Finding Strength in Compassion

The posture was evident from the moment the young man arrived at Hooves with Heart.   He knew how to be with the horses and no one could tell him differently.  As a newcomer, staff tried to explain that he needed to respect the barn rules. The rules were there to keep him and the horses safe.

One morning during a class, the young man left on an errand.  When he returned, instead of entering the arena properly through the gate, he vaulted over the wall and landed abruptly next to a horse. Immediately, the instructor told the youth, “WHOA, that horse thinks you are a mountain lion.”  From his expression, it was clear he knew he’d made a mistake. But he was not about to admit it, even as staff explained an accident had been barely averted.  Angry, he left the arena.

It’s not about me

A few hours later, a noticeable attitude shift was witnessed in this youth.  A volunteer found him gazing at the horses herded together in the rain.  The youth was greatly concerned for the horse’s well-being.  “Why do they have to stand out in the rain?” he asked.  “They’re getting all wet.”  The volunteer pointed out that shelters were available yet they chose to stand in the rain.  The young man shrugged but remained concerned.

Later back home at YouthCare’s Catalyst Straley House, he shared his experience with his peers and the organization’s program director John Rumph.  He had seen firsthand why it was important to know when to put the needs of the horses, and in turn others, above his own.  He had found his compassionate voice.  One that could express concern and compassion for the horses, without appearing weak to others.  For the remainder of the program, this youth became a powerful advocate for placing animals and others first before his needs, at the barn and in his Seattle YouthCare residence. Two important life lessons revealed in a single day.

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