I’ve never become hardened to the pain and suffering of horses, but I’ve become wiser, knowing there is no limit to what people can do to hurt them. We have twelve horses in our intake/ICU facility, twelve examples of the worst type of abuse. I work with them everyday, tending to their physical needs, trying to heal their psychic pains. I don’t dwell on what the horse has been through. Part of the healing is showing the horse that it’s over, teaching them to let go of the past and offering them hope for the future. If I dwell on the past, I’m fighting what I’m trying to give.
Conan, the gentle giant Friesian, cowers in the corner of his stall when a human comes into the barn. Nicole, the crippled miniature, runs as fast as she can to get away from the touch of a human hand. Stacy trembles with fear at the sound of a human voice. The stories go on and on, each one speaks of horrid abuse done to a horse who, at one time, was willing to give its life to its owner.
Hope came into our world yesterday. That’s the name given to a ten-month old filly, a little baby, by a wonderful young lady named Christa. Christa heard about Hope from a friend, heard of the abuse, called us, bought Hope to remove her from her owner and donated her to Habitat for Horses. She and her Dad hauled Hope several hundred miles, I met them just west of Houston and brought Hope the rest of the way home. It wasn’t until I unloaded her from the trailer that I realized how bad things really are.
The vet came out and did a preliminary exam, confirming my fears. Hope’s face is deformed, not from a birth defect as I had thought, but from a severe blow just below her eyes that fractured the bone. She has spinal problems, causing nerve damage to her back legs. She’s in pain when she moves.
Christa told me the story of Hope’s past. She was used for roping practice, probably whipped so she would run. No doubt the falls are what caused her spinal problems. I can only imagine what caused the blow to the head. I can’t imagine the pain she suffered after it happened. I don’t even want to think about the mental pain she suffered when she realized that people can be so cruel. Ten months old, starved, deformed, treated like a hunk of meat. Thank God she found Christa.
There are those that do bad things, as there are those that do good. As long as the good outnumber the bad, as long as there are people like Christa, we can continue to heal what others try to destroy. Christa named Hope because she gave the little girl just that – hope for a better life. She asked us to see to it, to make sure it happens. That’s a heavy responsibility, but it’s one I decided to take on a long time ago, way before I started Habitat for Horses. I do it because it has to be done. Not doing it would be like not breathing.
The first step for Hope was today. We looked at the obvious smashed-in face, and then forgot about it. We don’t see it anymore. We see a soul that needs comfort, we see a pain that needs healing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a three-legged miniature horse, a 2,800 pound giant, or a 10 month old baby, we take them and try to heal. We try to undo what others have done. Most of the time it works.
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I just finished my nightly rounds, spreading cookies, apples and good-night hugs to all the horses. I spent extra time with Hope, holding her tightly. “With every beat of your heart,” I told her, “you’re going to get better. You will never again be hit. No one will ever use an angry voice, no one will ever laugh at you, no one will ever hurt you.”
That’s a hard promise to keep. It means that, if all goes well, twenty years from now Hope will be walking around in the pasture at the Sanctuary, munching grass with her friends. That means that Habitat for Horses will have to be here, protecting her. Hope is our horse. She belongs to me, to Christa, to you, to all of us, to all those that care and love and want to heal. What we have to do, what we must do, is to make sure we will always be here. for her.
It doesn’t do any good to look at a horse like Hope and ask questions about how people can be so mean. Some people are; it’s just a fact. The hard part is to look at Hope and see what she can be twenty years from now, to get her to start dreaming again, and to make those dreams become a reality. And it isn’t just horses, the same is true for little girls that were raped by their father, little boys who were set on fire by their older brother. There are kids that have seen more injustice that anyone can imagine, who are disfigured so horribly that they hide behind bandages. All of them need Sanctuary, all of them need to know that there is one place they can go where they will always be safe.
Condemning the bad people of the world is easy. The hard part is to reach out and help the healing. Can you do it? Will you help us?
Hope held on for as long as she could. Constant seizures continued to sap her strength until, after one 36 hour period of ice-packs and prayers, we came to the realization that we were losing the battle to save her life. With great sadness, we finally released her into God’s hands.
“With every beat of your heart….”
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