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Horses who help people in miraculous ways often build strong bonds of trust with the humans they serve. I'm always impressed when I see the depth of understanding that takes place between disabled people and their therapy horses, or between mounted police officers and their horses.

I'm all the more impressed when I consider how a lack of trust between a horse and me once contributed to a frustrating but funny trail ride. On vacation in Hawaii years ago, my sister Courtney (an accomplished equestrian with years of riding experience) and me (a novice) joined a trail ride for tourists through a lush, wild landscape on the Big Island. Courtney and the others all took command of their horses in loving yet firm ways, projecting confidence. I, however, was more than a bit scared -- and my horse must have sensed it.

So when the other horses trotted, mine stopped and looked around. When the other horses crossed streams, mine balked at the idea of setting so much as one hoof in the water. When the other horses gathered in a group behind our tour guide so their riders could hear the guide well, mine wandered off with me aboard, going far off the trail until he found a guava and then proceeding to eat the whole fruit while I tried to talk him into re-joining our group.

The experience taught me about the importance of building trust with an animal before asking it to serve. So I take my city slicker cowgirl hat off to people who have close bonds with horses. When bonds of trust exist in relationships between horses and humans, miracles can happen.

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