Today’s blog is not only a longer one, it is also very raw. I make no apology for this. I have written it in the hope that it helps others who have gone through a similar situation to the ones I describe below.
I hope it also explains why I am so passionate about what I do and why I feel such a huge debt of gratitude towards horses, and rescue horses in particular.
So here goes, my personal story and background…
At the age of 5 I ate a whole bottle of baby aspirin, orange flavored, and was rushed to the hospital.
I was rushed into E.R. and taken immediately to O.R. where they proceeded to shove a hose down my throat and nose, tied me up to a table, and started to pump my stomach.
No drugs, No explanation, and all with a lot of force. I panicked as you can imagine.
I fought back with everything I had. I could see my mother on the other side of the glass, and I was screaming over and over again for her to help me. Then it just became screams because she wasn’t coming to save me. It still brings up tears and terror when I think about it. I was awake during the whole thing and can remember it vividly.
All I knew was that I had done something I shouldn’t, and the punishment was all this pain and torture. I think what hurt most was that my mother just stood there and watched it and never tried to help me, even though I was screaming for her to save me.
Little did I know at the time that it was hell for her too as she wanted desperately to come in and hold my hand and be with me to comfort me, but the doctors wouldn’t let her. She was forced out away from me just as I was forced down on the table and away from her.
She knew my life was in danger and this was the only way the doctors could help me survive. But I didn’t know all that until much later in my life and after the damage had already taken its toll.
From that point on I lost trust in adults and learned the meaning of fear and helplessness. I even lost trust in my mother being able to protect me.
As a result, all I did after this was focus on defensive behaviors and self-preservation. People saw it as shy, but it was distrust. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people either, it was that I didn’t trust them, and for good reasons.
My defensive behaviors were to stay hidden, quiet, keep my head down and stay away from people as often as possible. However, I did have a other family that I trusted and could go to when I felt unsafe.
I learned to be a timid wall flower. But if I was cornered or threatened, often I would turn into a tiger and would fight back. From one extreme to the other. My ‘fight or flight’ was usually always triggered, and it was one or the other… bunny rabbit or tiger.
Another vivid memory…
Then when I was about 7 my mother took me to the hairdresser with her and I begged her to let me walk into the drugstore right next door to get a Valentine’s gift for my grandmother. She gave me money and said, “OK but come right back”.
This was the first time my mother had allowed me to leave her side and I was so excited about doing this on my own. I was finally starting to trust people again and venture out on my own for the first time. However, it turned bad very fast.
I remember looking at the Valentine’s boxes of candy trying to pick out which one I wanted, and I got this weird feeling. I remember the hair standing up on my arms and I was looking at it when a strange man physically picked me up in his arms and started to take me out of the drugstore. I started screaming and trying to get loose but he had a tight grip. I was totally confused.
As he took me past the clerk at the register, I grabbed onto the conveyor belt trying to keep him from taking me out of the store. I was also hoping that with me screaming, “Help me, help me” that the clerk would help.
The strange man told the clerk that he was my father and that I was always such a bad child. I knew I was in big trouble if this man was lying about being my father. Now I really went into the ‘fight mode’ as I again panicked.
I started screaming, “He’s not my dad, help me!”, repeatedly. But all the clerk did was yell at me for being such a bad child and making such a spectacle of myself. Well, there goes my trust in other human beings.
At this point my ‘fight or flight’ was on high alert and I started scratching and biting and kicking anything and everything. Because of this I was finally able to break free from the man’s hold and I went running and screaming out of the drugstore. The man ran after me. However, I ran right into the hairdresser’s shop where my mother was and as I was screaming, “Mom, mom”, he ran into the parking lot.
My mother finally figured out what I was saying through the heavy breathing and the crying and when she went into the drugstore to see for herself. The clerk actually yelled at my mother about how bad I had been for my father just a few minutes earlier. Bad idea.
My mother went into her ‘protective mamma bear’ mode and gave that clerk an earful. After seeing this display, I remember feeling like I could start trusting my mom to protect me again.
You should have seen the look on that clerk’s face when my mother told her that he had not been my father and it was a kidnapping attempt. They called the police, and it was a big deal in our little town. 50 years ago, this kind of thing was totally unexpected.
Even though this experience made me feel a little bit better about trusting my mother, it taught me I couldn’t trust any strangers now too. Strangers could not only hurt me, but now I realized they couldn’t even be trusted to help me if I needed it. My world was getting smaller and smaller.
I rarely trusted anyone other than close family and I sought sanctuary in the safety of my horses, away from people. I was very blessed that my mother got me a horse at age 5. She was a social worker and my father a psychologist, so I assume they saw what was happening to me and got me a horse to get me through it.
I felt that my rescue horses were the only ones who really understood me, and I think they felt the same way about me… that I really saw them for what was going on and could understand them and their issues and help them.
I think they came to me because they knew I was broken too, and I needed their help. We had something in common, a kind of a secret between two best friends. We had learned not to trust other humans, but because we shared this secret, this brokenness, we knew we could trust each other.
These weren’t just two isolated incidents either…
In Elementary School I remember comparing welts and bruises with another classmate in the bathroom. We thought it was normal, but we knew it wasn’t right.
Growing up in that era we all had stories.
- One of my best friend’s father would get out the belt when she did something wrong and put her over his knees and whip her with his belt.
- My next-door neighbor, my mother’s best friend, would tell her boys to go out and get a “switch”and bring it back. They had to get a branch from a tree for their mother to whip them with. It was usually on the butt or the back of their legs.
I’m sure you’ve heard stories just like these. It was a normal occurrence back in my era to spank a child for being “disobedient”. One of the reasons I can’t stand that word when it’s used to describe horses.
My mother had a wooden paddle that she used when I had done something wrong. The writing on the paddle has been etched into my mind and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Because it was such an oxymoron.
It said, “For the little dear, with the bear behind”.
As if it was supposed to be something cute and not an instrument of pain. It even had pictures of a dear and a bear instead of the words as if it was supposed to be a cartoon.
Then when she eventually hit me so hard, she broke the paddle on me, she went to a wooden spoon. I think that hurt even more as it had the same force, but less space to disperse it and she would aim for my thighs.
I can remember running around the house, screaming, running away from her and she would just yell back, “If you run it’s going to be even worse for you”. That just made me run faster. A game that I couldn’t win.
I can look back at this now and laugh, but OMG. I still can’t believe that that was considered “normal” back then. Well, I’m sure you know what that did with the little trust I had in my mother at that time of my life.
And you know, I don’t ever remember what I did wrong. But I do remember the pain.
I actually remember trying my hardest to be as good as possible all the time. However, I can’t even tell you how often that scenario played out… too many to count.
I learned to somehow rationalize all this because I loved my mother so much and there was so much good if you just took this part out. I still think she did her best and that she was a good mother. I blame it on the times as this is what people were told to do and that it was ok to do. Which also can be related to how people were taught to handle horses back then too. But that’s for another blog.
Again, this confirmed and cemented into my subconscious that I couldn’t trust adults to protect me and that they could be dangerous. I became very aware of my surroundings and very cautious all the time.
Another story during my elementary school years…
There are lots of these, I’m only giving you the biggies.
My mother had to go somewhere, and she decided I was old enough to be at home alone for a short time. I was about 9 years old. But she did tell me to lock the door behind her, not to leave the house for any reason, and not to let ANYONE in the house (even if I knew them).
That last one was so strange to me that it rang in my ears and I have never forgotten it. It was almost a premonition. And thank goodness she said it.
Well, my mother wasn’t gone long, and the doorbell rang. I went to see who it was, and it was a man that lived in the same community. He was someone I knew but had only seen once or twice. He said he stopped by to see my mom and was asking if she was home. I said no but she would be right back. Then I told him that when she got back I would tell her that he came by.
I knew as soon as I said it that I shouldn’t have but it was too late. That wasn’t good enough for him, he wanted in. He said he wanted me to open the door for him and let him in so he could wait with me for my mom to get home. I said, no and started to walk away.
He started banging on the door, trying to pull the door open, and yelling at me to let him in as I walked away. My ‘fight or flight’ went into high gear again and the hairs on my arms went up. I knew this wasn’t good.
I ran into the house and hid in my room, locking my door behind me. Luckily my mother came home soon after that. I told her what had happened, and she called this man to see what he wanted. The man said he was never there, and he said it was my imagination. “Why would he lie to my mother?” was my thought.
But then I heard that there had been a few child molestations that happened that summer in the neighborhood, which is why my mother told me not to let ANYONE in the house. Luckily my mother decided to trust what I said over the neighbor and she called the police.
Guess what? They caught the man molesting the children, and it was the same man that had tried to get into our house that day.
OK, my mom got kudos for trusting my story over his, but that trust was still tentative. So, at age 9 I thought… I’m not sure I can trust my mother, I can’t trust doctors or nurses, I can’t trust strangers (good or bad), and now I can’t trust adult friends of the family. What’s left?
Thank goodness for my brothers, my father, and my grandparents. I trusted them implicitly and they had my back when I needed them. And I had their backs, so they could trust me.
But even so, I always felt “broken” when I was around people.
What you feel you are attracts more of the same…
They say you get back what you project and I guess it must be true because trauma and abuse continued on into my high school, college years and beyond.
- Another kidnapping attempt in high school
- Multiple stalkings and strangers following me in high school
- My first boyfriend was abusive and beat me up
- A friend raped me in College (so much for trusting friends)
- A serial rapist attacked me after College, at my work, who police caught while he was attacking me
- And two years after College, a murderer who the cops caught that had my picture and was following me around as his next victim. (And I didn’t have a clue about this until the police captured him and then told me)
It even continued into my young adult life with my husband being abusive and sending me to the hospital on a few occasions. I even asked for help at the hospital for the abusive treatment and they said they couldn’t help me. Another let down from adults who were in charge and authority figures who couldn’t be trusted.
Thankfully, I finally got professional help from a therapist who helped me cope with all these traumas. I believe that all these experiences made me a stronger, more sensitive, empathetic person to other people. But I couldn’t have gotten here without my horses.
The one thing I could always trust and could always confide in was my horse. I always felt comfortable and protected around my horses. That later transferred to all horses, not just my own.
Rescue horses, and rescue animals, have always come to me for help and I have never turned any of them away. You’ve heard my stories of these animals in previous blogs – cats, birds, rabbits, etc. I will always be there for any animal that needs me because they were always there for me when I needed rescuing from my traumatic experiences.
There is just this special secret bond between us that we recognize in each other. We know that whatever the trauma is or was, both sides just “get it”. I see it in certain horses, and they all see it in me. That brokenness that has been healed through my horse’s love.
We understand the process and what is needed to heal each other. It is a silent understanding between horse and human, both emotionally and physically hurt over time, that we need each other.
…And there is no judgment when we are together.
Horses never judge me and I don’t judge them either.
Everything is OK when we are together because neither one of us will let it happen again if there is something that we can do about it. Horses can feel, and they know, that I will protect them and do everything I can to make sure they are safe when they are in my presence.
I’ve even had horses get protective of me when they are with me. It’s beautiful. We understand each other completely and deeply. I think that’s why I’m so good at what I do with horses. I develop a place where horses feel peaceful, safe, and secure when we are together.
But there is no mistake… Horses have rescued me throughout my lifetime, and I will be forever grateful.
That is why I am so passionate about helping horses around the world by giving them a forever human partner of their dreams. Teaching humans how to have the horse of their dreams also gives the horse the person they’ve always wanted too.
Thank you to everyone who has rescued or been rescued by a horse. Your horse will never forget your kindness and I’m sure is forever grateful as well.
In my eyes, rescue horses come from many different situations. It could be a purchase from a kill shelter, an adoption from a rescue service, or taking in a horse that has been abandoned or just tossed aside.
Any situation where you are helping a horse in need and rescuing it from its current predicament is a “rescue” in my eyes. My Jazz was one of these.
Do you have a rescue horse too? If so, I’m sure we’d all love to hear your story so do please share it in the Comments section on my blog.
Or if you have a more personal story, you can also email me and do please share this blog with anyone you think who might benefit from it.
I look forward to hearing from you.