This story is part of our series, “Clear Eyes, Sound Mind, Halt, Salute.” Focusing on equestrian mental health, these articles come from riders across the country who wish to share their struggles and triumphs. With so much focus on the physical health and fitness of riders, it is important not to neglect the mental health aspect of becoming a great equestrian and the therapeutic role horses can play in helping us. We hope these stories and bits of advice show you that you’re not alone and inspire you to push on through all challenges.
By Stephen Smith
BabyGirl, my best friend, is thirteen. I’ve had her for about ten of those thirteen years. I am so blessed that this wild Mustang girl came into my life, when I needed her so much. I had been looking for something to take my mind off of all the things going on, and things that had gone on, and along she came.
I had been looking for a horse for sometime (I hadn’t owned a horse since I was a teenager). I had looked at a few Mustangs and I was really liking what I saw, but I really expected to find a half dead Quarter Horse and that would have been it. Finally, I went to look at this two-year-old, flea-bitten filly that I found on Craigslist, listed by a fellow soldier.
I expected to keep looking. This ad sounded too confusing, saying that she had “been under saddle eight times,” but what’s that mean? She’s been ridden eight times? She’s been saddled eight times? Did she just walk under an old saddle tied to the rafters in the barn eight times? I didn’t know and he didn’t get very “specific,” when I asked on the phone, but we went to look at her anyway.
As soon as we pulled in the driveway and I saw her standing there, I knew she was the one. A sweet little grey with the biggest, “take me home,” brown eyes. It seemed like there was some sort of a connection before I even shut the truck door. As I walked around to her left side, my mouth just dropped and all I could utter was, “When can you deliver her?” And the rest, as they say, is history.
That freeze brand was a bit difficult to see through the white, early fall hair, but I immediately knew what she was – a wild Mustang. I’ve never regretted anything about bringing her home. She has seriously saved a part of my life that I had lost, and today, if I feel a bit disconnected, all I have to do is go to the barn and see what she’s up to. I love my Sand Wash Basin 2008 gather and born date Mustang. We have had many smiles together and I pray we have many more!!!
I’m almost sixty-seven now, and have had my Mustang girl since I was almost fifty-seven. I had been in and out of the Army from 1972-2011, and was in a Wounded Warrior Transition Unit. After all those years, I realized that I was going to be medically discharged. At fifty-eight I was very afraid. I was too busted up in my back to actually work, and due to all of the medications I took, my backup plan of driving a truck would definitely be out. I needed something. Sure, I had a wife and dogs, but I needed a lifestyle. I needed something or someone to talk to, to make my head feel better. I actually got both. Something and someone to talk to. My PTSD was beginning to show its nasty face, and I was in a hurry. But now I’m taking more medicine to help manage my psychiatric and behavioral health.
I finally found what I needed in BabyGirl, an almost three-year-old wild American Mustang girl. I knew it was her that would, and did, save my life.
Falls? I have no idea how many… I don’t want to know. But, they did include a few (four) broken ribs, a shoulder surgery, and another pending shoulder surgery.
I trust her with my life and well-being – both mental and physical. In the winter, a few years ago, I was getting on her from a step. I hadn’t finished tightening the girth and, as I went to mount, the saddle slid down, dumping me in the snow under her feet, saddle still in hand. She didn’t move an inch but, thank goodness, I guess, for the snow.
When I can’t ride no more, then I’ll stop and feed her, talk to her, groom her, and play with her, until one of us dies.