When I was in grad school I was fortunate beyond belief to find housing off campus. I lived on a farm! Can you imagine? It was the best thing ever, and I remember how my dog, Louis and one of the horses on the farm, Jackson, were seriously in love. There were lots of cows (and, if you’ve never lived on a farm, the gentle mooing of cattle that we’re all trained to believe exists is a big fat lie. They are loud, and often angry.) There were also chickens and geese and goats and many other horses on the farm, but Jackson and Lou had a special bond. On my walks with Lou around the property, I’d see him looking for Jackson, and if I was by myself, I’d have Jackson come up to me sniffing for Lou. They spent many hours on our walks nuzzling each other and doing their version of playing — at that point, they were both way beyond adolescence, so it wasn’t too boisterous.
Jackson was a working horse — he ferried the farm manager’s kids to and fro on his back — he was the gentlest horse on the farm and could be trusted not to buck them. From time to time, he’d also pull a cart behind him when it was time to seed a far pasture. I witnessed him loving that work, because he was safe in doing it, loved all the way through it, and rewarded for it in the end, and I have to think that he felt like a productive and valued part of our little microcosm of a community. The farm manager had 8 kids and every one of them loved all of the animals on the farm (the cattle were dairy), and the animals knew it.
I don’t know. I think that every creature on earth is here for a reason, and that they find purpose in doing what they were meant to do. They/we may not always be able to articulate the joy of living and doing, but it’s there. A squirrel finds as much satisfaction in the hunt for the nut as in the finding of that nut, because that’s what squirrels do. A dog has a special relationship with humans that makes them want to please us so that we can, in turn, please them. Even the lowly possum is overjoyed when he can surprise me in the parking garage and make me drop that cantaloupe from my grocery bag so he can eat it. (<–that really happened last week). A tiger, a lion, a leopard — do they not find something like satisfaction in being the kings of the grassland, able to sustain the antelope herds by weeding out the weak and at the same time, feeding their families? And, let’s not forget the bane of my existence, the thousand-legger. I have to believe that they have a purpose on earth, which is making the lazy among us get up off of our asses from time to time and seriously scrub everything in the house after we see one skittle across the floor.
All that said, given the relationship we have with horses, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they might believe they have a higher purpose. And, if not, that they’d like to work for us, because we feed and shelter and brush and snuggle them.
Only some of them, though. It seems like the horses that we put blinders on and hook buggies to and make trot around busy city streets aren’t getting any benefit from their association with us. That breaks my heart. And, if Lou were still here, it’d break his, too.