Musings from the padded room

måndag 21 februari 2011

My horse keeps me sane

I'm just going to throw it out there. Today was a really shitty day. I woke up feeling kind of numb, neither happy nor sad or even slightly annoyed at the early hour. That's usually a good sign something's not right in my world. Anyone who knows me could tell you that if I'm not in the kind of mood where I'd bite someone's head off if they so much as glanced at me when I got up early in the morning, something is definitely off.

I think I managed to keep a fairly straight face at work. I kept up a fairly good tempo and even managed to sell. But as soon as I got home everything just kind of crashed down on me. Still feeling slightly numb, and extremely exhausted, I took what has become my routine nap. And when I woke up a few hours later, instead of feeling somewhat refreshed I felt like I just wanted to crawl into a dark corner. The thought of having to get up from bed and drive to the stables had me on the verge of tears. Still, I had to. My horse is my responsibility, one I've gladly chosen to take upon me. But there are days...

Anyhow, I got dressed, feeling choked up and tired, and drove the 20 minute drive to the stables. I got there, chatted a bit with the absolutely wonderful owner of the stable. I'm pretty sure she noticed something was off but understood enough not to push. Either way, I managed to keep it down. Then I went into the stable to clean out my horse's stall. My horse was already inside and apparently he, too, felt that I was not feeling at my best. He chose a slightly different route of handling it, though.

If he could he probably would've crawled into my lap. But since he weighs in at about 550 kg he probably figured it'd be counter-productive. So instead he pressed up really close to me and pressed his muzzle against my shoulder and just stood there, snoozing on me. That's when it all uncoiled within me. Thankfully the stable was empty of other people, only the horses were there to see (or rather hear) me sob into my horse's mane. And he just stood there, cuter than cute itself, somehow knowing that this was what I needed. Once he sensed that the worst had passed he turned into his usual mischievous self, demanding to be scratched and placing himself in between me and the wheelbarrow so I had to twist around him while cleaning. When the stable owner's daughter came back with her horse I felt collected enough to chat and smile again. And as I drove home I felt a lot lighter, more centred. I'm still feeling pretty down in the dumps but it's not as stifling as it was before I went there.

Today, and similar occurrences in the past when I've had rough times, really got me thinking. It's amazing how animals just seem to instinctively know exactly the how and when to behave a certain way in order to cheer their humans up. You can fool another human, you can pretend to be strong, and manage to hide so much. But, no matter how good you think you are at it, an animal always knows when life's been handing you lemons. And they know the perfect recipe for a tasty lemonade.

Animals give selflessly of themselves. Of course, I'm pretty sure they're subconsciously aware of the fact that they are more or less dependent on us humans. And most living beings know to keep the hand that feeds them, whether directly or indirectly, in a good mood. However, animals always seem to go the extra distance. They put themselves out there for us. They tolerate so many things that are otherwise foreign and strange to them, just because their human asks them to. And they are always there to lend their quiet, warm support when their human is feeling decidedly cold and heavy, and just needs a silent oasis to breathe in.

When animals give so much, why is it that there are still so many humans out there clinging to this medieval belief that animals are worth less than humans, are less "intelligent", and think that because of that us "intelligent" humans have the right to use, abuse and oppress the animals? What makes us humans so much better that we feel we have the right to treat animals as things, soulless items? It only takes a quick glance into the eye of a horse, or a cat, or a dog, or whatever animal you encounter (that have big enough eyes to look into) to realise that if there's one thing animals DO have, it's definitely a soul.

How on Earth can we call ourselves the most intelligent creature, just because we've invented a lot of stuff (that in actuality most often serves to destroy the very world we live in) and can speak in words? What's saying that the sounds and signals horses, for example, use to communicate aren't more advanced than a human word? Just because we don't understand their language on an "intelligent" level we decide that they're lower than us because they can't speak human language. But, come on. Animals may not speak in human language, they may not sit there and write multi-page essays on the world economy or whatever, but they sure as hell know what we're talking about when we speak. They understand us a lot better than we seem to even understand ourselves. And, let's face it, unlike human languages, animals speak more or less universal languages. A horse from the USA may be put together with a horse from the open plains of Mongolia and instead of getting caught up in which country, or race, is the better while talking in two different languages, the horses just simply go in there, look at each other, maybe scuffle a bit and sooner rather than later they've reached a perfect understanding. Can we humans claim to be able to do the same?

So what does all this say about humans and animals? Humans can speak in human language, and write on papers, but cannot in general understand the animal languages and all their facets. In fact, often humans can barely understand each other. Animals have their own languages, intricate, intrinsic and effective for what they need it for. They can read minuscule changes in stature, tone of voice and intonation, without getting caught up in regional differences. They understand human language, connecting it to the signals they can read, and adjust their behaviour accordingly without even missing a beat.

So, really, who are the truly intelligent beings in our world?

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