Sunday, January 6, 2013

Horse Therapy

I am finding horse therapy is not limited to riding to meet the physical and mental improvements in the rider.  A few months ago I saw the picture of a draft horse waiting at a rescue to be adopted.  I was drawn to this horse, but pushed all thoughts of horse ownership out of my mind.  We had only moved to GA a few months prior and felt it was just not the right time.  I kept being drawn to the picture and every time I saw it, I began to cry.  I had no reason to, I just did which I thought was absolutely strange.  It got to a point I felt a need to have him.  We set up a visit for me to meet Sandman and that's when the magic started.

We went to visit and having 6 kids and a friend in tow, it was a little chaotic.  I asked everyone to stay back so I could get to know him, but Gabby came over and the next thing I knew Sandman was looking at her with his ears pricked up and alert.  She was the only other person he would allow near the fence while I was in with him without backing off.  That night, Gabby and I were talking about Sandman's trust issues and why he's so scared.  The next thing I knew, she was sobbing - deep, whole body shaking sobs.  She didn't know why she was crying, but I had a clue and it all had to do with the kindred spirits between her and Sandman.  Gabby may have come to us as a baby, but with her terrible past, trust has never been something that comes easy to her.

The first boarding situation did not work out, but we found a place where Sandman is respected and loved for who he is - with people that understand that he has worth even though he cannot be ridden and deserves to just be pampered and loved.  We are able to have daily access to him where we can really work on his own trust issues since this big, beautiful boy was starved and, as well as I can tell, beat since I'm finding scars now that he can be groomed.

From that first visit, Sandman has looked at Gabby differently than anyone else. He unnerves her and yet she is drawn to him.  She would not approach him the first few times and then she got his "blessing" when he approached her and allowed her to reach up and touch his blaze.  Since he is food driven, the only time anyone can do this is if they have food in their hand or a bucket.  Not with Gabby.  She had no food, she was no where near a bucket, and yet he did this for her.

Today she wanted to pet him on his side, but was too scared to do it.  Gabby had to finally put her whole trust in me to succeed, which is just as scary as petting a horse that has hooves as big as her head.  At first Gabby just stood there and looked at me petting him.  I coaxed her into holding my hand while I pet him.  Then finally, very timidly, she reached out to touch Sandman and he flinched and drew back.  I told her he's very scared and if anyone could understand what it's like to be afraid of trusting, it was her.  At that moment, Sandman lowered his head to her height and stared at her and she stared right back.  Eye contact is not her strong suit, but there was something mesmerizing between the two of them.  It only lasted a few seconds, but whatever passed between the two was more than any human words could ever mean.  She reached out hesitantly to touch him again and he didn't move.  She stroked him and he stood there.  I dropped her hand and she kept petting him, neither backing away from each other.

Tonight she has struggled dealing with old, scary feelings.  I never thought just a few minutes of petting a horse could reach her so deeply, but it most definitely has.  It has left her emotions raw, but finally in a way that they can heal.  Sandman may have started out as a horse no one wanted and felt was worthless, but his purpose was greater than anyone could ever know - he is saving a child.