Did you know a “horse girl” growing up? I bet you did. I bet she wore a braid with a ribbon, and galloped, rather than walked, to class, jumping over everything in her path like it was a grand prix fence; she preferred horses to cars and boys at the age where cars and boys are paramount to all; and, she was weirdly confident considering how truly weird she was. I know, I was one of them. I still am.
Upon discovering that I grew up on a sheep farm in Vermont, people are always confounded as to how a lil’ “Girl from the North Country” ended up living in a big ole’ city like New York, and always ask in a way that makes me feel like they’re expecting some sort of a Bright Lights, Big City story, but with less drugs and a happy ending. I used to find this exchange exhausting and had accidentally developed a canned response that went a little something like, “Yeah, I love it! Never felt more at home. The only thing I don’t like about living in NYC is not being close to my horses.” And this was the truth.
For nearly 10 years I’d lived without them. And in that time, every night, without fail, in that sweet-scary state right before sleep, I’d close my eyes and the last thing I’d remember before dozing off would be the hypnotic feeling of the three-beat rhythm of my horse’s canter — a feeling I feared I might forget — followed with a pang of incompleteness. There’s this indescribable feeling when I hop on my horse, bareback, saddled, whatever, that, regardless of what’s going on my life, makes me feel at peace, at home, balanced, focused, and utterly 100% myself. It’s my therapy and my meditation all rolled into one, and it was a feeling I’d been missing for a while.
So, when my good friend, Lizzie, whose horse went to college with my horse (yes, that statement can be filed under: obnoxious things horse girls say), called me up and told me she’d moved to a farm close to the city and to bring my horse on down, I jumped at the opportunity.
As every “crazy” horse girl can attest, horses have a magical way of coming into your life right when you need them the most. Within a month of being “back in the saddle,” that feeling of incompleteness before bed had subsided, and what I can best describe as the “millennial midlife crisis” I’d been going through, wherein I’d started to doubt every decision I’d ever made as an adult, vanquished — it was as if the veil of insecurity and indecision had been lifted. I suddenly knew what I wanted, and could identify, with crystal clarity, the steps that needed to happen to get there.
For some people therapy works, for me it’s my horse. I often joke that, after spending a day at the barn, “I feel like a human again,” and it’s true. Science shows that animal therapy “really works” because it makes us subconsciously aware of our physiological interconnectedness, not to mention the endorphins it releases. There’s an excellent article about Equine therapy from a year ago in T-Magazine that explains all the science, but the key takeaway, for me at least, is the beguiling power of nonverbal communication: patience, body language, energy modulation, cadence, connectivity, balance, control, compromise — these are all things horses teach us, enchantingly, without words.
At the time my horse came back into my life, I’d been struggling to write an essay about finding your place, having a sense of home, etc. I felt like so much real-time change was happening in the moment that I couldn’t finish the piece, but I did learn it’s a true blessing and a luxury to find the people, places, beings, and things that give you a sense of freedom, that make you feel more for you. Just knowing what those are, and making sure to get as much of them as you possibly can, will instantly release you from whatever you are seeking a little escape from. For me, that just so happens to be a horse.
Shirt and Pants, Beaufille; Boots, Stylist’s Own
Dress, Batsheva; Boots, Stylist’s Own