Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 28, 2004
Horse Crazy & Other Ramblings
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 28, 2004 – I have loved horses all my life. When I was a little girl I used to imagine myself the proud owner of a farm where every unwanted horse would be safe and warm. Gradually my animal population would expand to include stray cats and dogs, injured birds, frogs and toads or any sad, unfortunate animal abandoned by its heartless owner.
But horses were the start of it all for me. I grew up in the country and I loved riding horses from a very young age. I was as adept at riding with a saddle as I was bareback. I preferred the latter and I stuck to a horse like a little burr. My legs gripping the horse’s sides, one hand on the reins and the other tangled in its mane. I was fearless. I’d fly over the ground, the wind in my hair and my heart pounding, experiencing the incredible feeling that happens at a full gallop, when I became one with the horse.
I watched every film about horses that came to our local theatres. I cried when they were hurt, I rejoiced when they jumped the corral gate and won their freedom and I mourned when the hero horse in the film lost its life. The tale of Black Beauty broke my heart. My mother used to say, “Bunny, it’s just a story”, but I’d have none of it. If Black Beauty was just a story, I knew there was a real life counterpart somewhere. I was heartbroken when I first heard about the rugged little mine ponies who spent their lives underground, only to be brought to the surface and shot when they finally went blind and had outlived their usefulness.
On my imaginary rescue farm they would have lived out their lives, rewarded with love and respect for their hard work. I used to weep for their little souls and rage at their hard-hearted owners. I’d say, “Mommie, why are people like that – how can they be so cruel”? Nothing she’d say would console me. I recently read a book that mentioned mine ponies, and I was surprised at the sharpness of my childhood memories and the anger I remember feeling at the unfairness of their sad lives.
In sharp contrast are my memories of the RCMP Musical Ride. I first saw it at the CNE when I was about eleven years old. The exquisite dark horses, prancing in unison, manes flying and tail snapping in annoyance or impatience. Their scarlet jacketed riders erect in the saddle, faces firm, lances at the ready. The beauty of the ride was breath taking for me and I clapped with such exuberance that my wrists hurts the next day. I had a brief image of myself as a RCMP police officer, but it didn’t last long. At the time were no women riders, and I’m not sure if there are any today. But I can still remember that day and how my heart was aflutter with excitement.
I used to draw horses all the time. I had a big manilla envelope that housed all my treasures. I always drew on white letter sized paper that my father had in his roll top desk. He’d give me a pad of it and I used a yellow HB pencil. Consequently my horses were always white with black mane and tail or the mirror opposite. I drew their heads, nostrils flaring – eyes wild, or the entire horse standing quietly, or rearing untamed on their hindquarters, their front legs punching the air in defiance. My horses were never haltered, tethered, saddled or being ridden.
They were free, strong, sleek and untouched by the hands of man. As a child that’s how I saw them and how I wanted them to be. I wish I still had some of the hundreds of horse pictures I drew when I was in public school. Not all, but some of them were very good. I just stopped writing for a moment and drew a rough sketch of a horse on a little, gold post-it note. It took me thirty seconds. Maybe this year I should get out my sketch pad as well as my sneakers. Who knows what might come of it?
I still ride when I get the chance, which isn’t often. I’m not as fearless as I was as a child. Back then I was kicked, bitten, leaned on, stomped on and thrown off and I still went back for more. I ate and slept horses. At a neighbour’s farm near my home I fed them, loved them, mucked out their stalls and threw their hay. Anything for the chance to ride – anything to be around the horses. My love for horses didn’t abate any as I grew into adulthood, but other priorities like a university education, followed by a career, took over my time. But I will never forget the intensity of my childhood passion for this beautiful animal.
Even today, when I watch films like Black Beauty, Phar Lap, The Black Stallion, National Velvet, Seabiscuit, My Friend Flicka, The Electric Horseman, The Horse Whisperer or King Of The Wind – my heart is always beating a bit faster than normal and tears are ready to flow. I have a childlike wish that the world might be other than what it is. That animals not suffer, be cold, abandoned, hungry, beaten or killed. That they not be the unwitting recipients of human betrayal and cruelty. My feelings go far beyond the world of horses, to all creatures in the world who have come under the dominion of humankind.
I fervently believe that our mis-treatment of living things, great and small is a reflection of our lack of evolution as a species. I extend this same wish for fairness to people who are oppressed and treated unjustly. I recognize the wistful naivete of my convictions. We do not live in a free, just, fair or equal world. Human carelessness is apparent at every turn. Thankfully, its opposite is also present, shown in the acts of love, kindness, caring and generosity we see performed the world over. I’m not sure if people will ever evolve so that the dark side of the human spirit sees the light of love, but I look for it in the way I see people interact with birds, animals and our beautiful world.
I sometimes think that Nature must get weary with our neglectful, exploitive ways and our selfish, troubled behaviour. Perhaps other living creatures stand as a constant reminder of the responsibility people have to be the protector and not the aggressor. If this is so, we aren’t doing very well are we?
This is the negative view and I’m ever hopeful that I may live to see a kinder world. If each of us did our part it would be possible. Perhaps just by living a positive life, we contribute to a greater good. If that’s the case, then I can play my part every day by being a decent human being. It’s rare to see great people doing great things, but it is common to see good people doing good deeds. The next time you see someone do something kind, especially if it’s uncalled for, recognize their contribution and praise them. Ripples become waves.
I support The Toronto Humane Society. It’s a fine organization dedicated to the safety and care of unwanted animals. I could do more for animals. I wonder why I don’t? I have such beautiful memories of the happiness that animals, especially horses, have brought me. Maybe it’s time for me to be more proactive in this area of life. Small kindnesses extended consistently make change occur. I want to think about this as part of the year-end review of my life. How can I help? Can you imagine the consequences if everyone asked that question every day?
One of the great joys of this process of daily writing has been to observe my thoughts as they move from a starting point and flow in any number of different directions. Today, I recalled fond childhood memories of horses. I remembered events from my childhood. Thoughts of my mother touched my heart and mind. I progressed to thinking about the human condition, our planet and the need for people individually to become more aware of how they can contribute to positive change. I ended up wondering how I can do more.
If nothing else this may lead me to become more involved in a good cause. I have no idea what it might be, but I do know that changes are on the horizon for me this year. I can feel a slow burn in my soul. A recognition that I was born with a good mind and a good heart. I care. I can be a positive force in the world. I know that like-minded people everywhere can create profound good or tremendous evil. Those of us who know that we have the power to make a difference have an obligation to do so.
My mother taught me that my personal path lies within, but that I needed to look outside myself for the opportunity to make a difference in life. I’m hopeful that I’m able to move a bit closer to this understanding during the course of 2005. Next year will arrive anyway, why not make a difference if you can.
P.S. 2014 – It took me a little longer than it might have – but in 2008 I became involved in learning about global animal issues. In 2013 – I started A Beating Heart and it has changed the path of my life for the better.