The Horse

I stopped along a coun­try road to take a pho­to­graph. I had been down by the riv­er under the moun­tain, but the shad­ows had grown longer and now on my way home the moun­tain was immersed in late after­noon light. At first, two hors­es gal­loped to see me, but they soon wan­dered off, dis­tract­ed by the lush grass along the fence and under the trees. Then one, the one with a lit­tle white mark, trot­ted back, stick­ing her head over the fence. I rubbed her between her eyes and apol­o­gized silent­ly for not hav­ing an apple or hand­ful of hay.

I know I could write here as if the whole expe­ri­ence of meet­ing the horse was an intel­lec­tu­al one. I could tell you about the ancient sym­bol­ism of hors­es and their rela­tion­ship to human civ­i­liza­tion (and war). I could report on how there are venues today where hors­es are used for var­i­ous forms of ther­a­py and even are engaged to teach lead­er­ship prin­ci­ples, process­es I don’t know about and can’t eval­u­ate. But in truth, it felt more like a moment out of James Wright’s well-known poem, “A Bless­ing.”


What I know is that my horse, the one with the white mark who trot­ted over to see me, was a beau­ti­ful crea­ture, pow­er­ful, sen­si­tive, and poised. I met her via feel­ings alone. This is some­thing the experts do say about hors­es, that they are good mir­rors of emo­tion, reflect­ing your true self back to you — as any encounter would with what is tru­ly authentic. 

There are peo­ple who we meet some­times and we know instant­ly that there is some kind of kin­ship, and there are peo­ple we meet who are guard­ed and have secrets. With the horse I felt the kin­ship, as if there was no point in secrets or arti­fice of any kind. She was just there, present in her inno­cence, her spir­it plain, her curios­i­ty and wel­come already a relationship. 

My horse raised her head, looked through me with her for­eign, famil­iar wis­dom, and slow­ly turned back to the field. She had impart­ed a fine les­son. I’d felt what it is like for a moment to be with­out any secrets at all, unguard­ed and nat­ur­al. I had made her acquain­tance but I sensed in her qui­et man­ner that was real­ly no dif­fer­ent from meet­ing a friend. Only we humans dif­fer­en­ti­ate in that way. I asked myself: is it pos­si­ble for us not to hide our­selves in some way?

And that was the mys­tery of it. She offered and gave by con­ceal­ing noth­ing of her­self at all. 

Per­haps that is the great­est “secret” of all.

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  • What a beau­ti­ful post. I just spent 3days on the road with my beat friend (dri­ving from Olympia to Pierre SD) and we shared the secrets of our hearts. What a grace-filled time.

  • Cathy–

    I’m so glad to hear you had such a won­der­ful time! Thank you for tak­ing a moment to write, my friend! Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you soon…


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