A Horse Named “Rabbit”
This is a story about a horse named Rabbit… I didn’t intend to bring his story to life just before Easter, but Rabbit seemed to know it was time for it to be shared. He would know, so here it goes…. Maybe this is an Easter story after all.
I met “Rabbit” as a 5 yr. old. He was donated to my university in West Virginia as a 4 yrs. old after failing to make it as a racehorse. I remember someone mentioning notes from his record indicating that he was “unruly at the gate” and “finishing 33 lengths behind.” Soon after that doozy of a race he ended up being donated. I’m thankful he was…even if it was the school of hard knocks at first.
The day I saw Rabbit come out of his stall into the barn aisle I did a double take. He had already been at the school for about a year, but I didn’t meet him until returning from studying abroad. Rabbit was clearly lacking attention but looking into his eyes I saw his heart. I saw past all the damaging labels people had attached to his being… words such as “useless,” “stubborn,” “resistant” and “lazy.” Rabbit wasn’t part of the program. He didn’t fit in and his fate was uncertain. He was in a state of disregard as was foretold by his outward shabby appearance next to the other school horses that were well groomed, trimmed, fit and shiny. Rabbit had not won the affection of anyone.
I learned from the equine dentist that at some point during Rabbit’s first year at university, his mouth was cut up and his gums were bleeding to the point the dentist recommended that no bits be put in Rabbit’s mouth until it was healed. It was uncovered that very novice students were attempting to “train” Rabbit to be a western pleasure horse. Their understanding was that he needed to walk/jog/lope slowly with his head as low to the ground as possible. As you can imagine this is the exact opposite of what Rabbit had learned as a racehorse. The students would kick him to go forward and at the same time yank at his mouth to try to make him slow and lower his head. When this didn’t work they put harsher bits in his mouth. The bits and total confusion only caused Rabbit physical, mental, and emotional suffering which led to him becoming stuck and frozen.
This shutdown state was when I met Rabbit. I witnessed the Western coach trainer trying to “fix” this horse but to no avail. As soon as the tack went on, this horse became frozen. When he wouldn’t move I saw him being hit with a crop. Rabbit still would not move. He took the hits. It was then that I realized this horse had bravery beyond what any of his current company could appreciate or see. Even when he was mistreated and misunderstood Rabbit demonstrated quiet strength.
This is when Rabbit’s story started to become my own…
I approached the “powers to be” and requested to take Rabbit on as my senior year project. The request was denied unless I bought him out right from the school, which, I did. It took some time and creative thinking to come up with the money, but it all came together J As Rabbit turned 6 yrs. old (according to the Jockey Club) the paperwork was finalized and I became the official owner of “Oswald’s Rabbit.”
I spent most of the first weeks with Rabbit just gaining his trust. I took him out for long hand grazing sessions and we walked side by side through trails in the woods. I could tell little by little he was starting to look forward to our outings. Over the next couple of months more groundwork was laid… all exercises building on mutual trust and respect to build his confidence. Then one day, after good foundations had been established I decided it was time to ride. However, I was not going to do so with the negative associations he had formulated with tack. Instead, it was bareback or bust! Rabbit walked very slowly up to the mounting block… questioning and listening. We took our time and stopped for a few moments of hugs and scratching. Then I swung my leg over his back and we walked on… as one.
Rabbit didn’t have to carry me, he chose to. It is a true partnership that we both value and because of that it makes us stronger. We have taken turns carrying each other figuratively speaking over the past 14 years during all of life’s ups and downs… and we’ve had a lot of fun together too. Rabbit has helped me stay the course so many times and keep after my passion and purpose. He’s a pretty awesome life coach if you ask me. ;) All those years ago Rabbit was given a new moniker to denote his fresh start, he is the lovely tall dark and handsome many of you have met as “Brigadoon.”
As I consider his story the lessons are many, and it embodies hope. There’s one insight that I strongly encourage you to consider. It is the fact that Value is subjective. VALUE is SUBJECTIVE. Quite frankly my dear, Value is in the eye of the beholder. One cannot possibly measure the value of your life or anyone else’s for that matter.
Do you allow others to make you feel worthy or unworthy?
If you allow others to affect your feelings of worth, or control your feelings of what value something has to you - it is to give them control that is not theirs to own or understand. It is a dangerous transition of power that will never benefit anyone. Keep your power and your worth. Let no one decide your importance or tell you what YOU should value. This is your life and only for you to understand. Your internal compass is there to guide you and help you chart your course. Protect, conserve and respect all that is of value to you. Love your life and do not stay with anything that does not bring you into alignment with what matters to your heart. Staying power should be honored for only what serves your higher purpose.
Not everyone will value what you value and that’s okay. Your journey isn’t about fighting or forcing people to see something they won’t, don’t or can’t see. The beauty of each life is the way in which we are different because that is how we can make a difference in the world. BE THE CHANGE. We need you. We need your light. We need your special gifts and we need your way of seeing the world.
Thank goodness Brigadoon has a resilient spirit that would not be broken. He reminds me of the importance in being exactly who you are. There’s a quote that says, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Sometimes we are the light and sometimes we are the mirrors for others - each being of significant value.
In the spirit of Easter have faith in yourself and your greater purpose. Safe guard your heart, believe in your dreams, and let your light shine.
Brigadoon and Meg