I heard voices in my head; a thousand tiny whispers of the wind. Each of them telling me I am free. I am flying. I am at peace. Twelve hundred pounds of raw power keeps me from the ground. I can trust him. I can feel his breath beneath my seat and I adjust mine to match his; we are a single entity. His hooves strike the ground beneath me with a fatal force, but my reaction is one of serenity, not fear. This animal trusts me to guide him on our journey and keep him safe. The language we speak is understood by few and cherished by those fluent in it. It is not a language of words, but rather one of emotion and minute shifts of the body. A horse, as long as his rider is willing to listen, is the best teacher this world has to offer.

At nine years old, when I was unable to carry a fifty pound box of books down the tiny attic stairs, I was told by my father, “You are a quitter. I didn’t raise a child like that.” I naturally ran to the closet, crying, and reaffirmed to myself that I am not nor ever will be good enough. God forbid I express any opinion for I’ll hear, “You are the worst, most disrespectful kid ever.” The one statement that no child can ever forget, “Sometimes I have second thoughts about ever having you.” These types of remarks are what I have grown up with. Horses offer a way to cope with the pain of the words; they have the ability to make me forget. The cadence of their footfalls, the sounds they make as they munch on dew-laden grass, act in a way that no therapist ever could. I want to be around something that simply accepts, loves, and trusts me for who I am.

I was blessed with owning my own horse for about three years. From the time he would run up to me and poke his adorable chestnut face over the fence, to when my mother picked me up, a smile never left my face. After a long day I knew he was always there for me. Red taught me both patience and self-acceptance; he was the best teacher I have ever had. Even when he would kick his heels up ever so rudely at the end of the longe line, or conveniently spook at an invisible monster, I learned to stay calm and collected. I came to live by the theory that if I asked something of Red and he performed the task incorrectly, I simply asked the wrong question. Getting worked up over his mistake would only cause a more exaggerated problem. The greatest lesson he taught me is that no one is perfect. Red accepted my flaws and through him I learned to accept the flaws of those around me. It has taken longer than those three years of ownership to fully understand what he was teaching me, but I learned to better let go of the comments. When Red and I went for rides in the field, it was a chance for both of us to let go. Starting at one end, he knew what was about to come, and I could feel the energy coursing through his body just waiting to be set free. Slowly the day’s troubles would melt away and he and I would become the only two souls on Earth. I let go of the reins, and with one word I was free. “Go.”

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