Sunday, February 21, 2010

Animals Heal Us

Animals are my respite and besides my husband, they are the most rewarding loves of my life. I have a theory that many of us who are now discovering we are quite ill with major food allergies also had a difficult childhood. It's not always the case, I know, some of you just got unlucky and have genes that contribute . . . but I do know for sure that major stress in life can have all sorts of health repercussions, and a bad gut is one of them.

I thought I would begin to introduce the animals of our farm since I think it is wise to not focus on our health woes 24-7. Besides, my animals are the main reason that I want to feel totally healthy because when I was nearly bedridden a few years ago, I had to stop riding horses and working with our dogs. We bought a ranch in Texas for the enjoyment of our animals and so that I could walk all 5 dogs off-leash with no worries of cars. I was getting very depressed that I no longer had the energy to walk the dogs or even saddle a horse. I also bought a 100-acre ranch so the horses would have room to run as there is little in life that I love more than seeing a horse in a full run, mane and tail flowing, and I love it even more when they throw in a few bucks of complete and total joy. I also happen to love seeing my dogs being able to run freely and explore the ranch with their noses. They live for their daily walk. I do too.

I have always loved animals. I also always wanted a horse. It took me until I was 38 years old but I did finally get a horse. Then I got another and another. Then I discovered donkeys and now we have 6 donkeys. Actually we have 7 donkeys but one is convinced he is a horse and he refuses to associate with the other donkeys. We named him Honkey Donkey because he is half horse and half donkey (which is a mule), at least in his mind. I suspect he was raised only with horses and we got him a year ago from a lady who said she got him at 4 months old from an auction.

Honkey's best friend is a huge blue colored horse named Dylan. They are inseparable. They eat together, they play together, they walk everywhere together, they sleep side by side. Dylan is nearly 16 hands, which is the way horses are measured. It basically means that he is very tall and you need a stepping stool to get up on that horse! Dylan was rescued after serving most of his life as a Pony Horse on the racetrack. Pony Horses are usually stout and gorgeous and they have a horrible life. They exercise up to three thoroughbreds every morning of their lives, running a mile with each horse "ponied" by the rider on the pony horse. Then they get put back in their stalls for 23 hours a day. They never get to eat so much as a blade of grass.

We got Dylan several years ago and the poor guy would not leave the false security of our fenced in barn area for months, even though the gate was open and he was free to explore. He whinnied and cried when the other horses and donkeys left for their daily ranch tour but he would not follow them; he just parked himself in a corner and hung his head over the fence, basically putting himself in a stall. I finally had to halter him and walk him out to the pasture, far from the barn and with the other horses. He was shaking in fear but he eventually adapted and returned to being a normal horse. Dylan is never stalled at our place and he never will be.

I gave Dylan his freedom and in exchange, he has given my heart a much needed boost and these animals are medicine for my soul. Dylan has become an excellent trail horse and we have covered many, many miles of Texas together.

Some people tell me that I "spoil" my horses. When people tell me that, two things are sure to happen. That person is on their way to no longer being a friend and I always ask this soon to be ex-friend: Why is it that you assume that by my ensuring my horses are happy and healthy and enjoy their lives that I am spoiling them?

Spoil your animals. Free them when you can. Allowing them -- and yourself -- to have wants and desires. It's good for your soul and what is good for the soul becomes good for your heart and then your gut.

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