The Force of the Horse

The Thunder of Their Hooves

by Jerry Finch, founder and President of Habitat for Horses

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It happened long before our time, far before time even began, in a place of mist and trees, in a place of open land and brilliant moonlight, in a time and space far beyond our creation or knowledge. Aware, alert, in touch with the rhythm of the earth, they lived in a place we never knew, that we could never imagine. Their hoof beats thundered across the plains. Their cries echoed through the valley. In vast herds, in small family groups, they dwelled in a world removed from humans, in a world unto themselves.

What it must have been like for that first human encounter! Gentle, inquisitive, brave, that lone stallion that walked through the morning fog and stood before the hunter. Did the hunter stand in awe of his beauty, unprepared for the encounter, unknowing of all that stood before him? Did the hunter lay down his spear and walk gently toward the stallion? Did the stallion walk toward the hunter? Did they greet one another as equals, two spirits born of freedom?

I’d like to think it started that way, that the first encounter was of a gentle nature, that the two instantly understood, acknowledged, and eventually passed on through the fog, understanding that nothing, ever again, would be the same for either one of them. Tens of thousands of years ago, seen through the early morning mist – a brief meeting of two spirits that would forever change all that we are to one another. Our future, and that of that horse, would thereafter be entangled together.

They didn’t depend on us. It was us who depended on them. We mounted and rode swiftly across the plains; they became our wings as we soared to distant lands. They carried us, our families and our belongings. They expanded our world far beyond the horizons.

Through some twist of evolution, we were able to bring them into our world. We asked them to forget about their world, to leave behind all that was and become part of all we created. Far later, such a move would be called “dominion” and be claimed as a right given to us from our God.

And under that authority, we herded them, raised them, bred them, stalled them, whipped them into submission, put restraints on them, saddled them, shoed their hooves, and used them until they dropped, then we either left them to starve or killed them and ate their flesh.

natural_history_prehistoric_horses_200Not all humans did that. Even in the days before the Bible, people wrote of gentle training, of the majesty and the glory that stood before them. On cave walls are paintings that show the wonder of the horse, the awe we felt as we stood before them. The Bible has more references to equines than any other animal. Countless images and words bring an understanding of the devotion that many had, the love which many felt.

Yet our history is one of cruelty, not of love. Many cry over the fallen, while only a few do the killing. We’ve let it go on for so many centuries that we’ve accepted it as human nature. We’ve let the few destroy what the many want to save.

Listen to the horses on a quiet morning. Listen as they nicker to one another through the early morning’s mist. Hear their soft sounds beneath the background of the crickets and the awakenings of the birds. We didn’t remove all that they were. They are still as wild and majestic and perfect as they were ten thousand years ago. They could still live without us. They don’t need us, you and I.

They don’t need us, but we need them.

We need them to forgive us for all we have done, all for all we continue to do. We need them to bring us to the earth, to bring us back in touch with the purity of nature. We need to feel the warmth of their breath, the touch of their nose. We need to be assured that all is forgiven, that we, no matter who we are or what we have done, will be accepted by those who live in a place so far away from our own, in a world that we will never understand, one of which we can only dream.

For we know that despite all the cars we buy, all the digital cameras we own, that regardless of the perfect houses we live in and the jobs we have, we’re missing something. There is emptiness beneath our soul, a piece that was never found in a puzzle that will never be complete. In our desperate attempt to claim all that we see, to show that we are the masters of the universe and all that stretches before us, we’ve forgotten that essential part of our nature that belongs with the hunter, looking through the early morning mist at the stallion that stands before him.

We’re forgotten that we share the world. We’ve claimed dominion, but we’ve failed as caretakers. In our efforts to become gods, we’ve lost sight of the true function of God – to protect and have compassion for the earth.

In listening to the horse we can hear the calling, we feel the return. It’s there, just beyond our reach. If only….if only we could feel the thunder of their hooves.

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14 replies »

  1. ‘-we’ve lost sight of the true function of God – to protect and have compassion for the earth.’

    AMEN !!!!!! God gave us the directive to care for and tend to His great creation.

    I have had more than one encounter with humans misinterpreting the word ‘dominion’ in the Bible. They use that word to kill, destroy, use and abuse the animal kingdom because the animals are in the way of human progress. After I collect myself, I re-educate such persons as best possible.

    “-we’re missing something. There is emptiness beneath our soul, a piece that was never found in a puzzle that will never be complete.”

    I heartily agree. It’s how I feel right now. A puzzle missing a gigantic section only to be filled by a horse. Full contentment seems to escape me till then.

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    • I was thinking the same thing, Morgan. I always took that “dominion” to mean caretaker, not destroyer for heaven sake. And, man, have we failed.

      My all time horse trainer is John Lyons – he calls himself a “horse teacher.” I’ve had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with John, and believe me he is the “real deal.” He is a very devout person, and he also talks about how many times horses are mentioned in the Bible. He believes horses are God’s favorite animal.

      In discussing his late, great Appaloosa, Bright Zip, he said, “Zip’s not my horse. He’s God’s horse, just on loan to me. Likewise, the horse in your barn isn’t really yours. God just gave him to you to care for and love. And because our horses belong to God, you and I will have to give an account someday for how we’ve treated them.”

      That seemed to be the perfect comment for this wondrous, haunting post. Thank you, Jerry.

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      • Suzanne,

        Lucky Duck. I have admired John Lyons’ work for years. I read his Spiritual Journey book. I used to get his monthly magazine too.

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  2. I recently realized that horses were a big part of what’s missing in my life and want to bring them into it again, so this really hit home with me. It’s a very beautiful post as so many of them have been.

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  3. Christians belive Jesus was exicuted for our salvation. But before that could happen according to Roman law he had to be guilty of a crime. That crime was his anger in the temple after whitnessing the slaughter of animals. Thanks Mr. Finch for humbling us to the reality that horses don’t need us to survive, and if it were not for a merdorus few we all could live in harmony as God intended.

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    • Frank,

      I have no desire to debate Biblical writings and knowledge with you, but, I wanted to at least leave my sincerest disagreement with your interpretation of Jesus and the Gospels. Jesus was sinless and guiltless of all wickedness committed by common man. Therefore Jesus could be called the pure, spotless & sacrifical Lamb of the world.

      I also respectfully disagree with you quote “that horses don’t need us to survive”. That could not be true. The Lord God, Creator all the universe, orginally designed this earth with a cohabitation in mind between mankind and the animal kingdom. God made the earth to function on a delicate balance between Himself, mankind, animals and all elements of nature.

      Down to brass tacks, the only one we cannot truly live without is God Almighty. I should not have be so dramatic in my earlier comment of not being able to find true contentment until I had a horse again.

      Thank you for your time and your respect.

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  4. It has always been a sad fact that the two species dog and horse that forgive us are trespasses are the two we persecute the most. Imagine what we have missed in our nonchanlant and brutal treatment of the gift given by these two?!

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  5. Wonderful. As a Latter Day Saint with a great love for the equine creation, this post really touched me. Thank you Jerry, and RT. Horses truly are divine creatures. There is something special, something different about them. It is one of my hopes that I may be able to find it as my good friend Drew already has. (From the year of probably 3, he knew he was going to ride a horse, even though he had never seen or heard of one before. I can only think of One Person who could have instilled that passion and gift in him).

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