Dear Sweet Roan Pony,
Breck, you have no idea how instrumental you have been in my healing - in my peace. My deep link to you begins back in my childhood when my grandfather, who raised me, taught me to ride and care for horses. Papa was a gentle soul and we rescued cheap ponies from kill pens, in part because it was all we could afford but also because I always had a soft spot for the ones that were in rough shape. He and I spent hours in the barn and fields putting in the work to make them physically and mentally stable. Because of the love he gave me I had plenty to pass on to the animals in my life and I was obsessed with horses.
Breck, when I met you a year ago I prayed I would find some of the solace that I did as a child, teenager, and young adult being back on the back of a horse. Little did I know you would do so much more than I could fathom. The reason I got back into the world of horses was my search for joy. Poor Breck, you had no idea how much I needed you or how big your job was. Your task was to set me free from the many things that weighed me down physically and emotionally.
I rode a few other horses at the barn, but none had that spark that comes with kindred spirits. Then you came in with your eye injury scars and quiet sweet manners. Head shy and skittish you were, and I worked slowly on you like I’d want people to work with me. It took some time, but eventually you allowed me to touch your ears and face. Cystic Fibrosis and the fact that I couldn’t breathe well never seemed to bother you. It didn't matter that it took me longer to brush you through my fits of coughing and fatigue. The weight I carried in my heart of despair, loss and grief were of no consequence to you. This grief was primarily because I had been referred for a double lung transplant. My health has taken several declines throughout my life, and I wasn’t even supposed to be alive at my ripe old age of 43. But this past year I had been given the news that I was now bad enough to be considered for that major surgery. I was devastated because I had been a strong athlete much of my life. I was a runner of long races, I was a hiker of all 46 High Peaks in New York, I am a mother of a child with Autism and I have so much more I need and want to accomplish. Now though, I was unable to do the things that made my soul complete and was facing a surgery that I had lost many friends to. Breck, you had no idea when I sat hugging your neck that you were putting my life back in perspective and allowing me to have peace and joy again.
Cystic Fibrosis and the fact that I couldn’t breathe well never seemed to bother you. It didn't matter that it took me longer to brush you through my fits of coughing and fatigue... The weight I carried in my heart of despair, loss and grief were of no consequence to you.
You and I took so many healing rides in the woods. Steadfast and unshakable in your ways, you always allowed me to focus on how beautiful my surroundings were. Wild turkeys and their babies would flap out after us and never did you balk or question my requests to move forward. Each trip we would see deer, skunk, and grouse and never did you respond in a way that would make me unable to stay on you. I did notice, Breck, that you were so careful with me, taking great care of me out on that trail. You always take your time as you come down the rocky steep parts like I am your precious cargo.
You see Breck, what you didn’t know is that you are now my lungs and my strength, giving me the ability to do what I can no longer do myself. With you I can run, be in the woods, chug up a hill and be one with another living being without being worried I am a burden. It is only with you that I don’t have to worry that I am “too sick, too slow, too boring, too needy.” You, Breck, give me an hour a day of not thinking about what I can no longer do, and who I no longer am. You are a pure loving soul who sees me only as the woman who brings treats, coughs a lot, struggles to breathe, but still has so much love to give.
You also give me the gift of "just being" in the present moment. When we are out on the trails I have to be one with you and can’t ruminate about what is to come for me medically. I get to tune out distractions as I sink into your calm loving energy and be right there with you. Breck you are my FREEDOM, you take me away from the inability to do what I love and the reminder that I can no longer breathe. You do the hard work for me, while I get to feel the complete release that I used to get doing those things on my own.
Breck you are also my connection to the happiest times of my life. With you, my youth with my Papa comes rushing back, along with all the lessons he taught me. The compassion for other living being, taking care of those that need it, and forming loving bonds. Those are the memories that I carry in my heart and give me strength, give me courage. You, with those gentle loving eyes, must feel how very much I need YOU to be able to stay strong in this fight against what is trying to kill me. The joy you bring me is my number one weapon against feeling self-pity and defeat. Thank you Breck, for being a piece of my soul that was necessary to feel whole again, and for taking care of me always. I can’t help but think that you have been sent by my Papa to help me through this rough time. At one time it was me helping the sick and broken and now it’s you helping me. Your strength, love and gentle nature fills me on every ride.
Photos by Adirondack Shutterbug Photography.
Written by Nicole Matthews
Nicole was raised in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY, where she still resides. She is the mom to a teenage son and two rescued dogs. She has worked as a school psychologist at a local high school for the last 14 years.