A Visions girl recently had a powerful moment with her horse Patriot that I wanted to share, to give you a small sense of the revelations that present themselves in the barnyard. ~ Jessie (Office & Program Manager, Visions Mentor)
I was standing with *Danielle (name changed) on her second day at the farm. She had chosen to work with Patriot, and we were making our way across the round pen as the pair navigated obstacles together. The challenge that day had been to think about the goals each girl had for herself, and what obstacles in their life get in the way of those goals. With their horse, each teen then identified physical items in the arena or round pen that represented those challenges and lead the horses through the course.
Danielle had paused and was giving Patriot some nice scratches when she asked me if she could hear about his background. As teens in substance abuse recovery, the girls are keenly aware of the weight our stories carry and are often struggling to make peace with their own. I began to share Patriot’s tale of his time as a show horse (once 2nd in the world) on the East Coast, where he endured cruel abuse and maltreatment to control his performance. When I mentioned that Patriot had acid and chains put on his legs to discipline his steps, Danielle was stunned. She looked at me incredulously, then back at Patriot, and said, “Whoa, that’s crazy.”
“My DOC (drug of choice) was acid, too.”
She couldn’t believe she had this in common with her horse, and emotions tumbled out as she processed through the realization that Patriot had suffered the effects of acid and yet emerged as a strong, powerful, beautiful creature. She was moved almost to tears, likening the experience of her acid high to Patriot’s competition limelight. Danielle said she felt inspired knowing this history about Patriot, because it gave her hope for herself.
I could not have planned this moment, and had no prior knowledge of Danielle’s past. When we let experiences with the horses happen organically, the lessons present themselves, and we just have to be open to receiving them. I’m so honored to have been present for Danielle that day, and grateful to Patriot for bearing witness to her pain with the strength that she needed.