Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Facts of Life

Straight from the Horse's Heart

by Jerry Finch, Founder and President of Habitat for Horses
Jerry Finch, President and Founder of Habitat for Horses
A friend of mine and I were sitting under the spreading cypress tree last
evening discussing the facts of life as we know them. Although I realize that
I’m nowhere near the age where I can be considered mature, it occurred to both
of us that the older we get, the less we know.  “The Wisdom of the Elders” is
a part of life that I now realize I’m going to miss. Not that I don’t have a
lot of experience, because I do, but I find that the more years I spend on this
earth, the more I need to learn.
Ten years ago, if I received a letter from someone wanting to donate their old
horse because they couldn’t afford the medication, I’d do everything I could
to help and thank them for doing all they did. Now I find anger rising, seeing
their problem as an attempt to dump their medical bills on us and not facing the
realistic knowledge that no one will ever love their horse as much as they do
and that the best option is to let the horse go peacefully to sleep in his own
pasture, held in the arms of those who love him. Would I send Pete off to some
rescue organization and ask them to buy his $200 per month medication? I never
would and I don’t understand why others would ask.
I once knew why people slaughtered horses. Through courses in economics, through
courses in psychology, I had all this figured out. I knew why people abused
horses, starved them to death, became collectors, beat their kids and spouses.
But now I have no answers. I’ve seen too much, walked too many pastures and
stepped over too many bones. With every step, the “truth” faded into
questions I couldn’t answer. Now I have no answers. When people look at me and
ask “Why?” I have to walk away, often to hide the tears.
When people purposely hurt one another through words and deeds, for no reason, I
knew it was for self-gain. I knew that people build themselves up by making
others look smaller in their peer’s eyes. When it happens now I see the tears
of emotional pain and wonder what the other was thinking to cause such pain.
I wonder what happen to all those loves of yesteryear now that I find myself
essentially alone. I wonder what happened to the babies I held, who looked at me
with wonder in their eyes and called me “Daddy” when they said their first
words. I wonder why I can talk to horses and dogs, but not people. I wonder why
I see money only as it relates to the things I can buy for the horses and not
for myself.
I wonder why Jake, the Lab that’s walked beside me for 17 years, became so
thin and unable to chase sticks and play as we once did. I know about old age,
but Jake was immune to all that. He was always here and I don’ understand why
he needed to leave me now.
I still look back on “my war” and try to think of a reason for all the dead
bodies. I believed in it then, believed in our government, believed that
everything I did was for a greater good. Now I know better. Others call it a lie
and I’ll never know the real truth. I don’ much care anymore. Caring
doesn’t bring back my friends. Caring won’t erase the memories.
Then I look at the horses, and that’s the hardest part. They stand lost and
forlorn at the ranch, waiting for someone to look back at them. I once knew how
to train horses, how to ride them, what to do when they were too old or useless
to be used. Old cowboys taught me all the lessons I needed to learn. I broke
them, rode them hard and used everything up, then watched them be sold at the
auction. I knew it all back then, everything there was to know about horses.
Until I actually looked one in the eye and everything I knew amounted to nothing
because I no longer saw an animal to be used and thrown away. “Look deep”
someone told me, “and you’ll see things that will frighten you, unless
you’re prepared.” I looked once and I saw myself. I looked again and I saw a
soul. And when I finally found the courage to look again, I saw the face of God.
This is our gift to be cherished, to hold, to protect and to love, yet they
wander the grassless pastures searching for someone, some human, to reach out to
them, to offer a hand of kindness.
I once knew the facts of life. Now I walk out into the pasture and feel them
crowd around me, waiting to be touched, to be held, to be loved. Yet I only have
two hands and the time, the time is so short.
“See me”, they call out as they walk towards my outstretched fingers. I
match them, step for step, for it is my voice that also calls out to them.
“Feel me”, they ask as they come to me. Not one, not ten, but hundreds,
thousands, pleading from all the dark, forgotten barns and backyard lots, rising
from the dusty ashes of burned bones and shattered dreams.
“Touch me”, they say, wanting just that, a human touch, the feel that
someone cares about them not for what they can do, but for what they are. The
sad soul looks back and I see the emptiness of a human race that destroys all
that is good, except for the few, the so very few that feel true love.
“Heal me”, they cry, those too weak, too old, to alone, those facing the
horror of spending their last moments in a terror filled chamber with blood
covered floors, who lie in their own waste without food or water, those whose
bones will someday decay in back pastures, the bones of a once beautiful foal
born into a world that doesn’t care.
I thought I knew the facts of life. Now I can only stand in the pasture and feel
the burning tears as I look into the Heavens and ask why.
And the Horse said, “It is as you will, my son.”
Jerry Finch

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