By Kathie MM
When I was thirteen, I tamed an outlaw horse named Heidi. She was pretty much a refugee from terror.
She was a small, beautiful, and initially rather wild Morgan horse who had been viciously beaten and neglected.
As a result of this mistreatment: she bucked ferociously as soon as someone mounted her; she rushed headlong into heavy underbrush trying to dislodge her rider; she jolted to sudden stops, pitching the rider forward; or, as a last resort, she dropped to her knees, then began to roll over onto anyone trying to stay aboard.
I won her over through love and patience, long before anyone talked about “horse whisperers.” I stuck with her, curried her, talked to her, and soothed her until she would accept me calmly, even joyfully, astride her. Once I gained her trust, I rode her bareback through the woods and onto beaches, using a hackamore bridle with no bit to pester her mouth.
Someone wrote an article about Heidi and me in the local paper. I carried the clipping in my wallet for years ‑‑ long after the horrendous car accident, long after I couldn’t walk anymore.
During difficult teen times when I was hurt or upset ‑‑ at my mother, or father, or sister, or brothers, or some no good boyfriend– I would sit in the corner of Heidi’s box stall and feel sorry for myself. She would watch me for awhile, chewing her hay. Finally, she’d come over and snuffle at my hair or cheek, and I would trundle back to civilization, feeling comforted.
I learned a lot from Heidi–particularly, the rewards of being patiently persistent, kind, and understanding, and of working hard to earn trust.
I put myself in Heidi’s hooves, thinking how awful it must have felt to this magnificent, intelligent animal to be beaten and neglected, to nearly die from severe, untreated wounds, to have been grossly ill-treated by the human being who should have been taking care of her.
I learned als0 about the enormity of the love and empathy that could grow between very different beings who took a chance on each other, who didn’t assume from Day 1 that they already knew everything that needed to be known about the other.
I think these lessons contributed to the peace and non-violence advocate into which I evolved. Patience, kindness, and empathy can serve many relationships with a vast range of “others.”