The Force of the Horse

We were There: An Equine Christmas Story

An Excerpt from the book “Straight from the Horse’s Heart” by R.T. Fitch

A “Soul Cleanser” for this Holiday Season

“In keeping with our promise to bring you Equine related Christmas stories on the Sundays preceding Christmas please allow us to share with you a tale from our last book.  On behalf of Terry, our Critters and myself please accept our most heart felt best wishes for the very best to you and yours during this holiday season.  We thank all of you, on behalf of the horses, for the good works that you do.  You are such very rare and special spirits and we are so thankful for being blessed by knowing you.” ~ R.T.

From the pages of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss and Hope

It was like any other evening feeding of the horses, yet it was not; or not quite, as something was different.  The air was crisp and cool as Christmas was only a week away in South Louisiana, but the feeling had little to do with temperature or barometric pressure.  There was an electric buzz in the air; the feeling of white noise just outside the audible range of the human ear.  There was something tangible and moving in the barn that night.

I did not pick up on it at first.  Terry, my wife, was off having an early Christmas with her family in Florida, which means that the barn chores and the feeding of all our four-legged children rests upon me when I return home from my office in the evening.  And, at this time of year, it is already dark.  It’s a matter of rushing home, putting the vehicle up for the night, greeting and playing with Kenny, the white German Shepherd who is so excited to see you that he bounces three feet high, dashing into the house to turn on lights, checking messages, changing clothes, feeding the cat; then back outside to dribble the bouncing dog; and into the barn to cook dinner for the equine boys.  Oops, I missed that while in the house I might fix an industrial strength martini to take out to the barn with me, not a requirement, but a nice reward for all of the running around.

Tonight the wind was not blowing out of the north so I opened up the big sliding barn doors that look down our drive so that Kenny could look inside.  He cannot venture in as the invisible fence has always kept the big dogs out of the barn for both their safety and ours.

I scurried into the tack room, flipped on all of the lights and turned up the radio as Christmas music was the order of the day.  As I carefully measured varied degrees of hoof supplement and rice bran with their normal pelletized feed, the thought crossed my mind that my parents, especially my mother, never had the opportunity to see our equine kids nor experience this very special side to our otherwise very busy lives.  I paused from humming along with the radio and reflected on what a tremendous loss that was.  Then I questioned whether or not it was a loss for her or a loss for me; my ego subsided, my heart took over, and I realized that it was a loss for me that I would have to ponder and bear but would not allow it to rule my life.  I resumed mixing and humming with a small pang of sadness in my heart.

I went from stall to stall filling up the appropriate feed bins with the proper amount of food.  Each time I exited a stall and went back to the tack room I asked Kenny how he was doing; he sat so attentively out in the driveway.  This simply inquiry would start the bouncing, again.  I’ll never figure out how a 100 lb dog could bounce so high and he made me laugh.  I was just about finished with the mix of the last meal when the traditional and expected three measured knocks came to the back door.  Terry and I have learned to keep the back “horse” door closed until ready to let the horses in as it is such a pleasure to hear those three distinct and perfectly timed and executed knocks.

We know who it is and he does such a good job at it.  It’s Ethan.  He is the King of Knocking, the Guardian of the Food Gate, and the funniest of them all at feeding time.  He allows no one to come near the back door and when the door is open he hangs over the breezy gate to ensure that he will be the first one in.  Back at our old ranch our barn was made of wood and the back door had one small knothole in it about knee high.  I could be preparing their dinner, with the door closed, and have the eeriest feeling that I was being watched.  I would then turn to look at that door and see a mottled Appaloosa eye staring back at me through that knothole.  That was more unnerving than entertaining as it looked so bizarre and creepy.  Here he has managed to carefully slide the two doors apart so that there is just a crack and then he will press his eye against the crack to watch you.  Again, I love him dearly but when not expecting it such actions can unsettle or startle you.

I hollered back through the closed doors that I was hurrying and would be right with him.  With that, I dumped the last bucket of feed in Apache’s stall, walked to the back, and carefully cracked the sliding doors.  Who was standing with his head pressed to the middle of the doors, Ethan, as always.

“Are you ready?” I asked and a part of me picked up on a gentle nod and smile.

The doors were slid open, the breezy gate was swung out and,as they do every night, they came in the barn in perfect order to eat the dinner that I had labored over in preparation for them.   First came Ethan, then Harley followed by Apache and bringing up the rear is the biggest, the youngest and the most fearful, Bart.  He feels more comfortable when they are all tucked away in their stalls with their doors closed so that no one can stick their head out and attempt to bite him as he walks down the aisle.  He actually stops and looks into each one of their stalls and you can almost hear him say, “Ha, Ha, you can’t get me now”.  Hopefully, one day, he will grow up.

Immediately the barn was full of the sound of relaxed munching and filled with the sweet odor of horses and feed.  I looked back at Kenny who only bounced two feet instead of three feet off the pavement hoping that I might sit down and enjoy this moment.  I went into the tack room to pull out a chair and sit in the center aisle of the barn to commune with the horses. My Brazilian hammock, however, caught my eye.

“Ah ha” I cried and snatched up the hammock with one hand while I grabbed the martini in the other.  This could be good!

Two quick slips of “S” hooks into the installed tie rings on to opposing stalls and I had the hammock swinging across the center aisle in a heartbeat.  Kenny lay down, as I eased into the hammock,because he knew that this could be awhile.  I sat down with my back propped up and began to swing while singing along with the Christmas music from the radio.

It did not take long to realize that my singing was not appreciated.  Bart began to pound on the stall wall with his right front hoof and Apache quit eating to urinate, on the clean shavings in the stall, in protest of my singing.  I actually was not too offended by Bart’s signal to quit but for Apache to pee in his stall was pushing the envelope a little too far.  I felt rather hurt so I just shut up, set my drink down on the aisle floor and listened to the sounds of the horses mixed with the sound of Christmas.

The music stirred emotions from seasons long past:  seasons of happiness, hope, disappointment and most recently, pain.  But I am the Captain of my ship and I had no intention to sail into dark and murky waters this night.  I simply wanted to let go and feel the companionship of my friends around me.  That’s when I heard the buzz.

At first I thought that the radio was slipping off from its frequency but the music was still there, clearly playing.  The buzz was overriding the music; the “white noise” was multi-dimensional and not strictly coming from the tack room.  I did not make a serious attempt to think about it as the sounds and smells were like candy to my senses and the buzz was only the canvas that the painting of the moment was applied to.  I relaxed.

I closed my eyes and continued to rock back and forth.  There was a feeling of warmth in the barn,while all of those equine souls were inside eating and enjoying.  The buzz, on the other hand, continued to grow.  In the beginning it really was not something that I was paying much attention to but now I attempted to tune into where it was coming from and what it was.  I continued to rock.  I could still hear the horses and the music but now the buzz was growing in volume.  As I continued to mentally identify its source,it was becoming ever more evident that the sound, itself, was coming from within.  It was coming from inside of my head and not related to anything outside of myself.  I was aware that I was humming “Away in the Manger”,along with the radio but it was becoming evident that the white noise was music also.  In that music there were whispers, words, phrases and thoughts being conveyed.  Without knowing it I gave in to the music from within and opened up to the whispers and words.  There where many voices with varied depths and pitches although different they all blended together in song and,it was soul stirring.  I listened and listened and listened until I finally made out the words that were being sung to me.  It came as abruptly and as clearly to me as if a sonic boom had just resonated throughout the barn.  In thousands of voices, from deep within my soul, the words being sung in perfect harmony were “We were there!”

I stopped rocking and the singing stopped; there was total silence.  My eyes popped open and I was looking straight up.  Once they focused I could see two small sparrows in the barn’s rafters looking straight down at me.  They were looking directly at me with calm assuredness.  The radio was silent, only my breathing could be heard.  I sat up and looked at the stalls, all of the horses were looking directly at me, calmly, with their heads bowed.  I then gazed out across the moonlit pasture and could see the little donkey and her herd of cows staring directly into the lighted barn.  Not one of them was moving.  I quickly swung around and looked out the other door for Kenny; he was laying calmly with his head between his paws and his big brown eyes starring right at me.

I went to stand and in the silence the words came again, “We were there!”  I froze.

“We were there that night”, the collective voices continued.

“Wait, what, who?” I started to ask.

“Just listen and absorb.  Do not ask, we will tell.” the voice said.  “We were there in the stable, that night.  All of us in one shape or form.  We were there long before human shepherds and nobles came to see.  We were there to see him take his first breath.  We were there.”

“It is important, at this time, for you to know that we were the selected witnesses, the guardians and the companions of the Son of the Light.  You need to understand that we are closer to the source of goodness and purity than all mankind.  You need to know that your fight for our lives is a just and noble one.  All of you humans who guard and protect us walk in a very special light.  You have now been there too; now you know and now you must continue the fight”, the voice ended.

“Wait!  What do you mean I was there too?” I called.  I stood up and turned around because I did not know who I was talking to.  I looked at the horses, the dog, the birds, the donkey, and the cows.  ”What do you mean?”

Reality had yet to smack me upside the head as I stared into the horses’ eyes.

Again, the voice returned, “You were there, too.  When you opened your eyes, just a few moments ago, what did you see first?” it asked.

I stammered for a second and came up with, “The birds; the birds in the barn’s rafters.”

The voice asked, “What did you see next?”

“Well, I saw the horses looking at me from their stalls, the donkey, the cows and Kenny the bouncing dog, all looking at me.”

“Yes”, the voice said, “And what were the first impressions in the life of the Gifted One when he first opened up his eyes in that stable long, long, long ago”?

“I would imagine that when he first opened his eyes, lying in a manager, he saw the rafters in the barn ceiling with the birds looking down…” I stopped talking so quickly that I almost bit my tongue.  There was a warm sensation washing over me and it was more than just the tie-in and realization of what had just occurred.

I could not speak and was about to sit back down when the voice added;

“Yes, you see now.  You have been there too.  We all have been there yet, few humans can remember.  This is our gift to you.  Carry the light and chase the darkness; we love all of you for what you do.”

Hearing those words, there was something else, I could not then nor can I now describe it.  Perhaps a sigh, perhaps it was a catch as if emotion had welled up but there was something there, not spoken, that touched me more than the words.

In a dreamlike state of numbness I began the process of releasing the horses from their stalls to their pasture; this is done in the exact reverse of the entry process.  I moved like a robot as the power of the words and the moment were still within me.  I opened up Ethan’s stall and he walked out and stood in the middle of the back door as he often does.

Harley was next.  I stood at his stall door and allowed my hand to move down his furry side as he calmly walked by me and out past Ethan.

Apache usually flattens his ears when he sees Ethan in the doorway and chases him out; but not tonight.  When I opened up his stall he calmly walked past us both without any notice.

Finally, Bart was freed to return to the beloved round bale and as he exited I asked him to stop and I gave him a hug.  He gently kissed my bald spot and headed out past Ethan.

I then turned my attention to Ethan; I stood next to him in the doorway and gazed out upon what he was viewing.  The donkey and cows had gone back to grazing in the moonlight and the neighbor’s horses were tucked away in their barn with their heads hanging out.  Our three were all drinking from the trough, together, and the sky was fantastic with the moon and stars.  It was picture postcard perfect.

As he stood next to me I put my hand on Ethan’s withers.  He turned to me and put his left nostril right against my heart which placed his left eye at the same level with mine.  I said, “Merry Christmas, my friend.”  He blinked, turned and then stepped out into the night.  As I watched that big Appaloosa butt dwindle from the light of the barn he stopped and turned.  Regardless of what anyone says, he had the biggest smile on his face that any horse could have.

I lowered my head, pulled my glasses off to wipe the tears off the lenses, closed the back door, walked past the still full martini glass sitting on the floor under the hammock, turned off the lights, walked out of the barn and stood over Kenny who had still not budged.

“Want to go inside, boy?” , I asked.

He bounced five feet high this time and we happily dribbled each other up the driveway to the house like we were two ten year old kids headed for a game of basketball.

The moon cast shadows of us dancing on our way as the horses continued to hum in the pasture, “We were there”.

29 replies »

  1. Thank you R.T. for that story. It really touched my heart. It brought tears to my eyes as you made me feel like I was really there. I am not a reader at all. I can’t sit still and read. I am so busy all the time. But I could not get up until I read this whole story.
    It was so beautiful. Very touching.


  2. Okay – heading out for a hankerchief as soon as I’m done sending this story to every horse lover I know! Thanks R.T. for reminding out we are all one. Blessed Be!


  3. R.T., your Christmas epiphany was beautiful related … awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your special moments with us. Lovely … reminds me of stories I was told as a child … Merry Christmas to you, R.T., Terry and all of yours! Happy New Year as well … expecting many positive changes to become manifest in 2011!


  4. Thank you R.T. The Christmas Spirit has awakened, at last. JUST the story that we all needed to hear. Merry Christmas to you and Terry and to your Beautiful Family.


  5. Yes, it was beautiful, R.T., but the thing that is giving me goosbumps is how eerily similar it is to what I was told by a close Cherokee friend of mine when he held an ancient Cherokee Ceremony for DJ (my dearly beloved gelding, 2002) as he was dying. He said DJ told him that the horses are indeed here to guide Humans and that they do it out of Love.

    The Truth does indeed have many guises.




  7. Thank you R.T. Fitch. We are the shining light that needs to be shared with the whole world. There are stars but the the North Star is bright and beaming. We are to go out and believe, trust in him, be the bearer of good gifts. Share his goodness, protect and defend his kindness from the darkness all around us. We are doing this not just saying that we will.
    I have prayed for the masses out there to heed the calling of their tender souls and listen to the still voice from within their beings. We must come together to protect our beloved ones, humans and animals. They are sharing their love and kindness in special way and we must protect all of our beloved animals every minute of the day and night. god has given us authority to put the darkness away and bring out the special bright stars that will continue to beam all the way across this blessed nation of ours. We must continue the fight and put all of our trust in the one who came to us in a manger long, long ago. I have experienced the grace and forgiveness of the holy one many times in my life. I thank my God above and I am so thankful.
    We are placed amongst others to help them find the holy spirit and guide them on the right path. I know that every minute of every day when I go the the heavenly father and ask him for a blessing he gives back ten fold. Dreams come true and believe in your hearts, souls that every one of you out there makes a huge difference and touching others lives. My prayers for this new year to stop roundups and protect the wild horses we have left. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
    Go forth and let your light shine unto others, my prayer for all of you. Help the less fortunate, let hope be filled in your hearts to the pain and create only kindness when you do something for an animal or human. We are the protectors and defenders. We must go and fight this battle to win, win, win for our blessed animals and share only gentleness and love. God Bless all of you. Believe you can make a difference one at a time, I do and my friends believe they can too. I love all of you dearly.


  8. Some humans look at animals and say, “what can I get?”; others look at animals (or other humans for that matter) and say, “thank you for the gifts you bring and/or just being”,

    I think we all know where the killers stand.

    I think we all know where our leaders stand.

    Thank you RT and all those that care in this season of remberance of a caring person that was born so many centuries ago.


  9. Thank you RT. You are a very special and rare person and I feel blessed by knowing you. And all the others who give so generously of their time, their money and their hearts and souls. Although we are dissimilar in many ways we are truly one large and open heart and one loud and continuous voice.


  10. R.T., thank you for your Christmas story. May you, Terry, and your four legged family enjoy this Christmas and New Year. May we all hope and work toward next year that this time next year, we will have saved all our beautiful wild horses and burros and that new people will be running the BLM, ones who love these animals as much as we do. Our demand for replacement of Salazar and its coharts would make a big difference if the right people are there with us. Maybe we can work for cancelation of all the agreeements made with cattlemen and get our ranges back for those now in BLM corrals. What a great year this would turn out to be. With your story, I’m now crying because this will be the first year that I don’t have the beautiful Arabian that I wanted to adopt that was in a sanctuary. His death of a heart attack in May does not leave me but stays with me each day. How lucky you are to have your beautiful four legged friends and be able to wish “Merry Christmas”. I wish we could go out with all the wild horses and their families on their previous ranges and wish each and every one of them “Merry Christmas” as well as all those that want to find new homes with people to love them. May next year be one to remember for all the hard work ahead and that the results we seek will have been achieved. GOd Bless all of you for working to save our beautiful wild horses and burros.


  11. dear Mr. Fitch , Thank You for your beautiful story as only you could tell it !!!! Thank You for always sharing your beautiful Horse and dog stories, they always touch my heart and my mind ,If ever there were placed a truly gifted and wonderful creature to teach us and heal us from within , it is the Magnificent Horse……..I have only to be with them to feel their greatness , and their warm and loving souls , to save their lives is divine….. What I will never understand is why there are people who would do them harm?????? Why do they not see how wonderful they are, and why do they not see how much they are willing to share with us all their gifts………..When God made them he appointed us to be their caretakers so we could feel and learn from them…….and know the true meaning of life , he gave this power to them to share with us……… What wonderful gifts they are to us !!!!!!!!! Your story has given to me , the feeling of what Christmas is ……… Thank You


  12. Some Day I will share with all here , the story of a Tennessee Walker who was never broken or haltered, at 6 yrs old I met her in a pasture with 5 other Walkers who were broken and haltered………… I met her in 1998, just after my husband died at 44 yrs old, its a wonderful story !!!!!!!!!


  13. Thanks RT. The Norwegians believed that the animals talked at midnight just as Christmas arrived. OK. I believe that they talk all the time–we just have to listen.


  14. Enjoyed the story! I feel closer to my God in the equine stalls than any other place. I carry on conversations with my horse every day. He tells me yes and no with a head nod and shake. He tells me absolutely no more donkeys in his pasture, sitting on the fence for wanting another horse and maybe to a goat. They do talk IF we listen! Merry Christmas from our barn to yours! Many, many thanks to you and Terry for all you do for the horses and burros!!


  15. This morning brought glad tidings of a true Miracle … the remaining 235 Pyramid Lake horses at Fallon have been saved from the killers! I believe the Lord, Great Spirit, or whatever Higher Power guides human lives, sent special Angels to rescue these noble animals gifted to our care.

    Blessings be on Madeleine Pickens, Jill Starr, and everyone they hold dear!

    Blessings be on these magnificent horses as they begin their new lives!

    Blessings be on the Paiute Nation … may they find the sacred path of enlightenment!

    Blessings be on you and yours … the two leggeds and four leggeds who bring each other joy!

    And blessings be on all creation in this holy season and throughout the coming year!


  16. Dear R.T.
    Thank you for a BEAUTIFUL story & thank you for opening your minds ears & hearing what was being said to you.
    I like others here am proud to admit that I hear all animals when they speak though they may be totally silent. If all, not just some would only open their minds ears they would hear so much! Yes, God talks to us in many different ways.
    Since I found out last summer that OUR MUSTANGS were in trouble & I joined in the fight those Beautiful, helpless horses come to me constantly. You see, I don’t sleep hardly at all at night, I just lay there. I see the horses, hear them & do my best to listen. This is Gods way of telling me what to do, what to say when I write long snail mail letters to the President.
    After my first letter to President It took a few months for me to figure out what information I needed to provide but once I did figure it out I sat down & started writting. The words came to me easily & fast, Straight from many horses mouths.
    Again, thank you for sharing this, thank you all who are fighting for every animals rights & may God continue to speak thruogh those of us that will listen.


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