An article I wrote for Real Simple Magazine...
REAL SIMPLE LOVE
Ask a young child a deep question and the answer will be unfiltered, clear, poignant, and often amusing. Want to understand pure, unconditional love? Spend time with a horse.
As a small girl, I spent summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. I would leave the house barefoot in the early morning to swim, play, visit other people's cottages, eat cookies, explore the woods while sucking on freshly picked sassafrass root. It was back in the days when children could be more free without so much worry, before kids pictures began appearing on milk cartons. Each child was watched by every family. Someone always knew where you were and where you'd been and what you'd been doing.
One “all summer in a day” kind of day, the timeless kind that children know and adults have forgotten, I happened across a horse inside a corral. I was maybe 4 and the horse seemed very big, but I wasn't afraid.
The horse's eyes calmed my fears as he slowly strode towards my tiny hand squeezed through the fence slats, palm up, fingers open. For the first time I felt the velvet of a horse's nose, the warm lick of his tongue, the breath from his widened nostrils which is how horses "know" someone. Scent. We both stood perfectly still, eye to eye. To this day, looking into a horse's eye, I feel like I can see into the depths of the universe, no hyperbole. I learned what love meant that day without question. Real, simple love.
I began bringing him apples and carrots and sugar cubes. To this day I do not know whose horse it was. In my child's mind, it was my horse, my secret friend and my first love. Oh, how I loved him..his nicker, the way he came to me, the way I could trust him--this big, gentle, magical creature.
Horses intuitively know and can express feelings. They nurture, heal, comfort, and challenge. They teach patience, trust, awareness,courage, loyalty and have a natural willingness to please. There is no need for spoken words. It is like an elderly couple who have been together long enough to sit in their rockers on the front porch without saying anything; just a look brings understanding and a knowing the love will remain a constant in a world of uncertainty.
I am a retired teacher now and own two horses of my own: Grace and Chance. The names tell you a lot about who they are. I love them and they love me. No childhood disillusionment. This love holds true to this day, without question. Real simple love filled with great depth, heart, joy and an appreciation for understanding what it really means.
Virginia S. Little, Ph.D., Transformative Learning and Change in Human Systems