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The Freedom to Run
by Candace Runaas


Horses symbolize freedom.  From ancient mythology to current day media, mankind has been fascinated with the strength, power and beauty that is inherent to the equine nature.  Whenever you see a horse galloping at full speed, you are witnessing one of the most magnificent creatures on earth expressing his full physical potential. 

Strength, power and beauty

A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.”  – Pam Brown, Australian poet (courtesy of www.wikiquote.com)

The inherent strength of horses is evident from their early practical uses from the time of domestication, which is agreed to be prior to 2000 B.C.  Their ability to pull great weights along rugged terrain inspired the popular saying that one is “as strong as a horse.”  Many equine varieties have been bred solely on the characteristic of strength, such as the muscular Clydesdale breed.  Although in less technology-driven countries around the world, the workhorse may be a common sight, here in America the majority are most often found performing in exhibition or parade.

There is a powerful and moving scene in the movie, “Hidalgo,” which shows the human hero of the film allowing his horse, Hidalgo, the animal hero, to return to the wild Mustang herds from whence he came.  This segment of the film shows Hidalgo running, running free as he was created to do.   It is an inspiring moment that stirs the emotions.  It is that unspoken desire that we all have to be all that we were created to be that provokes such strong feeling.  ESPN.com reported in an article on American Quarter House Racing that "the American Quarter Horse is the king of speed. In fact, racing American Quarter Horses have been clocked at nearly 50 mph as they cross the finish line."  We, as humans, cannot even begin to perform at this level, but we have been allowed by Providence the opportunity to join with this being to experience the authority that a horse has over the land in regards to its graceful swiftness.  When horses run seemingly with little effort, we vicariously run with them and our spirits soar.

The beauty of the horse is unparalleled.  Besides humans, it is one of the most common artistic subjects in the world of fine art.  The exquisite muscular form and definition of these athletic animals has inspired many a painter and sculptor.  Giovanni da Bologna’s Equestrian Portrait of Cosimo I (1587-94) displayed in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy and Carlo Marochetti’s sculpture of Richard the Lionheart (1860) are two time-honored pieces that present horses as the trusted and magnificent steeds of kings.  Currier & Ives is well-known for their lithographs of traditional American scenes which often include horses, such as in “A Fair Field and No Favor,” (1891) at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Romanticism is wrapped up in horse drawn carriages, sleighs and even the legend of Lady Godiva riding on horseback nude.   This artistic love affair shows our appreciation for the inherent loveliness and elegant power of the horse.

Guardian, Provider and Advocate

 “There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham.” – Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty (courtesy of www.thinkexist.com)

Equine domestication bears with it the incredible responsibility of guardian, provider and advocate.  As a horse guardian, one must be willing to protect and give care to the animal, irregardless of whether one has the financial ability to do so.  This may mean, at times, making sacrifices to ensure their well-being, just as one would for a child.  It is essential to be willing to provide shelter, food, medical attention and protection, for the horse is entirely dependant on the caregiver. 

Black Beauty is the classic novel written by Anna Sewell from 1871 to 1877, while she suffered from declining health.  She died only months after selling this first and only novel to local publishers in April of 1878.  It was her hope to educate her readers about the cruel treatment that many horses experienced during that era and to rouse others to speak out against such heinous acts.  Ms. Sewell explains her writing’s purpose "its special aim being to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses."  There is nothing more appalling than the beautiful being neglected, abused or mistreated.  It is even more shameful that 130 years later we are still dealing with the same issues.

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, in 2006, over 100,000 horses were slaughtered.  Currently, our congress is attempting to put into place legislation to protect our dear equine friends - the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.  There needs to be an increased public outcry today against this horrible act.  Our horses in this country are being slaughtered for human consumption overseas.  America exports horse meat.  How tragic that this is our contribution to those who have worked alongside of us, carried our burdens and even us when we were weak. 

Fortunately, times are changing.  Advocates are lifting their voices in indignation and people are listening and taking action.  Compassion for our world’s creatures, especially our domesticated animals, is crucial for their sakes and our own.   As a culture, we also need to open our hearts to adoption of homeless horses that may be euthanized as a result of a lack of space.  If one has the time or the land, adoption is a wonderful dream come true, but is a significant commitment of resources and time.  There are many reasons to be a supporter of such worthwhile efforts, but the best may be that extraordinary rush of spirit that you encounter riding on the back of a trusted friend, a faithful companion, who would be willing to take you to the ends of the earth because you have given him the freedom to run.



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