Ranching Blog: Freedom

Ranching Blog: Freedom

Our relationship with horses is about honesty and freedom.

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By Jenn Zeller

The horse knows. 

They always know. 

They know if you don’t know. 
They know if you know. 
They know if you’ve had a bad day. 
They know if you’ve had a good day. 
They know if you’re on the brink of a depression – or are full-out depressed.
They know when you’re sad. 
They know when you’re happy.
They know when you’re excited. 
They know if you’re confident.
They know if you’re wondering – will this work? Can I do this? 
Oh, they know if you’re anxious and about to pee your pants from a panic attack. They know!

With the horse, you get a pretty clear view of who you are and where you are in life when you handle them. If you’re confident, unsure, timid, stubborn or determined, the horse will know … and he’ll let you know, too. It’s what makes them the best therapy money can buy. 

They don’t judge you the way the world does – they harbor no resentment, no ill-will, no bad feelings. Once a scary situation (to them) is done, it’s done. It’s over. Finished. Time to move on. 

To the horse, you’re just a person – but you can be a crummy person, a person with an agenda, or a person who just wants to enjoy the horse for being the horse. They’ll let you know if you need to find yourself a better place and a better way. You can go out and get on a horse and your troubles just go poof ... they’re gone. There’s something freeing about it. The horse is never wrong – and because of this, they’ll help us figure out where we have shortcomings in our life.

Horses quite literally saved me. I’ve had the privilege, or misfortune, whichever way one might want to look at it, to find myself in two abusive marriages. In my first marriage, I found myself an emotionally and physically battered woman. It would be no surprise if I told you I became clinically depressed and contemplated suicide – often. The horses, they kept me here. On this side of the earth. I couldn’t bear the thought of no one being around to feed them. They depended on me. They needed me. The horses were the only freedom I had. I could climb on, go for a ride, and they’d happily take my heartbroken, emotional-mess-of-a-being for a ride, dry my tears and make my day better. And I wasn’t even half the person I am today, yet they tolerated me in a kind way. 

The horse was the only freedom I had. 

My second marriage included a passive-aggressive alcoholic. And the horses, they once again saved me in a different way this time. They took my confusion, my tears and my self-hatred and turned it into confidence, though it has taken years to completely heal from both. The horses never judged me when I came to them with the intention of having them make me happier. Willingly, they accepted the challenge.

Horses will take all of life’s burdens from you if you present yourself in such a way that allows them to do that. Take a kid for example: They don’t have a motive, they don’t have any notions of what to expect, or think. The horse should know. They are pure of heart. I just want to get on, ride and enjoy the freedom the horse has to offer. I’ve watched countless ranch horses fuss and buck when Dad throws a leg over them, but put little Johnny on them and ol’ gray puts his head down, sighs and says, “Let’s do this, little one!”

Oh, the things we can learn from what the horse knows -- how to let go of our anger, resentment, misfortune, bad attitude, preconceived notions; the horse knows none of that. And that, my friends, is true freedom.   

Happy Trails! 

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer, freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com.