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Horses teach us how to do a bet­ter job in re­la­tion­ships by demon­strat­ing the power of trust, em­pa­thy and for­give­ness.

EQUUS - - Equus - By Tamar Char­ney

The gift of friend­ship

It is hard to watch my horse, Lady, lose her friends over and over again. Ev­ery few months since I’ve owned her she’s been sep­a­rated from her lat­est BFF. We’ve moved barns. She’s changed pas­tures. Her bud­dies are taken to an­other barn. One pas­ture­mate died.

She doesn’t un­der­stand any of this. Well, per­haps she un­der­stood the dy­ing. That was the one time when the loss of a friend didn’t lead to call­ing and fran­tic searches.

Usu­ally, how­ever, it’s the call­ing and search­ing. Yes­ter­day, she in­sisted we check ev­ery sin­gle nook and cranny of the barn. Be­cause maybe, just maybe, her friends were hid­ing there. She’d been with one of the two horses who just left for 18 months. When the third horse moved in, they all be­came fast friends. They’d nicker when­ever one would be let back in the gate af­ter a ride. All three of their blan­kets were filthy on the with­ers from the love rubs. But then their owner moved both of Lady’s pas­ture­mates away.

I thought she would ad­just to their ab­sence af­ter a cou­ple of days, but she’s still check­ing be­hind the run-in to see if her friends are there. It is break­ing my heart to watch her des­per­a­tion. Be­cause this is my story, too.

I’ve rarely had friends who stayed in my life for more than a few years. I’d leave for a new school. I’d change jobs. My friends moved away. And I un­der­stand lit­tle of why I can’t seem to keep friends like other peo­ple do. I envy peo­ple who seem to bond for life.

Re­cently, I’ve main­tained a few friend­ships for a record amount of time. But I keep brac­ing for each of them to end and worry about how I’d then go about mak­ing new ones.

Luck­ily for Lady, that’s just an­other thing we hu­mans han­dle for her. The barn owner just moved an el­derly geld­ing into the pas­ture, and he was in­stantly smit­ten with my young, blonde mare. Lady will soon be­come fast friends with her new pas­ture­mate, and her searches for her for­mer bud­dies will stop.

For­tu­nately, she won’t worry that her new ag­ing friend will pass away in the not too dis­tant fu­ture. She doesn’t know she’ll face more days be­set with lone­li­ness and stress. But I’ve come to trust that we’ll find her some­one new.

I wish I had the same faith for my­self. Horses are who they are. They are hon­est about their emo­tions and their state of mind. Peo­ple, not so much. To­day, we all have ad­vanced com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices in our hands, yet it is horses with their sim­ple ges­tures and sounds who cre­ate bonds and re­la­tion­ships that are truer and more straight­for­ward than our own. I wish it was as sim­ple for us as putting an ear back when you’re an­gry or a cocked hoof to threaten a kick. I wish I could sig­nal that I like you and see that you like me, so let’s be friends and go eat some hay.

I’ve re­al­ized, though, I have one advantage my horse doesn’t. We hu­mans can choose to hold onto the friends we value if we put our minds and hearts into it. We can make the ef­fort to keep in touch with the ones who are far away. Horses have to roll with what­ever changes we im­pose on them. And yet iron­i­cally they teach us how to do a bet­ter job in re­la­tion­ships as they show us the power of trust, for­give­ness and em­pa­thy.

Mak­ing and keep­ing friends has be­come eas­ier in the years since I started rid­ing. I don’t think that’s a co­in­ci­dence. As I’ve watched my mare form new bonds ev­ery few months, I’ve learned a thing or two about friend­ships my­self. In­clud­ing how much they mat­ter.

STEADY: Tamar Char­ney and her mare, Lady, weather the ar­rivals and de­par­tures of friends to­gether.

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