The Force of the Horse

The Facts of Life

by Jerry Finch, Founder and President of Habitat for Horses

Jerry Finch, President and Founder of Habitat for Horses

We just purchased a Bald Cypress for our land and were sitting under the spreading willow tree last evening discussing the facts of life as we know them. Although I realize that I’m nowhere near the age where I can be considered mature, it occurred to both
of us that the older we get, the less we know.  “The Wisdom of the Elders” is
a part of life that I now realize I’m going to miss. Not that I don’t have a
lot of experience, because I do, but I find that the more years I spend on this
earth, the more I need to learn.


Ten years ago, if I received a letter from someone wanting to donate their old
horse because they couldn’t afford the medication, I’d do everything I could
to help and thank them for doing all they did. Now I find anger rising, seeing
their problem as an attempt to dump their medical bills on us and not facing the
realistic knowledge that no one will ever love their horse as much as they do
and that the best option is to let the horse go peacefully to sleep in his own
pasture, held in the arms of those who love him. Would I send Pete off to some
rescue organization and ask them to buy his $200 per month medication? I never
would and I don’t understand why others would ask.

I once knew why people slaughtered horses. Through courses in economics, through
courses in psychology, I had all this figured out. I knew why people abused
horses, starved them to death, became collectors, beat their kids and spouses.
But now I have no answers. I’ve seen too much, walked too many pastures and
stepped over too many bones. With every step, the “truth” faded into
questions I couldn’t answer. Now I have no answers. When people look at me and
ask “Why?” I have to walk away, often to hide the tears.

When people purposely hurt one another through words and deeds, for no reason, I
knew it was for self-gain. I knew that people build themselves up by making
others look smaller in their peer’s eyes. When it happens now I see the tears
of emotional pain and wonder what the other was thinking to cause such pain.

I wonder what happen to all those loves of yesteryear now that I find myself
essentially alone. I wonder what happened to the babies I held, who looked at me
with wonder in their eyes and called me “Daddy” when they said their first
words. I wonder why I can talk to horses and dogs, but not people. I wonder why
I see money only as it relates to the things I can buy for the horses and not
for myself.

I wonder why Jake, the Lab that’s walked beside me for 17 years, became so
thin and unable to chase sticks and play as we once did. I know about old age,
but Jake was immune to all that. He was always here and I don’ understand why
he needed to leave me now.

I still look back on “my war” and try to think of a reason for all the dead
bodies. I believed in it then, believed in our government, believed that
everything I did was for a greater good. Now I know better. Others call it a lie
and I’ll never know the real truth. I don’ much care anymore. Caring
doesn’t bring back my friends. Caring won’t erase the memories.

Then I look at the horses, and that’s the hardest part. They stand lost and
forlorn at the ranch, waiting for someone to look back at them. I once knew how
to train horses, how to ride them, what to do when they were too old or useless
to be used. Old cowboys taught me all the lessons I needed to learn. I broke
them, rode them hard and used everything up, then watched them be sold at the
auction. I knew it all back then, everything there was to know about horses.

Until I actually looked one in the eye and everything I knew amounted to nothing
because I no longer saw an animal to be used and thrown away. “Look deep”
someone told me, “and you’ll see things that will frighten you, unless
you’re prepared.” I looked once and I saw myself. I looked again and I saw a
soul. And when I finally found the courage to look again, I saw the face of God.

This is our gift to be cherished, to hold, to protect and to love, yet they
wander the grassless pastures searching for someone, some human, to reach out to
them, to offer a hand of kindness.

I once knew the facts of life. Now I walk out into the pasture and feel them
crowd around me, waiting to be touched, to be held, to be loved. Yet I only have
two hands and the time, the time is so short.

“See me”, they call out as they walk towards my outstretched fingers. I
match them, step for step, for it is my voice that also calls out to them.

“Feel me”, they ask as they come to me. Not one, not ten, but hundreds,
thousands, pleading from all the dark, forgotten barns and backyard lots, rising
from the dusty ashes of burned bones and shattered dreams.

“Touch me”, they say, wanting just that, a human touch, the feel that
someone cares about them not for what they can do, but for what they are. The
sad soul looks back and I see the emptiness of a human race that destroys all
that is good, except for the few, the so very few that feel true love.

“Heal me”, they cry, those too weak, too old, to alone, those facing the
horror of spending their last moments in a terror filled chamber with blood
covered floors, who lie in their own waste without food or water, those whose
bones will someday decay in back pastures, the bones of a once beautiful foal
born into a world that doesn’t care.

I thought I knew the facts of life. Now I can only stand in the pasture and feel
the burning tears as I look into the Heavens and ask why.

And the Horse said, “It is as you will, my son.”

Jerry Finch

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15 replies »

  1. As the years go by, I am less sure of all those things I stood upon in my twenties. I am less willing to say I “know” why. I remember observing these things in my Grandfather and pondering his answers that sometimes seemed vague to me. I know now.


  2. I agree, the older I get, the less i know and comprehend; I rescue dogs, and feel the same hopelessness as I look in the eyes of those who have been abused, starved, abandoned; hardest of all are the dogs that yesterday were a cherished pet, in a home, loved, favorite of children, now standing bewildered and terrified in an unending din of hopeless dogs, surrounded by strangers, awaiting a very uncertain future. I wonder what is in the heart of factory farm workers, fur farmers, puppy mill owners, dog fighters, animal gas chamber operators, and horse slaughterhouse workers;
    Many times it is overwhelming, but we keep on because to do otherwise is just not possible.


  3. Beautifully poetic and profound. Thank you for articulating what a lot of in the rescue business think and feel. How we become jaded, cynical and angry. But lets not lose hope. Hope is all that there is really. All that keeps us rolling on. That and those eyes that you speak of.


  4. Yes. I know the feeling, lying in bed at night, seeing in my mind all those horses. Tumbling from double-decked cattle trucks with their eyes stomped out, their faces and legs shattered. In the kill chute being hit again and again as the captive bolt misses it’s mark. I think of my precious Indy or Ami being in such a position. Of ANY kind, wise and trusting horse in that position. I start to cry and can’t stop. Must not think of these things – these things I cannot prevent no matter how much I protest, writing letters to politicians that don’t give a damn.

    While it’s true that horses have always been literally magical to me – who needs a Unicorn or a Pegasus when you can have a HORSE? – I can’t understand how anyone can be so unfeeling about ANY living thing. How can a person just not care? I don’t think it’s because they don’t understand that animals feel pain and fear. They know they do – they just don’t CARE.

    I remember March 6. 2002, the day my DJ – my best friend, partner and confidant for 20 years – died with his head in my arms before the vet could even get here. He was only 24, and I couldn’t believe he was gone. A part of me went with him and will stay with him forever. I love dear my Indy and Ami with all my heart and soul – except for that part DJ owns – and I wonder how I’ll survive losing them. How CAN people just not care what happens to their horses? How can they think it’s silly to keep them after they’re not “useful” any more? I’ll never understand it any more than I can ever change it. I know we’re facing a big push to bring back slaughter, and it drives me crazy.

    How does one not care?


    • Speechless for now Jerry as I contemplate the 600 horses in Nevada and how I know many of us will not be able to stand by and watch this one. On the other hand, 35,000 are already in did that happen?
      Thank you Jerry for putting words to our emotions and prayers.
      Speechless otherwise because what you are saying is Urgent, broad and deep…
      Susan Leffingwell-Blackbird


  5. Hello – That was a beautiful piece. Just wondering though… Isn’t the solution to stop breeding horses? I know they are bred for pharmacuticals, for racing, for rodeos and indirectly for “food”. Wouldn’t the best thing to happen for horses to be for humans to stop making more? At least that’s the way I see it – If they were an animal that could be caged I have no doubt they would be housed in cages just like the puppy mills. Very sad.


    • Provoked- I agree 100%, until the horse “industries” stop over-breeding there will always be an imbalance in the horse market. Thoroughbreds are re-bred almost immediately after giving birth. This is done before they even know if her offspring will ever amount to anything. This practice in turn fuels the nurse-mare industry, resulting in an endless supply of “throwaway” foals. And yes, the HORRID premarin farms tossing out babies like trash along with their mommas when they have worn them out. I just get SO MAD! -Kathy


    • If such non-breeding programs are ever in place, I hope they do a far better job than our efforts to stop the senseless breeding of dogs and cats. There is simply no need for more horses until every horse has a home and a future – and that future doesn’t include the slaughterhouse or the BLM holding pens


      • Jerry, Yes, this must become a national educational issue because the end result will save lives and the loss today is enormous. Improving the quality of life for our companion animals and wild horses can change the quality of our lives. mar


  6. “See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me.” Cries from the broken horse soul. Screams from the wounded human spirit. God made a beautiful bond between the two that no words can describe. God sends His Holy Spirit to rescue. Heal can be found for those who choose to see His design of balance between God, man & the animal Kingdom.


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