Five years old. You don’t know what boys are. You’re in kindergarten. You like reading. You live next to an Appaloosa pony that you ride bareback almost daily. Your favorite thing to do is to canter up the hill.

Freedom.

You dress as a horseback rider for Halloween. Only, that wasn’t a costume.

It was your favorite outfit.

Your childhood horse, a mare, is your best friend. She gets you through fourth grade, when life is hard and you don’t fit in anywhere.

But your horse loves you.

In middle school, the worse school gets and the meaner girls get, the more the barn becomes your safe place. Your refuge. Your calm. Your inner peace. This is where you find yourself. This is how you identify yourself.

You live and breathe the air that those horses live and breathe. You learn everything you can about how they function. You learn everything you can about how they think. You don’t share these finds at school. It’s not fun for anyone else to hear. Except to your best friend who has horses. She is the only one that understands this language. She frames a picture of a horse for you for your thirteenth birthday.

That picture is still on your desk, even though the best friend has long vanished and your mare has left you, too.

In high school and college, the horseback riding becomes less important. But you find that you make your way to the barn for comfort. For peace. For the deep breath and the snuggle from a horse neck that lets you know, life is OK. You drive a Mustang until you’re 22. Your “other horse”.

Love, the horse kind, is all around you. Love still exists. In that barn. With those horses. And you don’t have to DO anything to receive it except return and give love.

Nursing school was easy because you had been showing compassion and healing to these horses since you were a child. You had been dressing wounds from the pasture for as long as you could remember.

Clean hand, dirty hand. Sterile dressings.

Comfort. Compassion. Love.

After college, you’re an adult. You have your own money to fuel your passion, your hobby, your habit that you will never be able to kick. Nor should anyone ask you to kick it.

You end up with a big, hunk of a gelding. He is the meaning of love. He looks to you for guidance, reassurance, and comfort. You love him up and down and expect nothing of him.

You buy another Thoroughbred who you love because he loved you on sight. He now loves your mother, but she loves him from the ground up. Through brushes and treats. You watch their relationship in awe, because it’s based solely on friendship from the ground. No riding. No competitions. Just… love.

Your final purchase comes in the form of a new Thoroughbred mare. Your first mare since you lost yours four years ago. She opens holes in your heart. She makes you cry the tears that still exist over your first mare. She repairs you. She loves you even though you just bought her and she has no reason to love you. Yet.

You love her in return. Because you never want the love or the trust to stop. You never want any of them to question you and your intentions.

You always want to meet their needs.

So how, then, do you explain to a non-horsey significant other, a man, the depth of these relationships? The simplicity of this love? This hobby? This sport? How do you explain the commitment? The dedication? The feeling in your heart when you know that horse is waiting to see you, and you just don’t make it out to the barn that day.

How do you explain that while the horses aren’t necessarily more important than him, they are definitely more dependent? How do you justify going to things late, or leaving early, because the horse needs something? How do you make anyone that doesn’t know a horse’s love understand any of this without hurting their feelings?

How do you have both human love and horse love?

Is there a balance?

But.

Most importantly.

How do you explain to him that he, a human, receives the same kind of horse love, commitment, and dedication from you? The same simple love that just… exists.

It just breathes. This kind of love only wants love and understanding in return.

It’s not limited to just these horses.

The love is all around. You just have to open your heart to it. The horses taught us, gave us this gift, without words.

How do we teach it to humans?

Allison