The proposed mare, nameless for now

If everything goes as planned, there will be a new member of the family soon. A rescue mare.

This is a leap of faith. A money drain. And a life raft for our teenager.

Over the past few years, Kana’s riding has become more than a hobby: it’s therapy. “I love horses because I know they’re more anxious than I am,” she says. “My job is to tell them it’s OK. Even if I don’t think it really is OK.”

Kana cuddles baby Sage at the farm where she rides

The horse Kana wants to adopt, a thoroughbred mare with a troubled past, moves like anxiety made flesh. She prowls from one end of her too-small pen to the other, hooves barely skimming the ground. Dark and elegant, she stalks along the fence, nosing Kana’s hand as she passes. Her mind isn’t on the carrot she lips up from my daughter’s palm. It’s on tigers, slaughterhouses, whips. All the things that could possibly go wrong.

“Look at her,” Kana’s trainer says. “She worries.”

With good reason. As far as we can piece together, this horse has raced, worked as a brood mare, been sold at what those in the business call a “kill auction,” and finally ended up here, in a tiny yard at the PSPCA. Born to run with nowhere to go. At some point, her identifying lip tattoo was burned off, by someone who didn’t want the details of her past to be known. That can’t mean anything good. She’s about twelve, still gorgeous, and consumed by her own fears.

All this makes her the perfect project for Kana and her trainer. Kana wants to learn to train horses, to rescue a creature that needs her, and to ride really fast. I want Kana to conquer the horse’s anxiety, and perhaps learn something about her own.

In a lesson a few weeks back, I heard the trainer tell Kana: “Your job is to take the horse’s mind from her. Let her know it’s safe with you. She doesn’t have to think. She only has to do what you ask.”

Kana with Woody, her favorite horse at the farm where she rides. Humans are fine and all, but this horse might just be her best friend.

And vice versa. Kana needs projects that take her mind from her. Projects that say: “Look only at me, give me what I need, and everything will be all right.” I know this, because I need the same thing.

This morning, a colleague told me she admired my ability to “burrow into” my writing no matter what else was going on. I protested, because I’m pretty sure my writing went out the window last November along with every last shred of my sanity. I haven’t found my rhythm since. But my colleague insisted. Her teenager had been giving her problems. “And now,” she said, “I see that my writing is one thing I can control. I wrote a few pages today. I cling to that.”

A few pages. Bad ones. If nothing else, they demand my mind for time I spend on them. And one less horse shipped to slaughter – a small thing, but important. Even if, as might happen, this horse is never safe to ride. Even if the pages never become a book.

Kana and Woody

The proposed mare, worrying