I am covered in dust from head to toe. My skin itches from handling bales of hay, and I feel really dirty because we have to ration water during this dry season.
As many of you are aware, we are starting up a Horse Therapy program, and you might be asking yourself, "WHY?"
There are moments in my day when I am sweating outside running around a round pen training the new ponies that were given to us, that I ask myself that same question.
"What was I thinking?" crosses my mind as I shovel poop out of a stall. But then, I bury my face in a freshly combed horse mane (the cleaner she gets, inevitably, the dirtier I am), and I remember. That smell takes me to a place back when I was 14... I could bury my face in a horse's mane and not have a care in the world. He trusted me, and I him. He listened, not only to my stories, but to my cues when I asked him to carry me on his back. He was my friend. I used to read the bible looking for every horse scripture I could find. (There are many, by the way). I wanted to continue spending time with these beautiful creatures, but my, at the time newly divorced, parents sold my horse when I went off to Bible college.
Move forward to a few years ago, I didn't know anything about equine assisted therapy. Donors helped us buy our farm, and I knew immediately, I wanted a horse. I wanted my kids to learn to muck out stalls, clean tack, brush fuzzy horses, and learn how to ride, all the while having an amazing experience bonding with a creature whose history is marked with changing the world through their loyalty and sacrifice.
In my search for an affordable horse, I came upon a lady named Sue Anderson who was running a Riding for Disabled program in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. She had a horse she needed to place in a home immediately due to bad behaviour. We offered to take him on. When we went to her home, we helped with the therapy program as 'sidewalkers'. It was a thrilling experience seeing the children's faces light up, watching them do the exercises and seeing how it affected their core strength. Up until that point, I had NO idea that horses could actually help disabled children physically. (Keep in mind, I have lived outside of the Western world for 12 years). Seeing 'Horse Therapy' sparked a curiosity in me to find out more.
Meanwhile, we had a new horse to care for who was naughty and traumatised, BUT he was ours (along with a bunch of tack Sue didn't need, too). Now, our daughter Edith had a difficult time adopting me. She is my daughter, but our start was a bit rough. She hardly spoke a word to me in seven years. I will skip the details now, but in short, when I put Edith on a horse, suddenly, she became more open with me. Maybe she felt accepted? Or maybe she realised that she was 'one of us?' Whatever the reason, she and I have finally connected. Having that naughty horse was one of the best things we could have done. My daughter Edith is finally a Brooks to her core.
So over the next few years from 2014-2016, I found myself doing more research on horse therapy. I took Makena, Butterfly, Haley, who is my friend who works with disabled kids in Nakuru, and Starlette back to Sue's in Nairobi to learn how to do horse therapy. All the while, I was being told by someone that posting photos of our horse would cause us to lose donations because they have a stigma of being costly. I felt guilty for owning him. I am the kind of person who loves self-denial. I won't buy things for myself. I feel guilty if I eat anything extremely delicious or sugary. I wear ONLY second hand clothes and shoes, etc... It is just how I am... So I started calculating costs to justify having a horse, and it turned out he cost less to keep than one of our dogs.
Then it happened. I was standing in my bedroom with its cow dung covered, mud-cracked walls thinking, praying, meditating about how our Kenyan daughters are growing up and in a few years, they will be finding their own path... Having given our entire lives to these girls, this is a big transition...What are we going to do? The scarier question yet, what do I WANT to do? (Self denial type people like me have a difficult time enjoying things without LOADS of guilt). So I treaded lightly as I delved into the possibilities of what would bring me joy and help the human race, as well... This was a terribly scary question that I was afraid to ask... Then, the answer floated up out of my soul and consumed me in a way that made me feel excited, happy. overjoyed and terrified all at the same time! Horse therapy is what I WANT to do!
"But it is impossible." responded my husband when I shared my heart with him. (As was his response to me telling him we should move to Africa, or take in orphan teens, or buy land...) "No one will support it." And so the push and shove began, just like it has happened every time in the past when I suggested we move our little ship a different direction...
That was last year around August...