How Rescue Horses Rescued Me

Lauri Michael
Director, Brand Management, Wellness Ambassador

They say you never forget your first love. Mine was tall and muscular with big brown eyes and flowing black hair. His name was Tico, and he was a horse. I was only 10 years old then, but that first love left a lasting impression on me.

The problem with getting older is that sometimes you have to leave things you love behind. Though I was very fortunate to spend my adolescence with horses, my life moved in a different direction after college. I told myself I’d have horses again someday, but 30 years passed and I hadn't fulfilled that dream.

Like many others who find that middle age has snuck up on them, I started asking myself the characteristic mid-life crisis questions. What have I really accomplished so far? Have I made a difference to anyone or anything? Is it too late to try something new? Am I fulfilled? I realized if I could answer this last question, my other questions could ultimately be answered, too.

Though I’ve been content with my life so far, I remembered how truly blissful I felt around horses. And then, seemingly out of the blue, the perfect opportunity dropped in my lap. I found a place where I could help horses in need and use my job skills to help promote it to others. How could I say no? This special place, called Walkin’ N Circles Ranch (WNCR), turned out to be the clear answer to my “mid-life crisis.”

WNCR is a non-profit horse rescue that rehabilitates and finds loving adoptive homes for abandoned and neglected horses. I started volunteering at the ranch last year and now help care for more than 50 horses and serve as the organization’s PR/Communications team leader.

It’s impossible for me to understand animal neglect at the hands of humans, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing helpless animals suffer. But helping these horses heal and watching them learn to trust humans again is so rewarding. The transformations I’ve been so privileged to witness are nothing short of miraculous.

While I still don’t have horses of my own, I now get to interact with them regularly. I even sponsor two of my favorite rescues who get my very special attention. It feels like life has come full circle and my life’s purpose has become clear.

So why does this love story belong in a wellness blog? Because I believe living a fulfilling, balanced life with purpose is a key dimension to living well.

Ranch work is certainly physically demanding (and much more fun than a boring gym). But along with improving my physical health, my mental health is getting a workout, too. The time I spend with horses is teaching me how to be more patient, forgiving and compassionate in my relationships with others. They remind me to be calm, slow down and live in the moment. Their resiliency feeds my soul and inspires me to meet life’s challenges with a more thoughtful, positive attitude.

If you’re like me and find yourself asking how your life can be more fulfilling, I encourage you to think about what brings you joy, then find ways to incorporate that into your life. If you love to travel, learn a new language. If you have a special skill, volunteer for a nonprofit. Advocate for the needy or helpless. Rekindle a childhood passion. You get the idea.

It’s been said that “doing what you love is freedom; loving what you do is happiness.” I think we often overlook the fact that happiness is an active process, not something that comes to you by simply sitting back and waiting for it to happen.

There’s no time like the present. Find your joy. Here’s to health and happiness in 2018!

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