My horse, Panzur, and I have both found a home at Square Peg, even though at first glance, we don’t seem like square pegs at all. Unlike many of Square Peg’s horses, Panzur was never worked hard on the racetrack and then discarded to an uncertain fate at the end of his career. Instead, he has spent his life in fancy show barns, being braided, groomed, acupunctured, and trailered to shows, where he was expected to carry a series of 100-pound teenage girls around jumping courses and then fed excessive amounts of carrots by said teenage girls. While many of Square Peg’s humans spent or are currently spending their childhoods struggling to fit into a school system that doesn’t understand them, I grew up excelling in prep schools and then at Stanford University. While most Square Peg humans view riding simple figures, or even getting up on a horse, to be a challenge, I spent my childhood competing in equitation classes and captaining the Stanford polo team.
Two years ago, some of the luck Panz and I had gotten used to enjoying began to ran out. Panzur reached the end of his show career, and was too big and too rambunctious to be a school horse – I couldn’t find a place for him. Though I had always defined myself by my riding ability and by being a “horse girl”, I hurt my back and learned that I would have to stop riding permanently in order to stay healthy. The deep sadness I felt at losing access to my lifelong passion left me feeling hopeless.
Panzur and I had nowhere to turn, until we found Square Peg. At Square Peg, Panzur found a home where he isn’t just living out his days alone in a pasture, but he gets to use his unique talent for love, affection, and understanding to help people. The rambunctiousness that prevented him from finding a home is miraculously gone – it’s as if Panzur senses that he is carrying people who need to gain comfort and confidence through riding, and he humbly undertakes this important responsibility.
For me, Square Peg is a place I can go where I can feel like a “horse girl” again, even though I can’t ride. Some of the things I miss most about being around horses are things I can still do at Square Peg, like cleaning tack, organizing medicine trunks, or giving horses baths. Hanging out around the other volunteers brings back fond memories of my own days as a “barn rat”, and the accompanying sense of belonging. That’s what I think is so special about Square Peg – belonging. Autistic or not, everyone has felt like a square peg, a misfit, or an outcast. Square Peg is the one place I have found in the world where it’s impossible to feel that way, where everyone fits.