The Human-Horse Bond
My name is Samantha MacLean, but most people at the barn know me as Piper’s mom. I half lease Piper and have been with her for over a year and a half. It has been the best decision I have ever made. The journey that we have been on to create the bond that we have today wasn’t always the easiest that is for sure, but throughout this post, I hope to share a few laughs with you and show you that some of the strongest bonds can be created without having to say a word.
When I moved from Fort McMurray to attend university in Calgary, I was missing something in my life. I had played competitive volleyball, been an avid member of the volunteer community throughout high school, had my friends… Needless to say, when I arrived in Calgary having nothing but school and my family, I was lost. I had always loved horses and felt a sense of calm around them like no other, so I decided hey, I’m living in Calgary after all, why not pick up horseback riding? At the time, I was just looking for a few lessons to try it out, but as soon as I arrived for that first lesson, I was hooked! I was bitten by the horse bug, and there was NO going back!!
On May 18th, 2016 I had my first lesson with Piper. Some people say that when they see their heart horse for the first time, they know that they are the one… Although Piper was beyond cute with her skunky Mohawk mane and her little heart nose, she had a bit of an attitude and wanted to make sure I knew she was in charge. For anyone who has met Piper, you know exactly what I am talking about. We had a great first lesson taught by the amazing Teray, and when we were done, I thought that I would take her back to the stall, brush her, pick her feet and give her a few treats, but Piper had other plans...
Being new to untacking horses, I thought that you could just switch from the bridle to the halter, and the horse would just stay there magically and let you do it. I have since learned that horses know when you are inexperienced and will take advantage of that any chance they can to do what they want! In this case, Piper wanted the fresh green grass just outside of the barn doors.
Imagine this… Piper turning her head towards me almost to say “better luck next time”, turning her body, and starting to walk out the barn doors with a five foot nothing me hanging onto her neck while she dragged me to the luscious green patch of grass that she had probably had her eye on since I brought her in from her paddock. It was one of the most embarrassing, yet influential moments in my life, and weirdly enough, that was the moment I fell in love with her. From that moment on, I did everything I could to grow closer to Piper and make sure that she knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted to show her that no matter how much she tried to push me away, or how difficult of a ride we had, that I would always be there for her.
Recently, she has done the same for me...
I have an anxiety disorder, as well as depression. Unfortunately, these two things combined can leave me pushing away the very things that I love. Piper is one of the only things in my life that grounds me. She allows me to take that breath of fresh air, and when I look into her soft gentle eyes, I know that I am going to be okay. Piper, like most horses, needs her personal space, but when she can sense that I am having a hard time, she lets me give her kisses on her silky heart nose. She lets me wrap my arms around her neck, and sometimes, she even rests her head on my shoulder as to say “I am here, and you are loved unconditionally”. She allows me to feel completely understood without having to say a word.
When I go to the barn after a hard day or having to miss a lesson because life was simply a little too much that day, Piper is always waiting there for me in her paddock. She walks up to me as long as there is no fresh hay because as we know, she loves her food, she licks and chews, (which is a sign of a horse processing and relaxing), and she places her head down so that my head can meet her forehead. She doesn’t push me away, she loves me for where I am at.
There is nothing else in the world that has ever made me feel like this, and that is the beauty of the horse-human bond. Each horse is different and unique, just like us, and I can’t tell you that there is a magic formula for how to have a bond with a horse; but what I can tell you is that if you have the opportunity to form a bond, to jump at the opportunity. It will not always be easy, you read where I started with Piper, but I can promise you that it is worth it.