Some months ago, I felt the call to write about the carriage horses, who were being driven from New York by people who claimed they are speaking for the horse's rights. I got a very different messages from the horses. I was moved to to carry the messages I have been receiving from them and about them, and to seek out the truth about their lives and work.
What I learned presented me with a clear mission. I set out to try to understand the true rights of animals in our world, and to try to help right what I believe is a cruel injustice being done to the people who live and work with these horses. They have done us the great service of bringing the horses into our world and caring for them well, of finding a purpose for the horses in our lives, and keeping them among us, even when the rest of the world has forgotten them.
I write also for the many people who love animals and wish for them to remain in our lives, to be known truthfully and understood, not simply to be pitied and patronized and banished to remote preserves and the farms of the rich. I feel called also to write for those many others – I hear from them every single day – especially children, who love seeing the horses, whose spirits touch their emerging imaginations and connect them to the earth, and who need to see them.
The human world is a selfish and arrogant one, the voices of the horses and the people who love them have been lost, I believe the horses are reaching out to make themselves heard. I believe they have reached out to me, something I could not have imagined saying just a few months ago.
I do not believe the horses are speaking directly to me, or in human language.
Curiously, my blog and I have become one of the many conduits for their stories and communications. There are many others, and the messages of the horses have been appearing there as well. The messages from the horses are coming to me from my visits with them, my photos of them – photography can be the most intimate communication there is – my own understanding of what animals are like, my own books and years of research and thought and observation.
I understand that I am simply a channel, but these messages are very strong, they go deeply to the heart and soul, I feel they are messages of truth and compassion, two things the horses by their very nature seek to bring to the considerations of their place on the earth.
I am writing these messages in my voice, not trying to imagine a false one for them. These emotions are powerful, there is no longer any question in my mind they are mystical experiences, voices from the nearly lost and forgotten world of animals. There is no other way for me to explain the feelings and images that come to me in the middle of the night and command me to share them.
Somehow, in ways I will perhaps never understand, my life and my work with animals has led me to this. I knew it the minute I walked into the Clinton Park stables in New York a month ago and looked into the eyes of these horses, they are, like my dogs and donkeys and barn cats and sheep, my companions on this journey through life. I write this for them, I put these messages out into the world, where they will make their own way, seek out the hearts and spirits of human and there, will live or perish.
More than a half-century ago, the writer and naturalist Henry Beston called for a wiser and more mystical understanding of animals. I am answering this call also, that is my purpose as a writer, and I believe it is also the message of the carriage horses. I believe they have been sent here by Mother Earth to remind us that the carriage horses are our partners on the earth, not just our wards. They are spiritual and mystical beings in their own right, I can see it in their eyes. They have the right to be heard.
The Messages From The Horses
The horses say they are where they belong. They have always worked with humans, that is their purpose, destiny, and the make-up of their bodies and very cells. They understand that without work with people, they will perish, as so many other animals have, including their ancestors, the wild ponies that once roamed this country in the wild, as many people insist should be the fate of the horses.
The horses tell me they are strong and powerful, they are not helpless and piteous, they do not seek perfect lives without purpose or connection with the human beings they exist to work with and serve. Some of them will fall and die, as all living things do, it is their destiny as it the destiny of all the living things on the earth, is the story and the history of animals who work. A perfect world is no more possible for them than it is for us. They remind us that the natural life of the horse no longer exists, and that the big horses that work could not survive alone in nature. Work is pride and purpose for them, as it is for human beings, it is no more cruel for them to work than it is for us, it is their identity, their sole reason for existing.
The horses are representatives and reminders of Mother Earth, who is bleeding and in need, they come as spirits from the natural world to remind us of our responsibilities to her and her children, to remind us as well of fire and wind and rain and heat and cold, of water and air, of the animals fighting to survive in the modern world. Of the lost rivers and valleys, pastures and fields, animals and birds and fish. The horses ask that we make room for them in our world. They are representatives of animals that we have banished from our lives and of the earth itself, whose pain and suffering we deny at our peril and that of our children. The horses ask that they not be sent away to become invisible, to fade from human consciousness and join the endless list of animals that perish from our world.
When I hear their messages, I think of God's words in the Kabbalah, when he warns the people of the world that they must love and honor the animals and the poor and take care of Mother Earth, or he will abandon them to their greed and cruelty. The horses challenge us to do the hard work of understanding what saving them really means, what their rights really are, how we can ensure that they remain with us.
They horses ask for little – food, shelter, work and attention, the company of other horses. They remind us that they receive that and so much more. They have all they need. They remind us that the true cruelty for them is banishment from our communities and from their work, a life without purpose or connection, a life hidden from the very things they, like their cousins, the dogs, are here to serve – people. They do not seek the lives of humans, they do not yearn for the things humans have, they are a separate nation, they are different from us.
Finally, the horses ask that we listen to them, not to the people who presume to speak in their name, do not know or love them, have never lived or work with them, refuse to see or hear them, do not walk among them. They are strong and open-hearted, they ask that people look into their eyes and hear their messages, just as I have heard them, and as so many other people all over the world are hearing them. Something remarkable is happening if you close your eyes you can feel it, the horses are speaking to the world, the people all around them are hearing them. Save us, they say, save us, we give you the gift of saving us so that you can understand us anew. If you wish, they will speak to you.
The horses, like so many other animals, have borne witness to the glorious and sad history of the modern world. They have seen their brothers and sisters slaughtered and driven away, one after the other, they well understand the true nature of human beings as they seek to be known and understood themselves. In their very same city where some seek to banish them, they have known in their history fire, disease, epidemic, pestilence and brutality that is unimaginable to human beings today. They tell us that they are safe and well cared for, more so than at any time in their history with us. They are not in need of being diminished, but of being understood.
The carriage horses do not fear death, they do not live in consciousness of it, yet they know if they are sent away from the great cities of the world where most human beings live, and where the fate of the world will be determined, they will wither and die, sacrificed for the needs of human beings. Work is their connection to the world of people, when it is broken, they are lost, their connection to us is lost. This is the knowledge that so stirs and pains the heart in me, and in every true and selfless person who loves animals and knows them. When the world speaks of the animal rights, the horses call to us to be heard, we are being heard.
We are called upon now to a new understanding of animals: not only to care for them and rescue them, but to make room in our minds and hearts and lives for them, we need a new, more mystical understanding of them. This is our great chance. They are not fragile and ignorant and dependent beings, they can speak, they are powerful, they can change, they can live with us if we have the will and the heart.
We must not simply talk for them, we must listen to them, if we can shed our arrogance and selfishness. More than anything else, we need to understand that our mission is to grant them their truest and most urgent right, the eternal and perpetual right to be among us, no matter the cost and sacrifice. They have as much right as we do to be here, they are not here at our indulgence and whim. For they are our brethren on our journey through life, if they perish, our souls will wither, Mother Earth will weep even more, the romance and magic and mystery of our world will vanish into the mists of time.