When I first got Pepper, I was new to horses. I’d ridden a bit, though mostly at stables. Riding was something I did for entertainment, like going to an amusement park.

My husband brought Bud into our relationship, and I caught horse fever. I know this usually happens to pre-pubescent girls, and I was far from that stage of life. Really far! But, I wanted a horse of my own.

Our farrier told us about Miss Pepper. We visited her, took a test ride and decided she was the horse for me. She was ten-years old, gentle, and used to having kids and dogs around her.

“Bomb proof,” they said.

In other words, she was just the right amount of horse for a beginner like me.

“Might be a good idea to have her spend a week or so with a trainer before you take her home, just to make sure she knows to pay attention.” This was our farrier again.

So we took his advice and trailered Pepper to the trainer for a week of horse school.

The trainer was a grizzled old cowboy who walked like he’d taken one too many spills. He was a no nonsense kind of guy – a man of few words. I was pretty sure he thought I was a lightweight, which of course, I was.

He intimidated me. I didn’t have a good feeling about him from the beginning, but I didn’t listen to my gut. After all, I was new to this business of horses. Right? And he’d been recommended. He was the expert. I was a novice.

I left my sweet, soulful mare in the hands of this man. I trusted him.

One day my husband and I dropped by to see how things were going. I was really eager to introduce Pepper to Bud and get on with our lives.  I was ready for Pepper to be finished with her training.

We found her tied up short to a post, standing alone. Blood dripped down her face from a gaping wound on her forehead. While I tried to stop the bleeding, my husband searched for the trainer.

“She’s a stubborn thing,” the cowboy said. “I’m teaching her to stand quietly.” He wasn’t concerned about the blood.

“What happened to her head?” I demanded. “Why is she bleeding?”

He shrugged. “Beats me. Must have hit her head on the post. She’s all right.” He treated our questions with disdain, like we were over-reacting.

We called our vet to meet us there to treat the wound, and that night we took Pepper home.

Her rough treatment stayed with her for many years. She was cautious, head-shy, and jumpy. I felt terrible for what we’d inflicted on her. This happy, gentle, curious mare had been traumatized and now believed that humans, especially men, would hurt her.

I’d only felt this responsible, this disappointed in people one other time.

I’d left my two and a half year old son at his daycare center. It was hard entrusting him to the care of anyone else, but I had to work. One day when I picked him up, I found him with blood smeared across his face. When I inquired what had happened, the teacher told me it was a bloody nose.

“We teach our children to be independent here,” she said. “He cleaned himself up.” She seemed so proud of what she was saying, that she completely missed the look of horror on my face. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

She sighed and crossed her arms in front of her. “When he had the bloody nose, we told him it was his responsibility to clean himself up.”

I could see tear streaks in the smears of blood on his cheek. “He’s not even three years old,” I shot back. “He’s just a baby, and I trusted you to care for him.”

That was Jeremy’s last time at that daycare.

Pepper has a lightning-shaped scar just under her forelock. I tell her she looks like Harry Potter. She just smiles her horse smile, knowing that she is magic.

Jeremy made it through his bloody nose experience, and seems to be none the worse for it.

As for me, I still trust people, because I don’t want to live a life without trust. Though these days, it’s with a tad more caution.