My favorite thing to do when I visit Wishbone is to stand under his neck and lean my back against his massive chest. I am completely sheltered by the gentle giant as he curls his head down a little and I pet his cheeks. His powerful, safe embrace provides respite, a little moment in my day when I can let my shoulders relax and worries fade.
Lately, I’ve been trying to get information from the City of Richland regarding having horse-drawn wagons there as a shuttle service for the Friday Farmer’s Market. It’s been an exercise in frustration bordering on insanity. I’ve been a regular attendee of “Wishbone’s Shelter for the Weary”. Sometimes I stand there and imagine what life was like 100 years ago, when the exact opposite battle was taking place — cars and car owners attempting to mingle vehicles with horses and carriages. The car won, and I’m all for progress, but I do believe that the absence of horses at the core of our communities is one of many contributing factors to the changes in how we treat each other.
I was reminded of that the other day. I called a carriage operator in Leavenworth to ask him about his operation, how he navigated City Hall, and horse business in general. It started out as a brief but guarded conversation — a simple question, a short answer. We began to open up more, discussing the many facets of horse-based business. He said, “you know, people aren’t used to horses in their communities anymore. They don’t even know how to pet them.”
There was a time when we all knew more about approaching horses. And each other. I think we’re more isolated now, even in crowds. We travel in a protective little steel pod with a controlled environment. Sometimes we pass people we know well, but we don’t know it’s them because we can’t see through the glass.
The man then said, “You’re the gal with Wishbone and Sis, right?” Well, I guess the horse-business community isn’t that big, but it did surprise me. He then went on to tell me the life history of those two sweeties. How Wishbone was a registered Percheron with rare coloring for the breed – purchased as a two year old at a huge auction in Amish country. He and two other horses were shipped all the way out here from Indiana.
Sis was a dejected youngster in a kill pen, waiting to go to slaughter when he and a friend purchased her and two others.
They matched Wishbone and Sis as a team when they were three and they’ve been together since. I think it’s important to know a horse’s history, mostly for the same reasons we like to know about our loved ones’ histories. It gives us context, a kind of understanding.
I love the two together in a hitch. Sis says, “come on, let’s get to work!” and Wishbone just yawns and lumbers along. “Whatever you say, Sis.” In the field Wish is first to greet you, to lower his massive head down so you can scratch his forelock. Sis stands quiet and patient with children and adults who trepidatiously want to approach her and pet her. Her kind eye is irresistible.
Did you know that a horse’s heartbeat will change in response to their rider’s heart rate? They are willing to work with whatever the human presents. They know we don’t know how to approach or pet a horse. They know we lack connection. And rather than fight and snarl and beat it into us, they stand patiently and wait for us to come to them. Once you’re within range of their heart, you’ll find that connection.
I’m thankful to have a relationship with horses, for what they teach me about people. I’m proud to say I’ve never given up on a horse, and have been rewarded greatly. I guess I better not give up on City Hall.