Prior to 2009, I knew very little about horses. I always loved to read books about them, see pictures of them, and tried to experience them in person whenever I could. I would visit shows at the nearby fairgrounds just to walk the aisles and marvel at all of their different colors and personalities. Some friendly, some not so much.
I had been an animal advocate since my late teens (animal lover since birth) and had worked on many issues involving all sorts of animals. However, I had only worked on one horse issue in which the horses ended up not needing to be rescued and I was never even able to meet them. But just that little bit of almost-contact lit a spark, and in June 2009, when I turned 40, I decided it was now or never on achieving some of my dreams. Having a horse to call my own was on the list, but since I didn’t have a farm or know the first thing about horses really, I vowed that I would take my time and do an enormous amount of research before even speaking to my family about this.
And then, just before December, I joined a horse rescue chat room and quickly became involved in an effort to save 23 Thoroughbreds and a Quarter Horse from being sold to a kill buyer here in Michigan. It started out innocent enough, all safely from behind my computer. We had quite a team the day of the auction, and we were successful in outbidding the kill buyer for all of the horses except for three.
Though I had not met any of these horses, I couldn’t sleep that night and paced the floor thinking about the unlucky three Thoroughbreds that ended up with the kill buyer. The next morning, I gathered all of my courage and called the man who bought them. After forty-five long minutes on the phone, he decided to sell us the three additional horses, all the while trying to convince me that one of the geldings, whose name was The Big Search, was not worthy of being saved. He said the horse was mean and barely handleable. I remember wondering if I was making the right decision but quickly put his words out of my mind and made arrangements for the horses to be picked up.
Most of the horses ended up at a rescue in Ohio, and since I lived closest to the facility, I volunteered to visit the horses and take pictures so we would all be able to see the lives we’d saved. When I first arrived, all of the horses were too busy with their noses in a round bale to even notice me. They were all thin with unhealthy coats, and they had defeated looks in their eyes. These horses had suffered.
Suddenly, a large, dark gelding, with a star on his forehead and snip on this nose, stopped eating and walked over to me. He rested his head on my arm and stared at me. I smiled back and asked the owner of the rescue which horse he was. She answered: “The Big Search.”
A good horse will change your life. A truly special one will define it
It was a moment I will never forget because as I looked back at him, into his large, trusting brown eyes, there was simply no question that my search for a horse, a search that had never really started, was already over.
Search and I have been together now for over nine years. He lives happily at our new farm, which we named after him, with six other horses and two rescued donkeys. I love each and one of my equines very much, but Search and I have a connection like no other. A connection I find hard to explain. And while we did enjoy some time together under saddle, he is no longer rideable due to being malnourished at a young age and developing some back issues as a consequence.
And that’s ok. Because for me horses are about so much more than what they can do for us; it’s about what we can do for each other, and for the remarkable bonds that we are able to share.