Monday, January 24, 2011

A Love Story

Portrait of Buster by Ellen Strack
I am going to tell you a love story. It may not be as romantic as you are hoping, and it does have a sad ending. It is not so much the story of two individuals but of many. It did start, however, with a lesson from a horse.

I was a one horse girl for a long time. I rode other horses, and I even owned other horses, but only one had my heart. I was perfectly happy with this scenario, until a horse came into my life that changed a lot of things. Buster came into my life because of my love for Bucky, my first horse. He needed a companion, and we were told of someone giving away a horse. As soon as I met Buster, I knew he was the one. He reminded me of Bucky. I just knew they would get along. It is funny that I had these thoughts, as I later understood after getting to know him that he and Bucky could not be more different, and though they were fond herdmates, they were never peas in a pod. I guess the connection I felt simply told me that he belonged in my herd.

I was happy to have him at first, because he was a horse that my friends and family could ride. He was cute and all, but I called him my sister’s horse (even though she really wasn’t interested.) One day I took a friend out to ride, and became concerned when Buster suddenly began to cough and found it difficult to keep up. Over the next few months, he continued to have trouble breathing, lost weight and was generally depressed. The vet diagnosed Buster with heaves, which is basically like asthma for humans. We treated him with steroids, antihistamines, even human inhalers. Nothing seemed to help much. I began to get creative with his treatment, making herbal concoctions. As I worked to help him be healthy it became apparent to me that medication alone was not the answer. I had to give him love. I had to give him my heart and let him know that I cared that he got better. This was a difficult thing for me at the time. I was used to holding back. With my family, with my husband, with others in general. The only place that I could let my emotions go was with Bucky, and that typically came out in the form of buckets of tears. I knew this was a journey that I had to begin to take, and that Buster would help me along the way.

As my life began to take a very important turn, I was given the opportunity to move my horses to a new farm. Buster was doing somewhat better at the time, but the small area that he lived in, and his constant standing in the dusty barn gave little room for his recovery. As soon as we got to his new environment, he was 99 percent better. I hadn’t realized the relationship that Buster and I had built during this time. But it began to show. I would look into his eyes- the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen on a horse- and get lost. I would snuggle his soft face. I would call him my Tiger. Partly because of his “tigers eyes” and partly because under his fluffy teddy like self, I could see the life force of a tiger.

Two happy memories I have of this time I will never forget. The first time I let him out into the 28 acre pasture I saw the happiest horse I have ever seen. I cannot forget the picture, he must have literally grinned from ear to ear. The second was a few days before he fell ill. As though he knew what would happen, he came up behind me and placed his head on my shoulder. Then I knew that we had a relationship, that despite all my attempts at withholding, that for me this horse had cracked open the walls between love and self-doubt, between depression and passion, between love that gives for givings sake and love that receives in joy.

I sat with him all day in the rain. I read him books, I talked to him. I talked to him about how we could fly together in the sky one day, and he told me of his gratefulness and love for me. When I got up to leave he tried to come with me but couldn’t, which is why I stayed there. I stayed until it was time to let him go.

And that is my love story. Buster helped me discover the love I had, and it kept growing. I began to learn to allow myself to love more, love my husband, love myself. I began to love other horses and allow them to teach me their lessons. As I experience love everyday, I think of him and know that love is not something to fear because you may lose it. It is something to cherish and learn from for now, and hold onto because it never ends.