Is it really love?
by OurHorses community member
Berenika Bratny, Poland
This is a love story with a happy ending, although some may say it’s sad.
It started when I was put on an old mare’s back for the first time. I was four years old. Her name was Rosa and she was as black as Black Beauty. She was one of my mother’s horses. I rode her with pride and thought I loved her but also secretly longed for the other, taller, and more “difficult” horses to prove my skills. I did not notice when she was given away. I never asked and never longed for her patient, sad presence. I loved horses - at least this is what I was told - to love them for their performance, movement, looks and obedience.
Riding was something I never imagined I could quit, like an addiction. I explored different methods, different schools. I believed I had a “connection” with the mounts I rode. What was really important was my pleasure during long trail rides and it was obvious to me they enjoyed it too.
What happened when the horses said “no”, unable to cope with the pain in their old or broken bodies? I thought they were mean, assuming that other riders hadn’t treated them properly. I hoped they would understand that I am different – that is I had “soft hands” and a “better seat”. Love meant making horses obey and manipulating them to achieve my goals. It also meant me not listening, not seeing their struggle and their needs.
I moved to the countryside to start the “real” life of a horse trainer. I imagined I would have a great life. I met a man and fell in love. The world seemed full of wonder, full of possibilities. We believed we would have the quiet and smooth life we both longed for so much.
It was eight years of struggle. I tried the old patterns I knew so well from riding horses – dominating, manipulating the man I loved but I didn’t see it that way at that time. I still remember the feeling that there is no connection, no communication no matter how much I tried. Finally he moved out and I was left alone.
This is when the real love story started. I went to horses to heal my broken heart. After some time I realized I was looking for the same answers in my relationship with horses and with my partner - what went wrong, where was the connection? Was it really love, this strange conglomeration of domination and manipulation? Why, if my horses and I were supposed to be partners, why it’s only me who was allowed say “no”? What if I allow them to choose what they really need? Can I hear them? Will they open up enough to tell me their truth? Will I be able to see their real faces? Will I lose them if I let them be themselves?
Looking for the answer to those questions I found the documentary The Path of The Horse. During my first viewing I could not see much, as the tears rolled down my face. I felt like somebody took the big burden from my back after so many years. I was free. I got the missing part of the puzzle. I knew what went wrong.
I finally understood that love meant letting horses be who they were and loving them for who they are. I saw they are absolutely perfect, all of them, the young and joyful, the old and damaged.
Freeing them I realized something shifted inside of me too. I am one of them and can be loved for who I am. When they come, surround me, sniff my hair or rest with their muzzles over my head I know I am loved unconditionally. This is the most unforgettable gift in the world. It makes me so rich. I saw that the things I was taught as a little girl riding old Rosa were not right. I realize what love is about. The horses now teach me.
My heart breaks to see young children riding their ponies. When I hear a parent say: “We need to exchange the pony for a bigger/better one” and I see the puzzled look in the child’s eyes, I know that this is where their love story is lost. I see their choices, their struggles and wonder how their relations will develop over time. I can only hope that some day they will see themselves reflected in a horse’s eye and be free. Horses have saved me. Maybe they will save others too.