The road seemed impossibly long, yet painfully short at the same time. In the trailer behind the truck, my beautiful Appaloosa gelding calmly followed, seemingly resigned to whatever change was coming. Nine years had gone by in a flash. Nine years of living my lifelong dream of owning my own horse.
I grew up loving horses, although no one else in my family particularly did. It wasn’t from living on a farm, or anything logical like that. It was simply love at first sight. As a child, I all but despised dolls and spent hours of my free time playing “horses” with my Breyer models, and dreaming up adventures.
My dream of owning a horse was finally realized after the end of an emotionally abusive marriage. God used a horse to save my sanity, and to help me recover from the depression that followed coming out of five years of emotional turmoil. It wasn’t until after I started working at a barn that I read how doing something completely different was one of the most healing things a person could do to come out of their dark times. Being with horses in the sunshine, fresh air, and quiet of the barn were a balm to my battered soul.
When I came across Gabriel, I saw a kindred spirit, one who had suffered abuse and been persecuted simply for being who they were. A spirit that had endured neglect and misunderstanding. I couldn’t help but relate to the poor animal. Even though it wasn’t the best choice for a first horse, I figured I could at least fatten him up, and then give him to a more experienced owner who would treat him kindly and train him fairly. I never thought I would own him for just shy of a decade.
When I first worked with Gabe, he didn’t even like to be touched. Through a kindly mentor, I learned how to gain Gabe’s trust and get him to open up to me. I soon learned that under his defensive behavior was a horse with a huge heart to please anyone who would treat him even somewhat kindly. As our relationship grew, Gabe showed his bond with me more and more demonstratively.
One fine spring day, I called out my customary, “Hi, handsome!” to tell him I was there. Gabe’s head shot up, and, whinnying a greeting, he came running to me like he was the Black Stallion. We were like two best friends, giddy in our reunion after being parted.
Another time I visited, Gabe was lying down in the pasture. Many times horses get up when a human comes by, but he trusted me enough to stay down. I sat beside him and enjoyed snuggling with my gentle giant.
He even became protective of me. He often placed his body between myself and whoever I was talking to. Once, while in the pasture at twilight, I watched a herd of deer walking by quite close to us. When they looked at me curiously, Gabe warned them away by pinning his ears at them.
As time went by, our relationship grew, and we both began to heal in many ways. Gabe, who had always been picked on and was on the bottom in his social sphere, began to rise in his position in the herd. As I worked to gain Gabe’s trust and respect, I began to feel more confident in talking to men again. Eventually, I became confident enough that I remarried.
The pregnancy and birth of my first child was the beginning of the end for Gabriel and me. The baby was born very premature, and required much time and special care as a result. Days formerly filled with barn visits were now filled with appointments to doctors and therapists. In all fairness to everyone, Gabriel needed someone who had the time to give him a quality life.
As I pulled up to the 800 acre cattle ranch, I realized this was the kind of life I could never have afforded to give Gabriel where I lived. I knew he would be well cared for and happy here. And, knowing my God, Gabe was probably just moving on to the next person that needed him. I am so grateful to serve a God that cared so much about me that He would use a lifelong dream to bring me the healing I desperately needed, even if it was only for a season.
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