Who Am I? by Nina Heller

Very recently someone asked who I was. they asked in such a way that implied that my opinion had no real value, because to them, I was not anybody "special". on the contrary, not being anyone "special" is exactly why I believe that my opinion is of great value.

So, who am I? I am no one. I am everyone. I am me. maybe I am you.

Once, long ago, I was a child who loved and adored horses, a child’s love, a strong, pure and innocent love. One day that innocence was torn, it was the day that I was taught to whip my horse, and then it further frayed on the day that I was taught to impale his sides with a pair of spurs.

What was happening to this beautiful love? It was becoming complicated and twisted. the corners of the love were becoming dark, as I was shown how to tie his head down, and then how to strap his beautiful soft muzzle tightly closed around a bit. It was becoming painful as I was forced to force my horse to change his lead, to jump over the ditch, to keep his head down, to move sideways.

It was becoming confusing as I watched trainers beat him, yet, no words or actions of protection would spring from my lips or being, my silence, all in the name of being a good student.

When I was 13 a school friend told me that if I really loved horses that I would not ride them, and this was when the denial began. Was this so-called friend angry with me? Was she jealous? Was she just being mean? Why would she say something like that? I don’t even remember now who she was, but her words have never left me. It was not long after she said those words that I stopped riding for a few years, but eventually I returned, because I loved horses, and once you let them in, nothing can take their place.

It’s not a conscious effort that we make when we justify and reconcile, the harsh treatment, the "accepted abuse". It’s a survival mechanism. if we want to live in the equestrian world, we must find a way to knit together and then shroud ourselves in a veil of denial. It’s easy enough. We tell ourselves things like - everybody uses whips and spurs, and bits, could they really be that bad, could it really be wrong? They have used these things for centuries, could it really be that bad, could it really be wrong? They tell us that horses are big and strong and don’t feel pain the way we do. We tell ourselves that it’s all ok, because the "special" people that we decide to trust, to respect, and to pay, tell us that its ok, and they should know, they are "special". What do we know? We are no one.
Recently, my veil was caught on something, and it began to unravel. I would have been left naked, if were not for the guilt and the shame that hung on me like a wet gown, heavy and damaged. With nothing to buffer me, I heard those words again, the ones from my 13-year-old friend, the words that I had been able to mute for decades, but now they were ringing loudly in my mind. It was a complete crisis of faith, everything I knew was built on lies. 

Now, what do I do? 

Do I walk away from the horses again? 

Or do I stay this time? 

Now it was different. Now my entire adult life was enmeshed with horses, my passion, my hobby, my business, my livelihood. There was only one thing to do. 


Stay and try to make it better. Better for the horses. Better for the people who love them. I could not possibly be the only person having this crisis, I could not possibly be the only one on this journey. 

To my joy and delight, I find that I am not. There are hundreds of us, maybe thousands of us, who, for some reason caught our veil on something, and now we are able to see more clearly.

If you are ready to do better by the horse, to be a better human to the horse, the transformation is not complicated. I was driving one day, and there it was, large words, elevated in the sky, the word "COMPASSION", on a billboard. Strangely, I noticed something I had never noticed before, the word compassion begins with the word "COMPASS", and then it all made sense. If you simply allow compassion to be you compass, you will most certainly always being moving in a good direction, the right direction.

When at a crossroads, if you simply ask yourself, "what is the most loving thing to do", how could that answer ever be wrong?

Who am I? I am no one. I have nothing to gain from you, I only want to give you something, from my heart to yours, and these are my words, do with them what you will. for my final words today:

If it looks wrong, if it feels wrong, if it seems wrong, you are probably right, it is wrong. 

If you let compassion be your compass, you will travel the most beautiful road, on the most magnificent journey.

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