Horse Sense and Sensibility

Washing at Fair-PJ3

Dan and Rachel Evans had been fostering seven-year-old Lindy and intended to adopt, but the child was so terribly damaged they hesitated. From the start they took her to Sunday School where she learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” but clammed up at “…they are weak but He is strong.”

In those rare moments Lindy could be coaxed to interact at all, she showed signs of fear toward her father, and deep aversion toward her mother.  Clinical examination confirmed the little girl had been abused in every possible way, and psychologists concluded that her self-harm actions signaled desperation to escape abuse, not mental illness.

In all her years at Equine Healers, Kelly had never seen a child as young as Lindy with evidence of cutting. She reluctantly accepted her into the program, but only because CPS claimed her therapy was Lindy’s last hope.

Captain, at 14 hands tall, was small for an Appaloosa, but to seven-year-old Lindy he must have seemed enormous.  She could only stand there, crying and trembling. Captain stayed with her, silently, his old head down, seeming to stare at his striped hooves.

“Step just a little closer,” Kelly said softly.  “He’s nearly blind but he loves sugar cubes.  Just hold out your hand.”

Lindy was accustomed to obeying orders, even when it terrified her to do so.  She held out her hand. Captain lipped the sugar, barely touching her.

Kelly watched in amazement as Captain lifted his pink muzzle and blew a quick puff on Lindy’s arm, right where the scars were, just below her elbow, then looked up as if asking “Who did this to you?”

Lindy was startled at first and drew back, but then she stopped crying and reached out to rub his nose.  “He has whiskers here!” she said. “His nose is soft and fuzzy, but his whiskers are scratchy.”

Kelly brought her back the next day, and for several days after that.  On one visit she included the Evanses, Captain’s owners, to observe that rubbing the old horse’s nose, trusting herself near a physically powerful being, seemed to release Lindy from the fears that had bound her to a life of silent misery.

When Lindy found out Dan and Rachel owned Captain, she relaxed around them, too, and even met their eyes when they talked to her. They had never before seen her do that.  One day she asked, “Captain isn’t strong, is he?”

“Captain is a horse, honey.  Of course he is very strong.”

“But he doesn’t hurt me.”

“No, Captain is trained.  He is disciplined. Even though he is powerful, he is gentle with you.”

One Sunday, over chicken dinner, she was unusually chatty, prattling about the video shown in Sunday School.  “Jesus wanted little kids by him,” she marveled, “He said it would be really really bad if anybody hurt them.”

Dan and Rachel stole a glance at each other.

“Kids are weak but Jesus is strong,” she declared, digging into her mashed potatoes, “like Captain.”

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