Safe in the Saddle

How equine therapy saved my life...

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If soaking up someone's tears could drown anyone, my horse would have been gone a long time ago.

My Wake Up Call was in 2005. In the space of a year I experienced various earthquakes on the emotional Richter Scale: I lost my wonderful Dad to cancer, our family of 6 had to sell our home and relocate from Niagara Falls to Virginia Beach, and with the stresses of my husband’s new job and too much overtime he and I almost separated. My four children were ages 10 to 15, which are terrible years to try to make new friends in a school which didn’t care for northerners and where everyone seemed to have grown up together. They would come home miserable, every day for the first few months, to a miserable Mom.

My youngest son had high-functioning autism so I have a huge heart for special needs kids. After I got the house all set up, I saw in the local flyer that there was an Equine Therapy program nearby in need of volunteers. I had helped exercise and care for a friend’s horse as a teenager, so I thought this might be my niche – I could help both horses and kids connect to each other. What I didn’t know was that I would be the one receiving the most help. 

The first day at the stables I walked into a horse’s stall, Rocky’s, to groom him and I lost it. I wrapped my arms around his neck and cried like a baby; cried for my Dad, for my marriage, for my babies, for myself, for how unbearably hard life is sometimes. Finally all cried out, I took a deep breath, surprisingly soothed. I saddled Rocky up and walked him out to the mounting ramp where a 20-year-old paraplegic man had to be helped onto the horse with the aid of three assistants. I then saw what looked like someone had flipped on a light switch connected to his face. Suddenly he was beaming with joy as I led him around the arena, momentarily on top of the world. I was reminded of the saying that if, as a group, we sat in a circle and put all our problems in the center, we would be scrambling to get our own problems back because there are always problems so much worse than ours.

I learned that day that a horse’s mane is the most absorbent material on earth. I’ve changed barns a few times for various reasons but horses have been an integral part of my life ever since. They are great tear catchers but also, more importantly, dream weavers. They help encourage you to empty your soul of bad toxins and get out on the trails to breathe in fresh air and fresh aspirations. I get to momentarily sit on top of the world.

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