Some Things Are Not For The Taming
When most people told me to stay away from the horse I came to call Gusto, my then teacher Eddo Hoekstra told me to look in his eyes. What I saw was not the flickering rage, broken spirit or dead soul I had expected. Instead, I felt my presence acknowledged and met full force by a keen and friendly curiousity, tempered only by the promise of defiance. In the years to come I would learn to appreciate his fierce warrior spirit and utter dedication to the integrity of his own dignity, though it came at a heavy price, the tale told all too clearly in his broken body. I learned to joke that his motto must be “I have an opinion about that.”
I found that behind all his wild majesty and naughty shenanigans, his constant need to challenge the status quo, beat the molten heart of an extraordinary character just waiting to be acknowledged for his magnificence, and his pride in the same. When I fully understood and embraced this, his world was my oyster. He gave me all of himself to the last drop, trusting I would never demand too much, or try to keep him for myself. Gusto was never a horse to be taken for granted, his compliance was always a gift and never a promise.
Gusto was a horse who demanded I meet him in a place of equality, and more often than not, it meant I had to step up. He demanded to feel respect and be respected or it was game over. We never reached the heights for which he was made, but over the nine years we had together, he learned that I would love and nurture him no matter what. That I had his back. That with the help of Stephanie Millham and Classical Horsemanship, I could and would help him heal inside and out, and most of all, that he could trust me, that I would never demand his service in the face of pain, cruelty or unfair demands. Gusto knew full well what had been taken from him, but together, we experienced flashes of the magnificence to which he was born, fleeting moments of a glorious feel of shared power and lithe balance. We glimpsed a future we would never have but at least, we dreamed a little dream together.
A Classic Gusto Moment - always the ham!
In our last few years together, I felt the full effect of my devotion and dedication returned in his throaty nicker of welcome and the warmth of his gaze upon me, the beam of golden affection enveloping me as I entered the barn. I knew the truth of his heart when he presented his forehead each day for a kiss in what became a ritual greeting, or tenderly wrapped his head and neck around me or one of the girls who helped care for him. I felt his friendship when I wept in his stall and he carefully took the muckfork from me and pressed his head against my arm, asking me to stop and stay with the pain of my breaking heart, to lean on him while it broke.
When his time came, he laid his head in my lap and comforted me as only a horse can, and in that moment I knew that while he belonged only to himself, he had given me all he had to give, in all ways. Our time had come to part, for a horse like him is never one to keep, and never in the face of loss of dignity. A horse like Gusto is always his own, first and foremost, with a destiny of his own and a pride and poise that will not be subjugated. He will break before he will bend in the face of injustice. If Gusto taught me nothing else, he taught me that some things are not for the taming, only for the loving, just as they are.