It was a dark, icy day in December when I went to the riding center to shovel poop for a few hours. It was my second tour of poop duty and the task was simple, except for the slippery skim of ice across the pastures. Pull a sled, fill with poop, dump onto poop pile, repeat.
"You can work with Ezekiel today," I was told. I followed the pointing finger to a field with a person in it who was working without stopping, puffing frosty breath into the still air. My thrift store snow pants whisked noisily as I made my way to the field, stealthily squeezing my puffy outfit between the barbed wires without getting snagged.
"Hey! Ezekiel?" I shouted and my voice rang loud and clear. The person stopped scooping and looked up, showing red cheeks and a big smile, black toque on his head. We approached one another.
The field was flat with clumps of small, bare, woody trees. Horses stood peacefully around us, their coats thick and warm, their hot breath visible. Every crunch of snow beneath our boots cracked the silence. The air smelled of snow and horses.
"I'm working with you today!" We shook mittens. Ezekiel's blue eyes were kind and spirited. He bent immediately back to the task at hand. He was small but powerful. I watched his strong legs moving swiftly as we hauled the loaded sled to the dumping section. It didn't take long before the young man started talking.
He told me he had been working for KTRA for six months. He had arrived at the center with a horse, Talus, whom he had rescued from a dire situation. His life was unsettled in all kinds of ways, but he and his horse had found a place at the center, for which he was incredibly grateful.
Talus had been through a rough experience, and so had Ezekiel. Both were in need of healing. Both human and horse found exercise, fresh air, and a loving atmosphere at KTRA.
"It helps to be outside working hard", he told me, a horse nosing his hand looking for treats. He reached up and scratched the horse behind its ears; they touched noses. I had given up trying to remember all of the horse's names, but Ezekiel knew them.
"This one is Trigger!" A big smile spread across his face.
Ezekiel told me fascinating stories about his wife, and his personal journey with gender identification. He and his wife joined me in making a CBC radio clip about their story. You can hear it at: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/daybreak-kamloops/episode/15528347
Talus' harrowing story will be featured in an upcoming blog!
You can meet Ezekiel and Talus at Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Center!