Through Children’s Eyes

Guest OpEd by Jo-Claire Corcoran of the Equine Welfare Alliance

The Purity of Their Vision Speaks to our Souls

copyright Marcy Leonard

There comes a time when we, as adults, need to take a few steps back and look at the world through the eyes of our children.

Our life prejudices, at times, prevent us from recognizing there are lessons to be learned from those who are able to see without the fetters of blinders.  In many aspects of life, as adults, we see things from a jaded perspective, colored by many things: inherent greed, mistrust, fear and broken promises.  This is not to say we should don our rose colored glasses.  For a moment let us not only look, but see with the trust, love, honesty and compassion we find to be inherent in children.

Far too many discount our children’s ability to understand complex issues – because of their inability to lose their blinders.  They are disconnected from the world around them, except that which encompasses their immediate surroundings and comfort.

This is most apparent in regards to the issue of horse slaughter.  Horse slaughter has been a contentious issue for several years, but was brought to the forefront in November, 2011 when the House of Representatives was forced to pass an Ag Appropriations bill without the important Moran Amendment intact – an amendment which specifically defunded USDA inspectors for horse slaughter.  The President had no recourse but to sign the bill, or risk a government shutdown.  The passage of this bill effectively allows for the inspection of horse meat to resume in the US, thus changing the landscape.

Out of the developments in November of 2011, a movement blossomed – a movement that is giving our children a vehicle for their voices to be heard.

The Million Horse March – Children’s Letter Writing Campaign to save America’s horses is a project which was born in the heart of a child…a child which sees the insanity which has taken over a small portion of this country who wants to slaughter our horses for food.  Not to benefit horses or feed the poor and starving but the few, the wealthy in other countries.  To our children, it’s simple and is best described in a letter sent to one of the children participating in the project:

“I commend Declan on his bravery to standup and support horses. If it is so obvious to our children how is it not registering to the so called grown ups? If you really think about it Declan and his friends from Children4Horses are not just trying to save the animals but us as well.”

The children participating in this project are from all over the country who have come together to shout out to the Congress, the President and to the Country, something is wrong and we want to make it right.  They understand, our horses are more than livestock, they are our partners, our companions, our pets. They are a symbol of beauty and power, majesty and freedom.  The children see the inhumanity of the process and understand it is wrong to send meat that isn’t safe to children in other countries to eat.  Why can’t those adults see this simple fact?

Here is an adult who “gets it” – and the children, their actions and words, were the catalyst:

Woman in IL, “Although I receive regular emails regarding a myriad of animal rights causes, I was shaken from apathy by the recent actions of a young, idealistic boy named Declan Gregg, who is actively seeking support for S.1176/H.R. 2966….i want to encourage Declan and the many other children who still believe that together we can make a difference….Declan is taking action that I myself want to but don’t because I get pulled away by seemingly other pressing issues.”

Along with the woman in Illinois, the majority of the people in this country get it.  The question is, will our Congressional representatives get it?

As clichéd as it sounds, our children are our future.  Do we want them to grow up to be unprepared, apathetic and unable to think critically – disengaged in the processes (political and otherwise) that affect all our lives?  Or do we want them to grow up to be strong, decisive individuals, capable of affecting positive change through meaningful thought and action?

Being a Child

by Jerry Finch, Founder and President of Habitat for Horses

Back a zillion years ago the “ranch” existed in my backyard. At one point we had around 30 horses behind the house, and about half that many volunteers on a daily basis. One of them was a teenager who insisted that her mom had dragged her here, screaming and crying, to control her life. Probably so, because the girl had tried to commit suicide the week before. She was so heavy into the Goth subculture that her personality was black, and that aura certainly did nothing for her ability to interact with the horses. She pouted, stompted her feet, plopped down on teh picnic tale and refused and communication with anyone, dead or alive.

Until she met Nichol.

Nichol is a black and white pony who has been with HfH forever. As a result of her former owner slamming her so hard that her hip shattered, then locking her in a stall to die, she hobbles around on three legs and projects both hate and fear of every two legged animal she sees. She truly hates to be touched, which is the reason many of the volunteers did a double-take when we saw the rebellious teenager grooming Nichol. We stayed away, but kept a close eye on them as she gently and carefully brushed Nichol’s mane. Nichol stood quietly, without any halter, eyes closed, absorbing whatever was happening between them.

The teenager cried, hugging Nichol’s neck. That’s when her Mom came to stand beside her, and the teenager stood up, wrapped her arms around her Mom, and bawled like a baby. It was the turning point for that young lady’s life. A horse did what no amount of drugs or therapy could do. It was, to me, a miracle, and only reconfirmed my belief in the healing power of horses.

Let me tell you about another little girl who passed through my life a year of so later when we had moved all the horses to the ranch.

Far up in the hay pile, hidden behind a wet and mud covered horse, stood a little girl. Lead rope in hand, she led the horse across the road and into his pen. Gently, she let go of one end of the rope and coaxed the horse through the gate, running her small hand down his side as he passed her.

“You need to eat, now,” she told him. “I’ll get the other horses. You wait here.”

She was about as tall as his leg, yet her passion for the horses made her fearless. The horses lower their heads for her, walk carefully beside her and listen to her every word. Her movements are in rhythm with the horse, her breathing matches theirs, she flows from one side of them to the other without hesitation as they move with her. They are communicating in images, in soft, spoken words, in ways that perhaps only little girls and horses can understand.

Later, the big people, the adults, were gathered around the feed room. The little girl found no interest in the adult conversation. Instead, she talked with the horses as they ate, visiting each one, watching and learning their mysterious ways.

Some people pay thousands of dollars to learn how to communicate with their horse, yet they never cross the barriers. They look on the horse in awe, fascinated with the majesty, wanting so much to be a part of its world, yet never achieving the natural ability of a little girl with blond hair and muddy shoes.

“Look at her for a minute,” I tell a volunteer. “Watch Sarah talk to the horses, “ I tell another. “Do you see what she’s doing? Do you see how natural she is?”

Two people were taking a horsemanship class. Another was trying to lift a hoof to clean it. Another was secretly giving snacks. We’re teaching, learning, trying to do horse stuff, wondering if there is a better way to let the horses understand that we’re there to help them. One horse is resisting the halter, another is refusing to lift his foot, and two horses are getting mouthy over the smell of candy.

And Sarah was in the hay stack, talking to the horses. Twenty mouths surround her, chomping hay, listening to her every word. If she were two feet taller, I have no doubt that she’d halter every horse we have, never seeing a turned head. If she weighed fifty pounds more, she could lift every hoof with total ease.

Perhaps that’s what we’re missing. By coming into the horse’s world with the analytical mind of an adult, we’re destroying the natural flow of expression between living things. There are those who return to the flow, like the Birdman of Alcatraz and Jane Goodall, people who become well known for their ability to communicate with animals. Perhaps it isn’t a returning, for they might have had the ability as a child and carried it into adulthood.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” the Good Book says. But wait, for Sarah sees as a child, acts as a child, and holds a horse that normally doesn’t like children. She guides and caresses and talks and the horses listen to her every words. Perhaps we don’t need to put away all our childish things. We can learn a lot from the Good Book, but we can also learn a lot from watching little girls with horses, and one of them is to remember what being a child was all about.

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Children help to Save our Wild Mustangs

"Wild Horse Annie

Artist, Laura Leigh is adding a Wild Horse Annie page to her Rescue Friends Children’s site

As part of the page, she’d like to get kids involved and is going to add comments from kids on Mustangs. She will send them a certificate of appreciation with an ‘official’ Rescue Friend seal for participating.

Laura would also like to take the comments to the BLM meeting on December 7 as part of our Moratorium campaign to show kid’s support as well as individuals, organizations and dignitaries.

Comments should be sent to Laura at or along with the child’s name, age, city and state. Only the first name and age will be displayed on the comments unless the parents specify that the full information should be displayed. Please also indicate permission to include the comment in the package for the December 7 meeting.

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