My friend Dawn loaned me a copy of Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards. Damn! It’s one of those can’t-put-it-down books! I sat up very late on Friday night and read and read until I got to the end. And yes, I was tearing up and snuffling a bit.
An abused animal walks into Susan’s life in a way she didn’t control or expect. Susan was responding to a plea from her local SPCA to take in one of several confiscated animals and wound up with Lay Me Down, an emaciated mare in the company of possibly the world’s meanest foal. Through the help of horse-savy friends and her own expertise, Susan returns the mare to health (the foal was given to a vet per judge’s orders and Susan and her conferederates considered stealing it — but off it went).
In the meantime, Susan learns tons about herself. Yes, she’d been on the road to self-discovery for many years and Lay Me Down was not her first horse. Her first horse was a “gift” from an insane relative — an out-of-control pony. Susan was five and when the relative handed her the lead rope and said, “Her name is Bunty,” leaving the child “alone with a chain saw.” Susan’s had horses her whole life since then so is no stranger to them and their dangers and their healings. But Lay Me Down seems to have brought Susan across the last hurdle into that club we all yearn to join, the Club of the Fully Human.
I am amazed at Susan’s self-revelations. She’s unsparing in describing her childhood, a twisted mixture of priviledge and complete torment, and yet she never lets herself off the hook by blaming others. On the other hand, the picture of the total weirdness of her family is full of OMG! moments so yeah, they deserve some blame. But Susan takes the responsibility squarely on herself for her own actions.
Enter Lay Me Down. Lay Me Down is sweet. Caring. Gentle. Ful of love and full of patience. Lay Me Down is battered by Susan’s alpha mare Georgia, but first loved by the gelding Hotshot. Lay Me Down gets healthy and puts on weight. She’ll never be ridden or worked because she’s so lame, but she’s warming Susan up inside. Lay Me Down warmed me up inside too.
But it’s bittersweet. Lay Me Down is not long for this world. Susan is faced with a hard choice for which there is no right or wrong answer. She makes her decision when it has to be made and she does the best she can — and probably the right thing, to boot. The moment of the greatest sorrow provides her with release from the central issue of childhood and also the greatest moment of hope.
On a side note, if it takes a village to raise a child, then it also takes a herd of people to help a horse. In all of this, Susan is aided by her healer pal Allie, a variety of vets, a trailer-driving couple, and finally, the man who digs the hole.
It’s a good book. Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards.