Don't Shoot the Horse

"You know, you don't throw a whole life away, just cause they're banged up a little ... "

from "Seabiscuit"

It’s an incredible juxtaposition. The beauty of the animal trained and well suited for its task. Every element of this creature is working at full capacity. Fighting for the lead and focused, the animal digs in deeper and presses its limits, risking all. Then, as quickly as the sound of the gun that started the race, SNAP! Somewhere along the track, the animal goes down. It’s a mess. It’s ugly, and by all intents and purposes, it’s over.

The animal has been hauled off the track and is being restrained and held down, so that the shot to the head will be clean, quick, and effective. Our rational to end this life is that the animal is incapable of performing its task to race … it is limited and compromised.

So, now the shooter stands over the animal and is ready to pull the trigger, when from out of the crowd, a handler walks up and calmly states: "If you're gonna shoot him anyway, I'll save you the bullet.”

To the casual observer, there's not much to witness other than a certain level of compassion ... but to the one who looks, really looks, you see something of far higher value. The handler saves the thoroughbred from being put down and begins the long process of nursing the horse back to health, and to a new life and a new purpose.

For some, we are the horse, racing through life to cross the finish line to with the intent to win. Winning can represent itself in a myriad of ways. Maybe it’s owning a home, providing for your family, keeping up with the perceptions we have built in order to impress those around us at work, at church, with the family, or around the neighborhood. Winning may even represent itself as never have made an egregious mistake, but then, while we are pressing ourselves to the limit, we go down … and down hard. SNAP!

And for some, we are the shooter. We have our words already in the chamber like a bullet, with the hammer pulled back, our criticism, slander, and gossip are ready to end the mess. Often, the shooter will hang around for good measure, just in case the horse tries to get back up and an additional bullet or two is needed. Then, he can simply move on to another unblemished horse.

For others, we are the handler. We intuitively understand that it’s through the pain and failure and then rebuilding that the horse has an

opportunity to live a completely renewed life, achieving a new purpose and value. We watch our words closely and patiently work the horse to help re-establish a sense of value and purpose.

“Will he ever race on a track again?” someone asks. “No… no … not this one,” replies the handler. “Every horse is good for something though. You know, you don't throw a whole life away, just cause they're banged up a little."

Inspired by scenes in the movie "Seabiscuit"

by Ed Apffel, Chairman, TerraMica Board of Directors