How a true bond saved my horse's life
I wrote this as a paper for my class in college. It has touched many hearts. It is a long story, but very good for the soul. Please read :)
The first thing I saw was the road. Everything else was sort of blurring out of my vision. That was all I focused my sight on. Cars buzzing by; speeding, racing, beeping. Driver’s were too busy to pay attention. Maybe this was because of their lack of understanding what was about to happen. They did not see the terror in my eyes. All they saw was the cars in front of them. The next thing I saw was my horse. His tail high up, his eyes as wide open as could be, filled with terror. He kept galloping towards the road; his vision more blurred than mine. This is what happens when a horse goes through trauma. He see’s nothing but white. I forgot everything else that was around me: my screaming parents, the paramedics, people trying to stop me from running after him. I even forgot about those who were trying to catch him before he could get hit. It was this moment that I knew how much I loved this horse; my horse. I always knew that I loved Two-Step, but it was during the most traumatic moment with him I have ever had that I realized everything I had and what I was probably about to lose entirely.
The day began at six o’ clock in the morning. It was already hot out, so the dew melted almost instantly when the sun rose. I gathered together multiple water bottles and piled them into a cooler knowing I would thankfully drink every one of them. I hopped into the back of my parents black Chevy Tahoe with my best friend, Kelly, who had spent the night before. She horse back rides as well and wanted to be there for me for my first show because she wanted to see what it was like before she did it herself. My parents got into the SUV and we were now ready to go. My dad was driving, because when we got to the farm we would be hooking up the horse trailer; my mom does not like driving the horse trailer. We pulled onto the 195 on-ramp and were on our way. As we arrived at the horse farm where my horse stayed, I instantly got butterflies. I guess I unconsciously forgot today was the day of my very first horse show. I was about 15 years old with long brown hair and pale skin with freckles on my nose; I did remember to put a very high SPF sunblock on my face. I stepped out of the Tahoe and my tall riding boots hit the dirt pavement, causing a small cloud of dust to greet my body. My parents began to set up the trailer to our SUV’s hitch. Kelly and I took off in the direction of the stall that gave home to my horse, Zippo Two-Step. The farm I kept my horse at, Hickory Ridge Horse Farm, was huge. It had over 100 horses and multiple riding arenas. It is located right by the Horse Park of New Jersey, so the size of the farm was expected. I had to call ahead of time for the farm staff to take my horse out of the pasture to be put into his stall. This is because myself going out to the pasture to retrieve him would take far too long since it is so humongous! I walked into the entrance of the aisle my horse’s stall was on. Without even seeing me, he knew instantly that it was me from my particular footsteps as well as my scent. Two-Step whinnied as loud as can be and, from what it sounded like, began circling in his stall. I slid open his stall door enough for my body to slip through and gave him a big hug. He nuzzled my back as I did this, returning the hug. I was the only one able to do this, for my horse was very fussy. Never did he let anyone else into his stall except those who were feeding him. This just reassured me of the bond we had; I felt safe with him.
I clipped my bright orange and green lead rope under his chin to the loop attached to his matching halter. His halter was no ordinary one, it was special. On the top where the halter goes across the top of his head behind his ears was a leather piece instead of the normal material halters are made of. This is for safety, it is called a break-away halter. If he gets caught on something and struggles hard enough the leather strap breaks allowing him to free himself so he does not harm himself. My family always made sure I bought the most top-notch merchandise for Two-Step. I led him out of his stall onto the aisle and clipped him onto a pair of cross-ties; one cross-tie was for one side of his halter to keep my horse in place while I groomed him and tacked him up. I gave him a small chunk of a carrot for behaving well, but not too much food should be fed to your horse before loading him onto the trailer. I groomed him with all the brushes I had, making him look perfectly flawless; he shined from forelock to tail. I had Kelly watch Two-Step on the cross-ties as I went into the tack-room and gathered together Two-Step’s bridle, saddle, saddle pad, and other things I needed to prepare him when we arrive at the horse show. I carried them out to the trailer and put them in the trailer’s own sparkling clean tack-room. As I returned to get Two-Step, he whinnied just like he did before as soon as he saw me again. I clipped a different lead rope back to his halter. This lead rope has a part you put over the horse’s nose which is made of chains. I had to buy this because my horse is a Zippo Pine Bar which is blue-blooded. This is the type of “blood” one of the Triple Crown racehorse winner’s was, meaning he is extraordinarily strong and is at times stubborn (although rarely for me). The chain puts harmless pressure on his nose stopping him if he begins to run in front of you to take control. I unclipped the cross-ties, and led him out to the trailer. This is the part I dislike the most: loading him onto the trailer. Two-Step hates the trailer almost as much as he hates getting a bath. No, he hates it more then that. I believe he thinks its a trap which he cannot get out of; he is so silly. My dad wanted to lead my horse onto the trailer because he likes to help out, so I handed him the lead rope even though I knew I would be the one to eventually coax Two-Step in.
My dad’s first attempt was exactly what I believed it would be: my horse planted his four hooves onto the ground which said, “I am not going anywhere.” I laughed because this happens everytime we practice getting him in the trailer. What happened next was more than I had expected to happen. My dad walked him around in a circle trying to trick him into walking onto the trailer ramp, but Two-Step was not having it. He reared up letting out a loud whinny, whipping his tail around. This is very dangerous because when a horse rears in the air he can hit anything or anyone with his hooves by accident. It is even worse because when he lands back on the ground, someone’s toes might just happen to be there. My dad was smart though and moved out of the way as my horse landed back on the ground. Finally Two-Step turned his head and looked at me; this was his plead for help. My dad handed me the lead rope and I went over and gave Two-Step a kiss on the nose and pet his neck. I know he trusts me and I trust him. I talked to him telling him it will be O.K., and to think of this as the beginning to an adventure ride in the trailer to our destination which had horses and treats everywhere. His ears turned forward, perking up at the sound of my high pitched voice. I began to walk him onto the trailer ramp. He touched it with one hoof and looked up at me. I coaxed him on, and he walked right behind me onto the trailer where I hooked him up, kissed him a temporary goodbye, and closed the trailer. I turned to see farm staff, my parents, my friend, and nearby horse owners in total shock. I guess it looks funny when a strong man cannot get a horse onto a trailer but a tiny girl can. I shrugged my shoulders, laughed, and we all got into the Tahoe and left for my first horse show.
When we arrived, horses and people of all ages were everywhere. To the left was the parking lot where everyone parked their trailers to unload their horses. We pulled in just as I got a glimpse of the first show arena. I instantly got butterflies again, twice as strong as before. I was so nervous! We parked, got out, and began getting ready. I unloaded Two-Step, as usual, from the trailer and told my dad to tie him up to the trailer. It is very important that when a horse is tied to any object, whether it be a post or a trailer, you must tie the lead rope in the form of a quick release knot. This knot is strong enough so a horse cannot get away, but there is a piece of the rope that sticks out which a person can grab to completely undo the knot if anything should happen. This is a rule every horse person knows. However, my dad was worried my horse would get away in such a big place and was worried because the trailer parking section was sort of close to the busy road. We were located in Freehold, New Jersey by the racetrack, so it always had hectic traffic on the roads. This thought caused my dad to tie a normal knot to the trailer instead of a quick release. My dad always worried about the safety of my horse which I am thankful for. The one part we both dismissed was Two-Step was tied up with the chain lead rope. This should not ever be done, but once again we let it go because we were worried of him getting loose and getting hit by a car on the busy road nearby. As I groomed him lightly again, I began to tack him up. I put the saddle pad on right before I put on my top notch leather Pessoa saddle. I handed the girth to my dad telling him to put it on for me. The girth goes under the horses belly, or “girth”, to attached each side of the saddle together to secure it to the horse. Two-Step was resting while we tacked him up, so he was leaning in a funny position, causing a lot of drag in the lead rope which went unnoticed because he was a Chestnut, or red, horse and he matched the lead rope color very well that you could barely see it if not paying attention. The girth was hooked up to one side of the saddle and I passed the other side under Two-Step to my dad who hooked it up. You have to pull it extremely tight that it takes a lot of strength to do. I was in the tack room with Kelly getting the bridle to put on Two-Step when I heard it. My mother screamed for me, then screamed for help from anyone at all. I ran out and saw my parents as well as people from trailers nearby trying to do something to help my dad, but there was not much they could do.
I was trying to figure it all out and when I saw it I almost got sick. Somehow, when I handed the girth to my dad, we both missed how the drag in Two-Step’s lead rope was under him and the girth connected it to the saddle, pulling his head between the saddle on his back and the lead rope connected to the trailer. Because of the pull between both forces, it was impossible to undo the girth, and I mean impossible. Multiple men nearby could not even do it. The knot, not being a quick release knot, pulled tight and was not able to be undone or cut because of the super strong material it is made out of. What I saw next nearly knocked the breath out of me. The chain from the lead rope was digging into Two-Steps nose, causing blood to come to the surface and he was slowly becoming unconscious. If he became unconscious and fell to the ground he would die. A horse is about 1200 pounds so no one together could even think of lifting him up if that happened to prevent the contraption from taking his life from him. I ran to Two-Step’s head and ripped off the leather strap from the halter which relieved the pressure on him only a tiny percentage, but the blood kept coming to the surface of his nose, forming a blood blister. My dad took action which no one would ever think of doing. He stood low behind Two-Step and pushed the horse’s body forward so the pressure would be so much less on his nose. This probably saved Two-Step’s life in the moment. Unfortunately, we had no way of cutting the girth or lead rope, which my mom had tried to do with sharp scissors and failed. My dad was getting tired and so was everyone else. There was nothing they could do. I began bawling my eyes out and started to feel light headed. I could not lose my horse, my best friend. Kelly was hugging me tight to calm me down. I instantly took action at the thought of losing Two-Step, my Christmas present at the age of 11 years old. I started pulling the halter with all the weight I had, screaming “No!!!” at the top of my lungs. I pulled and pulled, but the halter was not going anywhere. My mind took me back to the time I first knew Two-Step was mine. How he would only let me hug him. How I was the only one he trusted and loved. I was the only one he ever cared about. He protected me so many times out in the woods on the trails or in the arena. It was my turn to protect him; protect him from losing his life. I came back to the situation in front of me, took one last pull, and his halter flew off of him. All at once, many bad things happened. As he lunged forward to run with freedom he bucked twice, kicking my dad in the head and chest accidentally, knocking him to the ground and unconscious. Two-Step ran as fast as he could away, looking back at me for a split second, then continued running; running towards the road, the place we feared he would end up in the beginning.
This is where it all began. This is where my mind went blank, my vision became blurred except for the sight of the busy road with the careless people, and the sight of my furry best friend aimed straight for the death trap of it. The next thing I knew I was running. I did not even realize I was, but my legs were going and my mind was frozen. I was screaming, but I was stuck in my mind watching myself from the outside. I did not know who I was or what I was doing, but I knew one thing and that was that I loved my horse and I would do anything to protect him. He trusted me and he needed me right now. I thought I could yell to him and stop him but since he was frightened and only saw white, he heard too many noises that mixed into one screech sending him further into the destination of the traffic packed road. It was all at once that someone grabbed me while I was in full motion just as Two-Step disappeared behind the trees which separated the parking lot to the road. I screamed, “Noooo!!!!!” at the very top of my lungs. I knew it and I knew it for sure. I had lost my best friend. I did not care about anything after this point. I pulled off whomever’s strange arms were around my body and ran only to fall to the ground screaming and crying. I never felt this way before, but I did not care. Nothing scares me anymore, nothing can get worse. He is gone and I feel that it is all my fault. I saved his life only to end it. I let him be able to run free into the traffic which held his death. I hated myself. I hated the company of the chain lead rope. I hated the makers of the scissors I had for not cutting through anything. I hated the trailer company for not having a quick release trailer loop, even though Two-Step ended up ripping it off as I took the halter off of him. Who cares, I was alone. I was going to live with this for the rest of my life. Too young for this, I was way too young for this. Everything is gone.
I was so busy spending most of my time grieving over Two-Step’s death that I did not hear those around me. “Kim!!!” I heard first. “There he is! Someone get a lunge rope!” Why would we need a lunge rope for a dead horse? To pull him off that road? That must be it. I was being so ignorant I would not look up. I could not stomach seeing my horse’s dead, lifeless carcass. Someone almost ripped my shoulder off trying to lift me up and aim my face at the sight which changed my life. Two-Step was running back towards me. He had somehow dodged the traffic without causing himself any harm. He heard my crying, which he has never heard and came to me. He came to save me because I saved him. Everyone stood back as he ran to me in the middle of the ginormous field with people filled with panic. It was like a movie: an empty section of the field with a sobbing girl looking up at her horse running to her rescue. I could barely see because of the tears in my eyes, but I saw his tail in the air and his hooves hitting the ground at such speed with such power, sending chunks of dirt flying. He was aiming right for me. As I fell back to the ground in shock, he stopped right in front of my knees. He leaned down and nudged my head with his nose, puffed his nostrils out, and scraped the ground with one of his hooves. He was mad I would not get up and was trying to tell me to do so. I could not help but laugh; I was laughing and crying at the same time. I have never felt so alive. Is this a dream? It sure feels like it. I had him back, my best friend was right here. He leaned his neck down and kneeled to the ground; I knew what that meant. I climbed onto his bare back and he got up and trotted over to my family and kneeled down again so I could get off. I got off and tied a new safety halter on him and clipped a normal lead rope onto him. I hugged him and kissed his muzzle more times than I think I ever have since I had him in my life. I saved my best friend and he had saved me.
No one ever understands the bond between a horse and his owner. This is because a horse has no owner. He has a best friend. I was Two-Step’s best friend. We trusted each other, and when it came to the time for it, loved saved his life. If there had been no love or bond between us, he would’ve been eaten alive by the traffic and never came back. He heard my cries, however, and knew he had to be there by my side. Everytime I tell this story to other horse lovers, my friends, my family, and anyone who wants to hear, I cry. Tears fill my eyes, but I am smiling. I am not crying because I am sad. I am not crying because I lost something. I am crying of happiness because I gained something. I gained a best friend, love, trust, and unbreakable bond. Never in my life have I felt this way, but I learned something. I learned that love can save a life. That day it did. I will never forget the day that changed my life. I will never forget that day of my first horse show.