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Black and White

I've heard it said so many times that it's almost cliche. "The horse is a mirror to your soul." "Your horse is a reflection of who you are." "We will never have to tell our horse that we are sad, happy, confident, angry, or relaxed. He already knows - long before we do." And one of my favorites: "Show me your horse, and I will tell you who are." And the beautiful thing about all of these observations is that they are correct. I see it myself when I look at our little herd. A wonderful reflection of my family, right there in the pasture, mixed up in manes and hooves and horse perfume and velvety noses.

We love these animals with everything that we are because they are such a reflection of us, or perhaps of those gone too soon from our lives. Take my daughter's horse, Olivia. She is a pony and pretty proud of that fact. This is an animal that has little use for me but takes great care of my children most of the time. She spends the majority of her human moments with my daughter and they have formed a bond that is fun to watch. They both have spunk at the most inopportune times but they are equally as likely to be found standing quietly daydreaming, enthralled with each other's company.

I guess when it comes down to it, the thing that I most enjoy about horses (and that can also be the least enjoyable as well) is that their world is developed in black and white. There are no gray shades of hidden jealousy, feeling sorry for themselves because something didn't go as planned with their friends, or worries about the future. If something doesn't seem quite right, there is almost always a discernible cause and the effect is their behavior at that moment in time. What a joy it is to figure out the cause of a horse's "misbehavior" and fix it with a change in physical surroundings or human action. When you work in tune with the horse rather than against, a special kind of beauty emerges.

This being said, we are far from having a perfect partnership with our animals. Olivia dumped my daughter during a flag race this past summer for no apparent reason (to us), Danish Cowboy's horse Red goes on an insanity trip every spring when it comes to people touching his ears, and my horse would prefer to be a lap dog whenever we are in his presence. He seems to know no boundaries.

I especially enjoy watching the relationship that Danish Cowboy and Red have with one another. When they are in tune with each other, the work gets done well and gets done quietly. But they are both red-headed. The emotional manifestation of this trait emerges every so often in both of them, and gets especially fun when it sometimes happens on the same day. I then like to have a chat with both of them and talk them down from their excitement. Life goes on in a pretty good way, we get back to business, and marvel once again at the end of the day about this life we have dreamed up for ourselves. It's pretty fun.

My horse, the tall one who likes to eat and walk slow, is also the one least likely to be chosen for cow handling duties. Heh...sounds familiar. This animal was my first lesson in owning a horse. I got him when he was two years old and not very familiar with the rules of horsemanship. Through tears, laughter, bruised hip bones, and crushed toes, we made it to the stage in life where we can hop on him at any time and expect kindness. He is a treasure. Danish Cowboy might not agree wholeheartedly and my son is aggravated at the pace at which he walks, but we all admittedly think he's a pretty awesome creature to have around.

To the average viewer, horses grazing contentedly in a pasture are all hair and hooves and fight and flight. To those who have been blessed to be in their presence for any extended period of time, they are more than that. They are wind and fire or a gentle breeze and a warm hug. The beauty and honesty with which they live their lives is why my passion for them has only grown after the past 30 some years and why we raise our kids to learn to live in their company. I now understand what is meant by them being a mirror to our souls, and that the honest way in which they live in and react to their world is a lesson for us all to live by.

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