I have had the most amazing experience these last fourteen months. I volunteer at a ranch sanctuary (CircleL.org) and I started working with a very abused horse named Starlight. She had been at the ranch a few years already (brought to them by the authorities) and no one could get a halter on her. She was terrified of people.
Starlight had good reason for her fear. She had been repeatedly kicked by someone trying to “break” her using spurs. The evidence is painfully obvious when you see the two huge hernias jutting out on either side of her abdominal wall. It will makes your stomach turn and, if you are as sensitive to suffering as I am, you have a physical feeling of revulsion in your own gut.
I started by just hanging out with Starlight. I would bring carrots and horse treats and, if she followed me or let me touch her, she would get a treat. I would talk, sing, hum and laugh with her, letting her know that we humans are not all bad and she was now in a place where she would never have to have a saddle on her back again. She was safe. I wanted her to be happy. She started to relax because I was relaxed and she even started to nicker loudly when I approached her paddock, knowing that something good was about to happen.
Slowly, I began to bring in a halter draped over my shoulder. She’d sniff it and began to relax as it jingled on my shoulder. I didn’t force anything. If she was curious and wanted a smell, I was glad to let her investigate. The months passed and we just hung out enjoying the sunshine. Eventually, I would only give her treats when she let me put the halter on her nose or drape the halter on her neck or ears. Again, I let her set the pace for this new game. Time passed and we girls enjoyed the days together.
Yesterday, fourteen months from when I first met Starlight, she let me put the halter on her. It was a slow dance of trust and one of the most beautiful experiences. I can’t really describe what it feels like to have trust gifted to you like that so I looked to the Horse Whisperer for a quote about this moment:
“I often tell people, it doesn’t make any difference to me where I start my day (with the horse), it makes a difference to me where I finish my day. Did I leave things a little better off than how I started? It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it’s just a little better off than how I started, I got along just fine.” – Buck Brannaman
Starlight and I finished our day better off than we did fourteen months ago. Over those months, she gave me the precious gift of friendship and trust in this human. I will always cherish and protect that gift, knowing that Starlight’s timeline was perfect.
CHALLENGE: Where are you working towards trust with another person or creature? Where can you show more patience and live without pushing for a specific outcome? Where can you leave things a little better than when you started? Comment here or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Donations and volunteers are always needed to support our special animal sanctuary in Prescott Valley, AZ. Learn more at www.circlel.org