Such an array of extreme emotions, so many choices – Dreams and fears are real here and more than just voices.
A few years ago, I attended a “graduation” of sorts at Warm Springs Institute in Georgia. The ceremony marked the end of a rehabilitation program designed to merge challenged citizens into the real world as productive citizens. Most were learning to cope with physical handicaps as a result of birth complications or due to impairing accidents. Some, like my brother, were dealing with brain irregularities. They were all taught certain skills which co-coordinated with their individual interests and capabilities. Celebrations ran high. They were so proud of their achievements. We were proud of them. They now felt like they had a place, a chance to blend with the “normal” world. This marked the end of the struggle and was just the beginning of a new and better life. Such high hopes and expectations. It was such an emotional day, so full of promise after living through such hardships. I cried as they laughed.
Fast forward to last weekend where I attended the Ultimate Rescue Challenge sponsored by the Georgia Equine Rescue League. Not unlike the graduates mentioned above, these horses had survived indescribable hardships of abuse and starvation. They were hurt, damaged and fearful of what the world had to offer them – kindness or cruelty? They had undergone a 120 day training session to get them ready for the real world – a permanent home. What I saw was an impossibly strong connection between horse and trainer that allowed these equine partners to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and give their all. Were they perfect? Of course not and some would never be able to function as a normal “riding”horse. But they all had value and gave everything they possibly could. They all had a place where they could excel in the right setting and situation. Much like the graduates of Warm Springs, these graduates of rescue were being celebrated for their accomplishments and potential while being painfully aware of the limitations. I cried as their stories were told.
Wondering what the future holds.
The possibilities are endless as to the future of these graduates – both human and horse. Graduation Day was the high point of their lives so far and then tomorrow it all ends and they are thrown into the world, ready or not. The world can be a wonderful place with an ending that they live happily ever after in the perfect homes and jobs, or ….. Only time will tell how well they can fill in the gaps needed to make it all work out for the best and what their destiny will be. It is hard enough to make it without dealing with unfair handicaps. I choose to believe that, given a chance, they will change the way they have had to look at the world and put the darker side behind them. I watched the culmination of those graduations and felt all those emotions stir inside me that an unfortunate past and unknown future holds. I was moved by the euphoric sensations and just as strongly fearful of the outcome. I prayed for the best and I cried.
I have to believe that I will be with him again when I leave this earth, when I should die – I will meet up with my horse and take that last ride, only this time we’ll be flying together across the sky.
Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long it takes or what obstacles you have to overcome. This is a true story of a woman who made her lifelong wish to ride horseback through the mountains out west with her sister come true. Sounds simple enough. I guess I need to tell you the rest of the story.
First, the dream was created when they were children and didn’t materialize until they were well into their sixties. She had lived her entire life, raised her family, had a career, endured life’s hardships and made wonderful memories carrying that vision. It never faded, it never changed. It was only when she was in the final stages of cancer that she decided that this was one dream that was not going to slip away before she left this world. She got her life in order, found loving homes for all of her pets including her horses, and made reservations for herself and her sister to visit a dude ranch in Wyoming in June of that year. She was fading fast when the trip rolled around but got on that plane and headed west for the ride of her life. She knew it was literally now or never. Well, she rode those scenic mountains that week with her sister at her side even though she was partially debilitated at the time. Her right arm had ceased to function and hung limply at her side. That didn’t stop her. She got help getting on and off that horse and away she went laughing and smiling like it was pure heaven on earth.
Enjoying a mountain stream
It was probably the biggest highlight of her life and even better than she had imagined all those decades when she could only daydream about it. It was her final goal and she died that autumn shortly after returning from that trip. To celebrate the meaning of that ride and the joy she found though horses, her saddle pad and boots were draped over her casket at her funeral. Kind of said it all to us fellow horse lovers who understand the significance of that statement.
Now that I’m older and wiser as such, I know that some wishes fell off of the grid – But I find I am still dreaming about horses not much different than when I was a kid.
I was on a winter night’s horse-drawn sleigh ride in Banff, Canada. The night was freezing cold but bright and clear. We were traveling down a frozen river that ran through the picturesque town, cuddling under warm blankets, enjoying the brilliant stars and the sound of the horse’s hooves on the ice as we glided along. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. Much, much better. That cold, icy ride rekindled a fire that had been smoldering inside me for more than 20 years. As I gazed dreamily into the winter wonderland I was surrounded in, suddenly a vision appeared that would forever change my life. No, I didn’t see God, but I did see an angel in the form of a horse stepping onto the ice upon which a young girl effortlessly rode bareback. As I watched them trot gracefully up the river, I knew in that instant that I wanted to be that girl – that it should have been me. I could not think of anything or anyplace I would rather be experiencing in my life that would give me more pleasure than to be living my life like that. I was so moved that my heart actually ached. I knew I had to get horses back into my life and when I did, I was going to have that kind of a relationship with my horse. I asked around about the girl and her horse and the story was that she rode her horse to work every evening. She worked in a popular local restaurant until 10:00 p.m. or so while her horse waited patiently for her in the snowy parking lot and then together they traversed the frozen river in the moonlight. You could just feel how strong the bond between them was by the ease of their movements. It was as if they were one being – It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen to this day.
Back in my life & better than ever
Such bittersweet memories of a very similar relationship with my horse many years ago -a lifetime ago -of a spirited 3/4 Arabian. 1/4 Thoroughbred mare named Blaze that only I could ride, and the fearless, passionate young girl I had once been. I hadn’t had a horse for many, many years and the love was buried under life’s circumstances. I realized in that moment that the ember had continued to glow and it was time to fan the fire. It wasn’t long before horses were in my life again stronger than ever. Now they are my heaven on earth as you have probably noticed by now.