One of the things I love about our new home is that the horse paddock runs parallel to the living areas in our house. It means, quite simply, that I get to observe the horses do all sorts of normal horsey things as I go about the various normal human things I need to get done. It’s a modest pleasure that most horse owners dream of but also finds me “wasting” time as I stop what I’m doing and just watch…
Last week, I looked out the window and noticed all 5 horses napping and sleeping. Four of them – Steve, Flynn, Charlie and Smokey were resting as a group, with two – Steve and Flynn – actually lying down and adopting the “oh my goodness, has my horse died or is it just sleeping pose”. A little away from the group was Spark, who was also lying down. There was really nothing really unusual about this – it is a scene that I have been witness to on many occasions but it is still always nice to see them content and at ease with their world.
Now, before I go on further, a quick explanation about horse herd dynamics is required. For the non-horsey people among you, horses can doze while standing, but, like us, they need periods of deep, REM sleep. To achieve this sleep, they need to lie down. In the wild, or when kept domestically in a herd situation, horses will take turns at lying down and standing up. Those that stand, though still dozing are more alert to their environment and quicker to respond to any potential danger. As a result, their presence ensures that the herd is safe.
A few minutes after I first spotted our little herd resting, I noticed that Flynn had moved. Rather than lying with the others, he had gotten up, moved over to where Spark was sleeping and was now resting, standing “guard” over Spark. While we can only guess as to why he had done this, his decision, to arise from where he had been sleeping and move closer to his “best mate” (another horse herd behaviour – horses form closer bonds and “friendships” with some and not others) – was an obvious deliberate decision.
And as I watched them continue to rest, I could not help but be struck by the picture unfolding before me. Two horses. Two mates. One noticed the other alone and potentially vulnerable, so made the decision to leave his place of safety to ensure that his friend could rest in peace. I am constantly amazed at the lessons that this little bay horse teaches me. Like Flynn, each of us has a Spark in our lives that needs to know that we are watching out for them – that we have their back – that when they are defenceless or weak or unable to fight for themselves, we are there for them. Sometimes the best life lessons are not found in classrooms, or impressive motivational speeches. They don’t come to us dressed in expensive Armani suits or driving flash cars. They are found in your back yard, wearing mud covered fur and smelling of hay.
“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.”
(Psalm 121: 3)