When people say horses are used for therapy I thought I understood it, but I never did. I am starting to now. This is a very hard post for me to write but I need to do it. Its something I have buried for 16 years and so I have to tell my story now. April 2nd 2004 I married who I thought was my sole mate. I was absolutely 100% in love and I was marrying a man I absolutely adored. We quickly moved into a large house me with my two children, and him with his two children. A house with stables, 5 of them, a menage and our horses. Now we had been together for years before he proposed to me, on his horse walking up the street of my parents house him dressed as a knight and Minnie a 17 hand TB. I agreed to marry him then and there. We met through a friend in work he had just bought his horse and he agreed to let me ride her whenever I wanted to. Three years later his marriage had ended and we were engaged. We even had the horse come to our wedding. I had it all planned, all of our kids, our big house and the perfect life, bliss or so I thought. Except on our honey moon he hit me. Hard. Why? it doesn't matter it was the start of a downward spiral of a doomed marriage. That nice little life that I had planned for myself quickly turned into a living nightmare. I was stuck in a situation that I could not see a way out of. The thing is, before this happened to me, I used to watch films or look at people who were clearly being abused and think to myself "stupid woman get out don't stay with him get away" but believe me, its not that easy. Its sometimes impossible and it was for me. Every time something happened, my first thought was I was ashamed, I hid it well. Was it my fault? Did I provoke him? I should know not to wind him up. His favourite excuse was he had eaten too much cadbury chocolate (it used to send him crazy so he told me) or Cider would send him nuts...... my second thought was, no one would believe me. He was such a charmer, everyone loved him (and its them you have to watch out for) also where would I go? What would I do? My kids had their bedrooms their lives, their friends in school how could I tear them away from that? What would I do with my dogs? and my pets. There was no way on this earth I was going into a refuge but I didn't know what to do and I couldn't tell anyone. How would I carry on and go to work? How would I make it right for my kids ? It was a living nightmare and it went on for months. The thing is, I am no shrinking violet, everyone who knows me knows that I am a strong character, I stand up for myself I always have but this didn't do me any favours at all. The situation was out of control, a simple fight would be started over something ridiculous . He never ever apologised, ever, he always said it was my fault, I had brought it on. The only person who knew and who helped me was my friend Jacquie who I lost very sadly and recently to Covid. She spotted the signs, the controlling behaviour. She and her daughter Dora were like a mum and sister to me and she waited till one afternoon and she brought it up very calmly and said I needed to get out. She pointed out how she noticed that no friends came to the house except her, she noticed how he prepared my food, told me what to do, and belittled me in front of her...... she told me that for my own sanity it wasn't healthy and I needed to leave. Sadly it still took me at least a year until i finally got up the courage to leave. A divorce, selling the house and re building my life took a lot of effort and definately left its mark on me. For years I was anxious, nervous and even today, I don't like leaving the house for too long if it isn't planned. My confidence went and I still struggle sometimes with it. I force myself into situations as I won't let it beat me but it left its mark. Its funny but after it was all over I shelved it, in my head, In time I met a wonderful man and we got married and had three more children. We don't talk about it and never really have. Neil says it was a part of my life he doesn't need to know about and its something that I haven't really acknowledged at all, not for 15 years. Of course I still have anxious moments, I get nervous if I hear couples arguing, my heart will start racing and I can't watch violent situations in films. For years, I wasn't interested in riding or even looking at a horse. I have worked really really hard at re building my life and I have very well, I didn't think about the past at all, the photos are all up in the attic and we never talk about it. My close friends know some things but nothing in detail. When Jacquie died, I met up with her daughter and we talked about the past and how much her mum meant to me and what she did for me, but that is as close as I have got to thinking about what happened.
So, having that riding lesson back in the summer was huge for me. I sat on that horse and it was there, that feeling when riding that only someone that rides can understand. Then watching my children have riding lessons brought tears to my eyes, a lump to my throat and resulted in my sitting in my car crying my eyes out for the first ever time. I never cried when my marriage ended, and I never cried when he sent my horse back, I never cried when I threw out my riding stuff. I drank, a lot to blot out the pain but I never cried.... Watching my daughter sit on a horse and look so good and learn to canter, my heart melted and I got a little bit of me back. Watching Ailysha learn to trot was one of those moments I don't think I will ever forget. When my marriage ended so did my riding, I vowed I would never get on a horse again. Nothing however prepared me for getting Carly and sitting on her for the first time, it was crazy but it was like stepping back in time.....
He may have taken it away from me for 15 years but this girl is back..... every day this week a new memory has come back, sometimes it shocks me to my core and I feel a bit sick, sometimes it makes me smile (as we did have some very good times) sometimes I feel just very sad but I get down, hug Carly to me and its like she knows. Every single time I sit on her I feel content, I've got it back I have been given a second chance. This is why I now understand how horse are used as therapy...... every day I go to that farm and spend time cleaning out her stable or just feeding her carrots, looking in her eyes and just brushing her and spending time with her gives me back a little of the old me, the confident me, the me that would take no messing.
Nobody ever knows what goes on behind closed doors. Someone that looks perfectly fine on the outside could be going through hell. I never judge anymore and never have. Until you are in that situation you will never ever know how that person is feeling.
I got out and even though it will always be a part of me, I think I am actually starting to heal now bit by bit. And that is what my horse means to me.