As a retiree now living on the island of Cozumel, I initially assumed that my days would be spent sitting quietly while gazing out at the sea. Maybe I’d spend an afternoon snorkeling, or an evening at the movies, but, really, how much activity can one island offer? Turns out that my answer, so far, is that I’ve not even scratched the surface. This past week, for example, involved photography whilst alone, a group’s farewell to a friend, lots of local cuisine, and the introduction to a wonderful person with a heart of gold. And now, with the holiday season upon us, it looks to be a while before I do any of that sitting and gazing. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I also like to write a bit and this little piece is about that heart of gold I mentioned. It belongs to a woman by the name of Liliana and she rescues horses from those on the island who are “done with them,” or takes in the ones who’d been simply abandoned in the jungle. She brings them to her small ranch outside of town where she, and the occasional volunteer, bathes, feeds, exercises, and trains the horses to work with children with disabilities. Simply put, she’s a good woman doing a good thing.
The atmosphere was one of complete tranquility. One of the women who’d brought me out had mentioned that there was an “energy to the place,” and she was right. It wasn’t just that it was a beautiful day, there was a sense of “right thinking” to the ranch. While some of the horses were being brushed, or bathed, the others roamed freely among both us, and the other animals that Liliana has rescued. I’m not kidding when I say that horses quietly grazed among resting dogs while the resident cat just lounged in the sun. In fact, if I hadn’t heard a few of the back stories I might have thought I’d found Utopia. But, Liliana, in between brushstrokes of soapy water, told me about a few of their pasts and it made what she was doing that much more significant. Let me give you a few examples.
Chechen, the horse on your left, was aggressive when he was first brought to the ranch. His former “owners” had forced him to wear overly small “shoes” and this had caused him a great deal of pain. Apparently, they’d simply attached them and filed Chechen’s hooves down to match. Liliana compared it to a human having the base of his nails filed off to the skin, which helped me to understand, a little. Shanty, the chestnut brown horse on your right, had arrived looking like “a bag of bones.” His owners had worked him hard, but didn’t see the need to feed him well and he’d needed medical treatment to go along with a good diet. Both, I’m happy to say, are now doing much better, but I couldn’t help but see the pain and frustration in Liliana’s eyes while she talked about their former lives. It was clear just how much she cared.
I spent the next hour, or so, walking about with my camera taking shots of not just the horses, but the stables, the arena where they worked with the children, and the grounds in general. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Although I’m a usually a bit nervous around horses, especially when they roam free, these guys were calming. Although I do have to mention that one of them, Whisper, took a liking to me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. As I was taking his picture he just kept coming towards me. I told him he was too close, repeatedly, but he didn’t seem to care and I’d forgotten the “safe word.” Still, it was all in a day of his new life and I emerged unharmed, albeit a bit embarrassed. He just laid down and lolled in the grass.
Fairly soon afterwards it was time to go. Hugs and kisses were shared all around while Lilliana showed her gratitude for the help. A stroke here, a pat there and we said our last goodbyes and left the ranch. It was yet another great day. And I’m glad you came along, salud!
p.s. Liliana can be seen in the photo bathing Chechen while Lisa, a volunteer, is pictured walking Whisper down the path to the arena, as well as exercising Siddhartha in the arena itself…………………also, please keep an eye out for a website that will be coming soon with information about all the horses and what you can do to help!