a move would be called “dominion” and be claimed as a right given to us from our God.
And under that authority, we herded them, raised them, bred them, stalled them, whipped them into submission, put restraints on them, saddled them, shoed their hooves, and used them until they dropped, then we either left them to starve or killed them and ate their flesh.
Not all humans did that. Even in the days before the Bible, people wrote of gentle training, of the majesty and the glory that stood before them. On cave walls are paintings that show the wonder of the horse, the awe we felt as we stood before them. The Bible has more references to equines than any other animal. Countless images and words bring an understanding of the devotion that many had, the love which many felt.
Yet our history is one of cruelty, not of love. Many cry over the fallen, while only a few do the killing. We’ve let it go on for so many centuries that we’ve accepted it as human nature. We’ve let the few destroy what the many want to save.
Listen to the horses on a quiet morning. Listen as they nicker to one another through the early morning’s mist. Hear their soft sounds beneath the background of the crickets and the awakenings of the birds. We didn’t remove all that they were. They are still as wild and majestic and perfect as they were ten thousand years ago. They could still live without us. They don’t need us, you and I.
They don’t need us, but we need them.
We need them to forgive us for all we have done, all for all we continue to do. We need them to bring us to the earth, to bring us back in touch with the purity of nature. We need to feel the warmth of their breath, the touch of their nose. We need to be assured that all is forgiven, that we, no matter who we are or what we have done, will be accepted by those who live in a place so far away from our own, in a world that we will never understand, one of which we can only dream.
For we know that despite all the cars we buy, all the digital cameras we own, that regardless of the perfect houses we live in and the jobs we have, we’re missing something. There is emptiness beneath our soul, a piece that was never found in a puzzle that will never be complete. In our desperate attempt to claim all that we see, to show that we are the masters of the universe and all that stretches before us, we’ve forgotten that essential part of our nature that belongs with the hunter, looking through the early morning mist at the stallion that stands before him.
Itchy (Keith) Voodoo’s lifetime buddy.
We’re forgotten that we share the world. We’ve claimed dominion, but we’ve failed as caretakers. In our efforts to become gods, we’ve lost sight of the true function of God – to protect and have compassion for the earth.
In listening to the horse we can hear the calling, we feel the return. It’s there, just beyond our reach. If only….if only we could feel the thunder of their hooves.
Habitat for Horses is home to almost 200 horses and donkeys from all over the country. All have suffered from mankind’s “dominion” over them. Our mission, our calling, is to restore that which has been torn apart by respecting, nurturing and loving. If they are truly ready to try again, they can be adopted, but they can always come home again. This is their sanctuary for the remainder of their lives.
Be a part of the experience. Join us, help us help them. Your support, both financial and emotional, strengthens all that we do. Together, hand in hand, we reach out, touch, and feel the thunder of their hooves.
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Help Willie Nelson win a People’s Telly Award for his video The Love of Horses and promote the good works of Habitat for Horses.
Learn more and watch the video at the top of our home page: Habitatforhorses.org.