In my experience, most animals have their own unique personalities. Not all of them are extroverts like my childhood horse Shane was, but they all have something special to offer. Different horses bond with different students, just as the students bond with different horses. All of my horses have a place in my heart, but there’s one in particular who really stands out.
Blaze’s owner had him since she was a little girl. As payment for some work he did, her father picked him right off a trailer that was heading to auction. Many of those horses are shipped off to Japan as meat, so Blaze got lucky. As the little girl grew older and moved on to more challenging horses, other kids started riding Blaze in 4H. As the years passed, Blaze needed a less demanding job so he was offered to our program. I fell in love with Blaze, because he was calm and gentle and knew so much. It was clear that he had a lot to teach the kids.
Blaze was one of those horses with a big personality that everybody loves. He passed away in 2009 after working almost up to the very end. We’re not sure how old he was, because he never had papers, but we’re guessing he was at least 28 or 30. He’s buried in a special place on the farm with a plaque and a nice cross that a student built. Horses don’t typically live as long as people do, and it’s always sad when something happens to them. At the same time, their passing teaches us and the kids how to deal with these transitions in life. We always try to honor such occasions, because the students love the horses as much as we do.
Like many equestrians, I think that horses choose riders as much as riders choose horses. Sometimes I’ll pick a horse for a student thinking they will be a good match, but the horse won’t leave the far end of the paddock or stall. Meanwhile, another one comes trotting over and starts following the kid or smelling him as if to say “Hey, what about me?”
I’m so grateful for all of the horses that have come to the farm and into the lives of the kids and volunteers. From the moment they arrive here to well after they’ve passed on, horses have much to teach us. This is a good thing, because we humans have much to learn.