Frodo was bred to race. Frodo, however, amiably declined.
A large, gray, beautiful Thoroughbred, Frodo simply refused to conform to the life of a racehorse. He just didn’t have the heart for it. Instead, his heart was much more inclined toward building relationships. Rather than compete, he preferred to socialize. Rather than train for the opportunity to stand grandly inside a winner’s circle, he inherently walked gently around in the corners of people’s souls.
Frodo was one of the lucky ones. His people recognized – and honored – his personality and inclinations. They retired him from the racetrack early in his career. And they brought him to Aiken Equine Rescue. Here, they believed, he would find a more compatible way of life – adopted out to be a beloved companion animal or perhaps retrained as an eventer or hunter jumper.
But once on the Aiken Equine Rescue farm, Frodo immediately caught the eye of the staff and volunteers – especially those who are involved with the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation and the Aiken branch of the program, which is conducted at this facility.
It is important to know that the Saratoga WarHorse program is an equine-based, peer-to-peer, military veterans program that addresses the unseen wounds of war. And Aiken is the only location outside Saratoga Springs where this program can be experienced – due to the amazing generosity of Aiken Equine Rescue and the openly collaborative relationship between these two separate, nonprofit organizations. For several years now, both programs have held a strong place in my own heart.
I had heard about Frodo and his remarkable work for this incomparable program at Aiken Equine Rescue. But when I saw him – was privileged to watch him during a session with the veterans – I felt his energy of healing and compassion and human connection from even yards away. And I found myself forgetting to breath.
Frodo is a healer without discrimination: men as well as women, veterans of combat and those with wounds sustained away from the battlefield, those freshly damaged along with those who have suffered far too long. He instinctively understands the pain and brokenness. He does not judge. He teaches and instills forgiveness. He trades fear for understanding, replaces isolation with compassion. He enables comfort to become spirit-driven renewal. To look into Frodo’s eyes is to witness the truth of empathy.
There is a line in Albert Camus’ book “The Plague” that aligns so greatly with Frodo’s life that it is hard to believe it was written almost 70 years and a “plague” of wars ago. With slight paraphrasing:
I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment, I know this: there are hurting people and they need healing.
I have no idea what’s awaiting Frodo or what will happen when his time with the program ends. For the moment, I know this: his power of compassion and understanding and breakthrough relief is directed at those who need him the most. And Frodo, the racehorse-turned-war horse, is passionately devoted to something he could never have been bred for – but to which he was unquestionably born.
Marti Healy is a local writer, author of the books “The God-Dog Connection,” “The Rhythm of Selby,” “The Secret Child,” “Yes, Barbara, There Is An Aiken” and “The Childornot Tales.”