Doc laughed. “If you build it,” she said,” they will come.”
But she was right.
At first those who came were almost entirely people wanting to “donate” their older horses to TREES. (At some later date, we may post about why we don’t consider our residents “donations.”)
Gradually, as the community became aware of “the place that takes old horses,” other people began to visit. One here, one there. Then, a few years ago, a visitor got out of her car and commented “Oh! I’m so glad to see a horse rescue that’s not completely depressing.”
That took us by surprise. We’ve never thought of horse rescue in general as “depressing,” and we certainly don’t see TREES as depressing. We started asking all new visitors what they expected to see when they got here. About half answered that they expected to see a bunch of old horses, basically standing around waiting to die.
Whoa! First of all, why would anyone even consider visiting a place he or she expected to be that sad? But more than that, how could we begin to break down that misconception of an Elders Sanctuary?
Simple. Tell the Elders’ stories. These horses are spirited and vivacious. Dynamic, interesting and gregarious. They form friendships and other herd relationships just as younger horses do. They roll in the mud, play in the water, rear, crowhop, prance and scamper. They cuddle, present themselves for scratching, and demand attention on their own schedules. Not at all models of “waiting to die.”
In other words, the Elders speak for themselves. And as they speak, they draw more people to them. When Doc first said “If you build it, they will come,” we assumed she meant that horses would come. Horses have come, obviously, with more always waiting in the wings, but more than that, people are coming. People who are interested in giving elder horses better lives, both in sanctuaries and at their own farms.
Is it just because we tell their stories? Or is something bigger at work? Sometimes it feels as if we – the humans managing the sanctuary – are only here to keep a foot on the gas pedal, but something larger is doing the steering. There seems to be no other explanation for some of the things that happen.
The Universe just seems to love these old horses. And who are we to argue with the Universe?