Tonight's entry from Laura is more of a complete circle than a Learning Curve....Laura has been volunteering with us now for some time and everytime I am with her or speak with her I get the feeling that I am dealing with someone that is very important..very very important...here to do great things...nothing more and nothing less...with horses....When Laura says" I survived the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center"what she leaves out is that she barely escaped with her life and most of her friends did not. When she says she loved horses and wanted to be a horse....it means she knew that her path is inextrintically woven with them and nothing will make sense until the bond is fully restored....Her beautiful spirit made its way here to work along side of us. Great things are coming thru Laura and her work to help others. We will see in time she is bound for greatness with horses alongside her...going where few have courage to follow...the wondruous landscape of the broken human heart. Thank you Laura for partnering up with us as we find our way to a livable, lovable future honoring our connection and place in the glorious web of life....of course....with our horses alongside us....
It all started back when I was an itty bitty girl. My grandfather had those paints and retired polo ponies that my mother and her siblings rode throughout their childhoods. I was three years old and riding my mother’s paint, ‘Apache,’ and that is my earliest memory of joy. My parents enrolled me in riding lessons, but those became less frequent with time.
Eventually, we moved to a new state. We lived far from those ponies and paints – in a little apartment. I struggled to make friends and fit into school, but I was very different because I still thought about horses when it seemed like all of the other kids were interested in dressing up, watching “Grease,” playing with Barbies and putting on makeup…you know- that kind of stuff. By the time I was in the 5th grade, I knew that I wanted to BE a horse. I spent all free time drawing horses, dreaming of horses…trying to think like a horse...even walk like a horse (which is now a little embarrassing). I signed/wrote my name with a little horse head beside it (on all my school papers!). My middle school peers even called me “Horsey,” which might have been taunting or teasing, but I liked it. It was who I wanted to be…Horsey. Things at home were rough. Being Horsey was my escape. I read every “Misty of Chincoteague” book the library received. I saved every dollar I ever got to buy those Breyer horses. I dreamt of riding a magnificent white stallion through endless fields (I know – I was very romantic).
When I think back, I realize that the only enjoyable parts of my childhood were those days when I got to hang around the stables at the harness track or when I worked in the riding stables at the sleep-away camp for those two summers– shadowing the grooms and trainers...trying to stay out of the way, but also trying to soak in every last word, scent, vision of my time there. I must have been 8 or 9 or 12, and there I was – trying to be a ‘track girl’ – or a budding horsewoman.
It was around that time that my mother let me stay with an older couple who worked and lived on a training/respite farm for harness racehorses 45 minutes north of home in what was Lake Worth, Florida (now it is Wellington). John and Mildred Hines- they were my saviors during those years. They took me every other Friday – let me live with them in their tiny, palmetto infested trailer next to the barns – and I stayed all the way through Sunday. I lived for those weekends. Being on the farm with them and 20+ standardbreds was a dream come true for me - Heaven. John woke me up for morning feedings and let me tag along with him all day – he let me sit in his lap on the sulky as he ran horses around the track – he let me clean stalls (isn’t it funny that I always thought that was a privilege?), groom horses, walk cool downs, drive the golf cart into the fields to feed the cows – and just be present all day. At night, I would ‘tuck in’ our equine residents – saying goodnight to each one. Some of those horses were so gentle and loving. I remember a few of them used to let me lay down in the stall, right next to them. I told them everything – they listened patiently to every word – gazed at me with their beautiful soft eyes. I trusted them. They were there for me. I went to bed those nights – too excited to sleep – happily anticipating what I would get to witness the next day – the horses…and if I did sleep, I dreamt about driving in the sulky, riding another white horse, getting to live with John and Mildred forever.
That did not happen. I was around 14 years old and I announced to my parents that I wanted to be one of the few female sulky drivers in harness racing. I also told them that I wanted to stay with John and Mildred. That was the last straw. My days with the horses and the people who cared for me so well ended right there.
John and Mildred are likely long gone now, but I will never forget them. I lost all contact with them – and the horses. I tried to fit in with my classmates at this point. I took up music. I got interested in boys. I got distracted from my dreams of Horsey-ness…and I didn’t look back. Not for a long time.
I ended up living the next 30 or so years as a musician – a radio personality – and finally, a returning college student. Much happened in those 30 years. A lot of adventures. A lot of losses. A lot of changes. A lot of miracles occurred. I survived a terrorist attack in New York that killed more than 3,000 people. I moved. I fell in love. My mother died. My father died. I worked hard. I studied hard. I became a psychologist. I got married and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I moved again.
And then I moved to Western Massachusetts, right down the street from Blue Star Equiculture. That was not planned – I came here to be closer to some relatives…but I ended up finding something else – something incredible – a reconnection to myself. I had been volunteering time here and there at the farm when I was introduced to Rosie, a 21 year old grey standardbred mare with arthritis and some profound spinal injuries that make it improbable that she will ever work in harness again. Rosie was once a harness racing horse – but then found her way into the world of Amish carthorses. From those years of hard labor without reward, love, or real companionship, Rosie seemed a bit closed off to others. She was (and at times, still is) skeptical of me and most humans.
Although she was a beloved New York City carriage horse for a time, the scars from her days with the Amish remained – she is strong, dignified, and like I said – distant, at times. But because of her new life at Blue Star Equiculture, and the people who have cared for and loved her, she has found a way to trust – that glow in her eyes has been recaptured…she can give and accept affection. Spending time with Rosie and taking care of her has been a gift to me – because she has taught me about forgiveness and acceptance – she has been through so much, but she is finding ways to trust humans like me – It is true that Rosie will remain retired – she will never work again in the physical sense and she deserves not to – but she connects with me and those who love her – and most importantly, the child who was cut away from the horses and people SHE loved – she has brought that child back – and she is healing her in ways I still do not have words for. And it is all in a nick of time – just as I am a mother, raising a daughter who may also find the special connection with horses and the sacredness of the bond they share with humans (when humans acknowledge it).
Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my story with you – and thank you, Rosie Bear.