Back when I was young and spry and nineteen years of age, I got a job working on a racehorse farm. Now, you have to understand, I was a horse lover from birth, so this was heaven to me. I had many adventures and learned a lot there. It was hard work, and very early hours, but I was young and loved the horses, so it didn’t matter.
This farm had on old horse named Moving Miles. He was really only about 5 or 6 years old, but by race horse standards, he was ready to be put out to pasture. They still raced him from time to time when they needed some cash flow. He was the horse that bought the farm, literally.
Finally the day came that he earned his retirement. Up until this point, Mover, as we called him, had spent life in a stall, about 12 ft x 12 ft. His daily routine was: eat breakfast, groomed, saddled, exercised by loping around a dirt track, unsaddled, bathed, cooled out by walking circles on the automatic walker, back in the stall, wait on supper, nighttime and then start all over again. This routine had been his life for most of his life. The days of a youthful colt lounging in the pasture under the warm sun were too distant to recall.
I was happy for him that he would get to go live in a paddock in his retirement. It wasn’t a large pasture like where he lived with his mother as a foal, but still very roomy compared to a stall. So Moving Miles got moved to the grassy paddock one day and we all rejoiced for him.
Here is where you expect me to tell you about how he ran and bucked and rolled in the grass and enjoyed his freedom. But that did not happen. Day after day as I drove up to the barn and in the evening when I left, and all during the day, when I would look out to Mover’s paddock, there he would be, standing in a corner, just like he had in his stall each day. Day after day.
Moving Miles had lived a certain way for so long that even when placed in a different situation, he continued to live in the same manner.
We all wanted him to enjoy his well-earned freedom. But Moving Miles did not move–only to food and water and back to his corner. You see Mover had learned from a young age that his life consisted of certain boundaries and routines: You aren’t responsible for actively getting out and providing for yourself. Someone puts the grain and hay in the feeder in the corner of your stall. You remain in your stall until someone takes you out, controls your movements and then brings you back.
There was no freedom, no chance to be who he was created to be. He had a name that meant motion, movement, action, distance, travel, but he only moved within parameters set by others and what the hard solid walls of his stall allowed. So this horse lived out his life in submission to the powers that led and encompassed him. He spent his life racing and striving to be out in front, but never getting anywhere. He always ending up back where he started.
I don’t recall how long it took, but finally there came a day when ol’ Mover did realize that life was not the same. Those grooves of habit so deeply etched were not too deep to climb out. Maybe it was due to a friend next door who taught him the proper use of a paddock. Or maybe he just needed a time of adjustment.
Perhaps he was afraid to step out into the new world in which he was now living and chose, instead, to live safely within pretend stall walls. Until one day he became brave enough to imagine a door in that wall, and stepped through. I don’t know what happened, I just know that one day I looked out and an old black horse was moving–bucking and running like a colt, no walls to hold him back. No track or rein to direct him. Just pure freedom of spirit. Life was good for our ol’ Mover. The paddock wasn’t that big, as I said, but he had really moved miles that day.
Read about more horses I have known. Recollections
View photographs taken here at CedarRock Gallery