Forgiveness and Freedom

by Lori Faith Merritt

Photos by Connie Mattioda

When I was eight, one of our horses was Silver, this stout little dappled blue roan appaloosa mare. Riding her was like riding a barrel... round and almost nonexistent withers. Here shown in one of our "bubble moments" where the world disappeared but for us, when we were calm together we were REALLY calm... at peace with the world and each other and I would often lay like this on her or lay backwards with a book laid out flat on her rump and read there (of course, I did not let my parents catch me doing this so there are no pictures of that).

Formally my father's mare, I nonetheless rode her whenever I could and our desert rides were pretty wild. She was, at that time, the closest to the Mustangs that I rode in my dreams. That little mare could flat out MOVE when she felt free to do so and there were wide open expanses of sandy washes back then to run her in. A 4-H gal borrowed her sometimes to run barrels and poles and won over many much longer-legged horses.

Perhaps the first time in my life that I got really mad at an adult was when I was with the farrier, whom neither Silver nor I liked, and my parents were not home during the shoeing. Silver simply turned her head to look at him while he was working on a hoof and he back-handed her with the rasp, opening a gash no more than an inch from her eye. When I told my father, he didn't believe me until I showed him her wound. And of course the farrier said "she had it coming", so my Mom found a new farrier.

This mare taught me to not be afraid to be wild and run full out with no restrictions, the power of forgiveness (as she forgave many abuses from men), and the true peace connection with a horse could gift.

One of the best friends I ever had was this horse, Burns Bar Jay Jr. Shown here in 1980 as a two year old colt at the Pima County Fairgrounds in a 4-H show, Jay was equal parts challenge and comfort. He always seemed to know my congruent soul and was the horse he needed to be to teach me my own truths at a time when I often couldn't see those truths. I have loved many horses, yet it is this horse and one other that I most credit with getting me through years I might not have survived otherwise and in teaching me my truest self. This image was made by my Mother, Connie.

Lori Faith Merritt