I have loved horses since before I can recall any other memory. My first love for sure. Well, between horses and a certain cowboy that I am blessed to call my God-dad. Don’t get me wrong, I have been thrown a time or two by both cowboys and horses, but even that doesn’t seem to get me off course. Both has required me to ask myself…..
What is love, really?
I have been challenged several times lately on this question when it comes to my relationship with my horse. For example, I would never have dreamed that when Sis comes up and mussels me, that she is really being aggressive. I just naturally assumed that she was loving on me. But, in truth it is her saying, “If I stay close enough to this clown, she can’t make my feet move.” It is a sign of disrespect. Who knew? ( well, most horse trainers I know, knew….. ) But, certainly I didn’t know.
We tend to have ideals about what it is that we think love looks like….. feels like….. sounds like….. and usually it has Sarah McLauchlan singing in the background… But life has asked me to challenge my own thinking on that….. I have spent hours, days, contemplating it.
What is love? It is a question that has had me on a journey of self discovery… One that has been a long journey… One that actually started back in college. Like some other 18 year old’s I made some mistakes right out of the gate. It didn’t take me long to feel the need to rediscover myself, to get myself set right, and one of the places that I chose to do that was at my grandparents place in Walla Walla, Wa. During that time of self discovery, I found the horses on Satus Pass. I cannot explain it, but it was a sacred place for me. I loved driving hwy 97 and viewing the horses. They were scarce then. Any sighting was magical for me.
God used my love for horses to heal me…. in ways that I cannot even today find the words to adequately tell it’s tale.
So, for the sake of time, let’s just fast forward to today… The horses up on the satus are vast…. they are everywhere, including dead along the highway.. something I personally hadn’t encountered in the early years. I am not much for road kill of any kind… it makes my heart hurt to see them laying there, sacrificed in such a way.
Three years ago, with the first dead horse lead me to asking, why? Why were they coming down so close to the road? Since that time I have learned a lot… Someday’s more than my heart can take. The increased numbers in the herd, the lack of food, the frustrated ranchers, a native people who had their own journey of discovery to travel to get to the answers.
I have come to this conclusion – there are no easy answers, not even the one where I can just turn my head and pretend that I don’t know, what it is that I know…. because even if I could ignore the horses on the Satus, they are just one herd that is in trouble here in the US… it doesn’t take a lot of time to google the massive tragedy that this is. Our equine friends don’t need more friends, they need heroes. And, they don’t need one size fits all answers but rather an army of answers, some, many wont like.
SAVE the HORSES is a easy battle cry, it is what every horse loving American wants, but what does that really look like? Some wont want to consider that it could look like managing the numbers through harvesting, or other measures that have in the past been looked at as calculating. But, truly while harvesting seems brutal, in comparison to watching these animals starve to death I have determined that harvesting is a better option. Not, because I am heartless, but because I am compassionate. My love for the animals has not changed. No, I am going to correct that last settlement. My love for the horse has changed. I am more in love with them now, then ever before. I am learning to understand them better. What they can do, and what they can’t do. What they need to be left to do, and what they need us to help them do.
I hear them calling me even as I sleep. I wanted to turn my eyes and go back to believing that they would somehow just be OK.. But the truth is that while we call them “wild” horses, they are not. They are not free to move on and find new forage…. To re-locate and flourish somewhere else. They are pinned in and left to manage an un-manageable existence on their own. They are malnourished, small is size, and losing their value and their own existence if not managed well.
There are a few things that I will always do what I can to protect….. My faith, my family, my cowgirl life, and the horses, even if it requires being willing to think out of the box. I always thought I wanted to be a friend of the horse…. but lately I feel the call to be more than a friend….. after all, they need heroes.
So if asked, What does love got to do with it. I would say, a whole heck of a lot. It is love that will propel answers to not just SAVE the HORSES but create a way to manage them so that they can once again thrive.
( I am so grateful that I have met others on this path who have stepped up is ways that I wouldn’t have even known how to, whose hero’s costumes certainly outshine mine, whose love for these amazing creatures is beyond what you could even image, and I cannot wait to be able to share more of them and their work in the coming weeks and months). Please educate yourself on the plight of the Horses here in the US and then ask yourself what you can do….. The issue is huge, and I have found it is necessary to be open to all options.