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Me Trust? Neigh!

by Lady Karina Benish 10 months ago in horse

Saving Hawkeye From Abuse

Hawkey: AKA Beastie

He was the ugliest male I had ever seen in my life. He had a bloody wound on his nose, hair six inches long on his chest, and he weighed about 700-800 pounds (about 400 pounds shy of his best weight). His name is Hawkeye and he has been my partner for 14+ years now. Hawkeye (or Beastie as he is sometimes called) is a mustang horse and he has taught me what it is to trust.

Horses, in my opinion, given good care and a little attention, are high up in Maslow’s hierarchy. Since everything they need is provided for them, it is easy to achieve the self-actualization level, if you’re a horse. Not so for me! It took me 12 + years to “get it”!

When I met Hawkeye, none of his basic needs were met. He was standing in two feet of manure, starving, and wounded. The only good thing in his life was a companion in the form of a burro. I had no idea that this epitome of ugliness would teach me some of the really meaningful things in life like:

•Running, kicking up your heels, and being wild just because it’s fun, is a good thing to do. Regularly

• Greet your friends with a hearty bellow every morning because you are happy to be alive

• Stand still as long as you need to while your friend cries on your shoulder

I found Hawkeye through a friend of mine who knew I was looking for a horse. She knew I could handle just about anything and the horse was free. It was raining when I went out to see him. I stayed twenty minutes, only long enough to satisfy courtesy. My friend and I came back the next day to take him away from his situation.

Hawkeye, Bugs, and Dancer of the Unending Night ALL were rescues, ALL were wild horses

The previous owners had beaten him, starved him emotionally and physically, and couldn’t be bothered to show up to see him go to his new home. Yet the horse would come within two feet of me and nod his head as if to say, “Yes, this is right.” Despite having been in captivity for over four years, Hawkeye could not be ridden. He was seven years old when I took him home.

•Day one: Hawkeye and I spent time getting to know each other and his new surroundings. He seemed pretty calm considering his world had just been turned upside down

•Day two was the saddle, just the saddle

•Day three: Well, I was scared, he was terrified, but I managed to hop around on one foot long enough to stick my other foot in the stirrup and swing myself into the saddle. I got off after thirty seconds.

•Day four: The day he started to trust me. I didn’t know it, but this was the first day of school for me.

After moving back to California, we had to remove a downed tree (high winds) and the stump

Over the weeks, as we learned about each other, Hawkeye let me know that lots of things were too much for him to handle. Movement in the saddle was really scary, and the western way of loose reins didn’t give him enough security to move forward freely. To better aid him, I took up English riding (there is more contact with the horse through the bit and the rider’s legs). I thought I was doing it for him. Ha! He was teaching me cooperation, patience, and perseverance. Essentially, we learned how to communicate. I learned that asking is far better than telling, he learned that food, water, and a good scratch would always be provided. Time passed.

One day, I went to ride Hawkeye and we couldn’t communicate. He was horrible and I wasn’t any better. There were many epithets issued on both our parts (his in the form of trying to remove me from his back). It took three weeks for us to realize:

•No matter how bad it gets, the other will always be there

•Sometimes, you need to take a break and leave each other alone

•Little things done for the other are important, especially when you disagree

•It doesn’t matter what others think, nor does their advise work. In most cases, you have to listen to each other

This was in Texas. We moved there when he was about 12

I was angry with Hawkeye and I wasn’t listening to him. He was trying to tell me he was afraid, that things were going too fast. When I backed off and we spent time just being in each other’s company instead of competing for who was in control, a whole world opened up. He knew then that I wouldn’t hurt him, ever. His trust was complete. I started to become a beautiful person.

Four or five years passed before I realized that I must work with Hawkeye for his trust. I beat myself up a lot at first. I didn’t understand that trust comes from both partners in a relationship. I still had a long way to go. Slowly, very slowly, Hawkeye taught me to trust, and with trust comes love.

I started trying to find things that Hawkeye liked to do. We tried three-day eventing. He loved it; I was inept at the jumping. We tried just the dressage part, I loved it, he hated it. I insisted, he blew up, life was awful. I put him in a pasture for a while, I missed him terribly and he was very happy with the other horses. Once again, I failed to communicate. I moved him to another stable and we started trail riding. It was great as long as it was just the two of us, but add another horse and he got nervous. Occasionally, I took him in a horse show, he hated it, and I wasn’t thrilled.

We moved back to California from Texas a couple of years ago. Hawkeye had me pretty well trained by that time. I knew to ask him to do something, he let me know if I was on the right track. We tried driving (a cart). Both of us loved it. We tried dressage again in moderation (about once a month), it’s OK. We started endurance riding and we both get a thrill out of it. In October, 1998 we tried to go one hundred miles in a twenty-four hour period. We made it to the fifty-one mile mark in six hours and five minutes ride time. When we got there, both of us were tired. I could have asked him to continue on and he would have, because I asked. He trusted me. I pulled him from the race and took him home.

Soon after putting him to bed, I realized that he has been the most inspirational teacher I have ever had. Every time we had a disagreement, I learned something. Every new thing we tried allowed me to grow as a person, to understand not only him, but also myself and others I care about. Most of all, he taught me that trust is the most important thing of all and the greatest gift any living thing can give to another.

Trust is having faith that your world will be safe and secure no matter what horrible or beautiful events occur to upset the balance....

•Trust is believing that your partner is acting (to the best of his/her ability) in your best interests

•Trust is giving your soul to another being, no questions asked

I have become a rather spiritual person over the last few years, and I entreat the powers involved to allow Hawkeye to continue to be my teacher for another 21+ years or so. In spite of all he has been able to teach me, I still have a lot to learn and I am not yet ready to conquer my inadequacies without his help. If Hawkeye could read (sometimes I think he can read my mind), well, let’s make believe…..

Thank you Hawkeye for being my friend through the joy and sorrow. I hope you have found peace in living with me all these years, for you have most assuredly given peace to me.


On January 17th, 1999 I was riding my other horse and leading Hawkeye. Hawk had just turned 22. We had an equipment failure and he decided to go home without me. He turned back to look at me and threw his head and tail in the air and took off down a trail we had never been before.

I found him 5 minutes later at the bottom of a twenty-foot ravine. Nature decided Hawkeye had been my teacher long enough. He ended his life as he came into the world, wild and free. I miss my friend very much. I hope he will wait for me until I have learned all I am supposed to learn. I am looking forward to that reunion.


Lady Karina Benish

An American lass living in Scotland. I'm a regular competitor in the Highland Games who has met, shaken the hand of, and conversed with Prince Charles! My passion includes singing all over Scotland, a keen artist actor, poet, and writer.

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