The Selflessness of an Equine Partner
Our friend, Gerardo, a 60ish, Costa Rican rancher was at a weekly cattle auction in a small town in the northern part of Costa Rica. Old, unusable horses are also brought to these auctions and are sold for meat. Gerardo, a sturdy, weathered, mature Costa Rican man, noticed a horse on a truck headed for the meat processing center, he didn’t know why, but he felt compelled to buy this skinny, battered, and scared horse off the meat truck for $200. The scars on the horse’s head, face and body, large hard lumps on his swayed back were evidence of a difficult working life as well as a life of human mistreatment. Gerardo is a very practical man, and had no idea why he felt such a strong urge to buy the horse, however, he felt he needed to listen to that little voice in his head we call intuition.
Through the town grapevine, he learned the horse had been owned by a cruel, drunken thief, he used the horse to steal cattle at night. Gerardo nursed the horse back to health and discovered he was an excellent cattle horse, with spirit, knowledge and the wits about him to work with cattle like he had seen in no other horse.
During a visit to his farm, we went out to work with some cattle, Gerardo let me ride this horse. I asked him, “What is his name?”
He pondered a moment, then answered thoughtfully, “I didn’t name him, he’s just my horse, that’s all, he’s my horse.”
I thought that as strange, especially after hearing the story of how he came to have the horse. So, I decided to name him ‘Lucky’. We started out to move some cattle out of a large swampy area. A few of the cattle were stranded and I was in a bit over my head trying to maneuver the animals through the water and mud. Gerardo asked me to dismount and he would take Lucky over to get the cattle, since he was the most capable horse in the group. As I watched the two of them work together, I realized that ‘Lucky’ didn’t need a name, he was part of Gerardo, he was an extension of him. After all, we don’t name our arm or leg do we? It was a privilege witness the connection as they persuaded the stray cattle to join us and the rest of the herd.
Soon after, Geraldo was riding Lucky while working with an aggressive bull. Together they maneuvered the bull into the corral, suddenly the bull came charging at Geraldo aiming to gore him with his large, sharp, 2 foot long horn. The bull targeted Gerardo’s chest; his horse with skill, purpose and intent reared up and put his body in position to block the attack. The horn pierced the horse’s belly. The horse wide eyed glanced up at Gerardo, and fell deliberately providing a shield between Gerardo and the bull, providing a space for him to roll under the fence to safety. Disemboweled, the faithful horse died, graciously repaying his debt to this human.
As Gerardo told me the story, teared glistened in his soulful eyes, “Why would this critter save my life?” he wondered.
“Because you rescued him.” I reminded him, “You were destined to be part of each other’s journey, and he re-payed you for your kindness.”
Months later, I was organizing a group of people for a ‘Cowboy for a Day’ experience, Gerardo got wind of the plans and called me. “Debbie, I have some horses that need to be seen by a vet, you have a vet in your group don’t you?”
“Yes.” wondering what was up, “Ok, we can make our way to your farm, and take a look at the horses, the group can help as part of their experience.” I stated.
We arrived at the farm, and found Gerardo with 8 horses in terrible condition, including a mother and foal. They were all full of parasites and only skin and bone! As the story unfolded, we found out that he purchased the horses off the ‘meat truck’ at the cattle auction to ‘pay it forward’ to Lucky for saving his life. Today 6 of the 8 horses survived and are working on the ranch. Thanks to Lucky and Gerardo.