The pony born before me …

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This is a story from 41 years ago today. It is a true story, though I very well might have a few details wrong, as it begins when I was born …
*** and please know, there is a hard part, it’s not an easy read, not for me anyway ***


The newborn colt was still wet behind the ears and already up on his feet, racing circles around his mom. I was still tucked safely inside of mine. Not sure I was ready. I might even change my mind. But HO said I was coming. It would be any day now and he was certain of it. He knew because his pony had given birth to the little horse.

HO donated the land for the church parsonage. It was surrounded by his cows and ponies and it was a home for the preacher’s family. He had stopped by to check on the preacher’s wife (and me in her tummy) everyday she was pregnant. And when she went into labor, he rang the hospital so many times the nurses thought he was a grandparent. When I was born, my daddy called HO first thing.

The church was having service that morning. (Someone must have been filling in, because the preacher was with his wife and new baby) I’ve been told the story many times, of how HO walked in the sanctuary. Silently, right up to the front of the pulpit. Where there he stopped and took a piece of paper out of his front pocket, unfolding it intentionally, square by square, and then read the words.

“Mary Elizabeth Miller. Born 7:23 am. 7 pounds 6 ounces. Mother and baby doing well.”

He then folded the paper up, following the same creases, tucked it back in his shirt pocket and turned to walk out.
The church baby was born.

I was welcomed into a world that wanted me. Deeply blessed, deeply loved, deeply lucky. … I am grateful. I have always been grateful. I will always be grateful, but none of that changes the fact that I have always been scared shit-less to be here.

One of my earliest memories is hiding inside the folds of my mother’s skirt. I could not have been more than 4 or 5, because my parents were still married at the time. We were in the kitchen, in that tiny parsonage that was surrounded by the pastures of cows and the little pony born before me.

The kitchen looked so big as my dad swung open the door to come inside. Light poured in, blinding my eyes the way it does when you’ve been hiding in the dark behind your mother’s dress. I remember my line of sight was so low that my daddy looked to be a giant, his legs too big for his body, his head tiny, way up high, as if somehow dangling from the ceiling of the kitchen.

The door was already committed to swinging quickly closed in his wake, as the tiny kitten made a mad dash to run inside. But there was not enough time. The door slammed shut, squeezing the kitten in two. Closing completely across the center of her body.

She must have screamed, though I do not remember hearing. I think I was too afraid to hear anything. But my dad must have, because he spun around and pushed the door open. The kitten now freed, she pulled herself across the kitchen floor and all the way to me. Her back legs now dragging, only the front ones worked.

She was paralyzed instantly. And I must have been too, because I remember nothing after that. All I remember is feeling like I was the one that got slammed in the door. Everything that happened around me, happened inside of me. Every emotion the humans had, became my entire world. And I was trapped in it. Stuck in my body. And I could not get out.

But with the horses I felt free. From as far back as I can remember, and all the way up until just yesterday.

I used to think it was because the horses gave me power – my tiny too small body that stopped growing in fifth grade, and never grew any boobs at all – it grew big and strong when sitting astride a 1,000 pound wild Mustang.

Or maybe it was because the horses gave me something to be good at. Confidence. Self esteem. They have certainly supported me in winning some things – but I never could quite win enough, or impress everyone, or stay on top of the mountain.

Those were fun moments, and gutting moments, and meaningful moments and a whole lot of fleeting moments. But I really do not think this is why the horse has always made me feel so safe, and free. I think it’s more because with the horses I just don’t feel guilty. It’s really that simple.

I can feel the way I feel and it’s just ok. My anxiety, my insecurity, my screwed up insides of me. I can be all that and with the horses it’s just ok. They don’t try to fix me.

The horses know a love that is beyond unconditional, it is neutral. No positive or negative charge. Just love. Love that is not dependent on me in anyway, not even my own well being. I can be a total screwed up mess and the horses not only still love me, but they don’t care. (Well, they do care, but not in the way I thought.)

And they do not become me. The horse holds their center. Their innermost point of limitless neutrality. That state of love does not need to be loved in return, there is no pressure, no one to fix, no one to make happy so that I feel safe. No one but me and a herd of horses that Love like God Loves. (actual God, not all the connotation, dogma, etc etc and whatever else that comes with those three letters strung together – just God – the one inside the horse, and the tree, and me)

The horse loves me like God loves me. Simply. No strings attached.

This love is alchemy. And I do not know that any parent can love like that. I sure can’t. I love my three girls with every ounce of myself. I love them when they’re happy and I love them when they’re sad. But I’d be lying if I said that I do not truly want them to be happy. I’d be lying if I said that I do not feel better inside when they are skipping around in bliss, versus throwing up on the couch. They do both. No matter how much I try to be that place of loving nutrality. I am still stuck in this human body. Not God. Not a horse. Just me.

And so I think I’ll just toss that one into the pile of things I am simply not good at, right along with small talk, and brushing my hair. And I will stick to loving my children unconditionally, just as my parents love me.

41 years after the pony was born before me, I now live in my own tiny home, it’s no bigger than that little church parsonage and just as full of love and pastures. 25 wild (and wildly gentle) Mustangs and ponies surround me. And I am a better, because they breath this air first.

I am deeply blessed, deeply loved, deeply lucky. … but none of that changes the fact that I will always need the horse.

– Mary

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