Let’s be completely honest for a moment. As a group (and yes, I freely acknowledge that includes myself) horse people are pretty crazy. On a daily basis, I look in the mirror, see a 115lb middle-aged woman, and decide that the right thing for me to do is plop myself on 1200 pounds of free thinking muscle and tell him what to do. Moreover, I decide that should all 1200 pounds of him, decide to go left, when I want to go right, I can stop him and convince him my way is best. AND, in the event of an unintentional dismount, barring total unconsciousness, I tell myself that I will not be intimidated, but will instead hop right back on and try again. I will do all of this using my seat and my legs, and two tiny leather straps.
To fellow crazy horse people, this makes perfect sense. To everyone else, we look pretty nuts.
Horse people willingly spend inordinate amounts of money to have someone judge us against our peers. We kind of take the “comparison is the thief of joy” mentality, and toss it right out the window. We will clip, and braid, and ship our horses halfway across the country to put on expensive show clothes to ride our horse in search of a $0.50 ribbon.
Not only do we do this, but we love it. We live for it.
As I type this, there is a hurricane heading right for our state, but this weekend’s show just announced it will still run as scheduled. In the words of my tween child, we are “cray-cray.”
We communicate better without words (I really need to figure out how to pin my ears and make the mad-mare-face at my children – that would get them moving!). Though we usually prefer horses to other people, the exception is when we see a fellow horseman in need. There is no other group of people I’d like to have on my side. We are crazy horse people, but we are fiercely loyal, hard working and creative. We could likely build a whole new barn with little more than some wood, baling twine, duct tape and bungee cords (and probably have all those things in our truck already).
In the last 4 years, we have dealt with major natural disasters every. single. year. There was the 1,000 year flood (that ironically sounds like it might be repeated this year…) in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017 (both of those thankfully spared us from a direct hit at the last minute), and now we have Hurricane Florence breathing down our necks. It’s 100 degrees outside, about one million % humidity, and there are thousands of people and horses trying to frantically evacuate the coast. Most people would run rapidly back to the comfort of their air conditioning, but not horse people!
In 2015, I remember getting a phone call in the aftermath of the floods. We had an epic amount of rain and then a series of dams broke. I’m talking national-weather-guard-stationed-on-the-golf-course-in-my-neighborhood-and-Al-Roker-reporting-from-200-yards-away type flooding. The call was from a complete stranger who got my number from a friend of a friend. There was a group of horses on a tiny plot of semi-dry land, but flood waters had isolated them in a small area with no food and no way to safety. The gentleman on the phone wanted to know if I could get a boat. Could I please help swim them back to a safe location? As it turns out, I did have a little john boat with a trolling motor in the pond in our backyard. Without a second thought, I loaded up and went to help. I say this not to toot my own horn, but because it was the exact same thing any other horse person would do in the same situation.
Both in 2016 and 2017, our friends were forced with the choice of making arrangements to ship all of their horses away from the coast to a safe location, or risk riding out the storm near the coast. Our coast is called the low country for good reason – it will flood from an afternoon thunderstorm, so a major hurricane is no joke. But imagine the logistics of coordinating the movement of 50+ horses and ponies, leaving mostly 2 or 3 at a time, to an unfamiliar location, into the hands of total strangers and trusting that all would be ok? Daunting at best. But that’s what they had to do. And we, as crazy horse people, had to help. We coordinated stall prep, made sure feed and hay was delivered, we drove our own trucks and trailers into the evacuation areas to pick up the horses of total strangers. We did for them what we would do for our own.
What is most remarkable is the actions I witness in these tragedies are not remarkable in the horse community. Every one of us knows that if the tables were turned, someone would do the exact same for us.
I think what makes us “crazy” to everyone else in the world, is what makes our ties bind so tight to one another. Who else would understand the desperation of fear when you are unprepared to help your 4 legged family member? Every single one of us has had a moment when one of our incredibly delicate, and massively oversized, ponies needed something we couldn’t offer. We know the feeling of the pit in our stomach when we are unable to help those that we love so fiercely.
I have seen thousands of posts on social media this year, and in the past 3 years, of strangers offering to drive and pick up horses, offering their barns, their pastures, and their homes to animals and people they have never met. Paying for hotel rooms for someone they know only through a friend of a friend. Overwhelming offers of “what can I do to help?” Volunteering to take on someone else’s burden for the singular reason of knowing they can, indeed, help.
I am continuously amazed and proud to be part of our horse community. I know that if I ever need help, that when push comes to shove, it’s the nutty horse people all around me who will have my back. We are most definitely crazy, but when called to action, we will flaunt our crazy with wild abandon and get done, whatever needs doing.
The friend I made by helping her evacuate her entire farm in 2016 said it best: “Anyone that doubts the goodness of mankind needs to experience the outpouring of kindness the horse community gives to its own during a crisis…I am grateful beyond words for the absolute selfless acts of kindness I have been given by friends, family and complete strangers.”