Edo Potter built her life on Chap paquiddick around horses. She was a true equestrian, working with horses as a young girl on Pimpneymouse Farm, and continued to train young horses late into life. As a teenager, I worked as a farm hand for her, while living on the farm. For multiple summers, I mowed lawns, maintained the gardens, planted trees, fixed fences and helped take care of the animals. The work brought me joy. Edo and her husband, Bob Potter, were my teachers as well as the many stewards of the land, including Ralph Harding, Zing and Mary Tyler, Nelson Jones, Kevin Keady and Martin Hall.

We cared for the land while appreciating its beauty. The horse was central to the farm. Before my time, the horses worked the fields. There was Big Bill, a huge, gentle gelding imported from Woods Hole. In Edo’s phenomenal memoir, The Last Farm on Chappaquiddick, she wrote that after purchasing Big Bill with her father, she had to walk Big Bill onto the ferry Nobska, walk to Edgartown and then cross the Chappy Ferry with her big new friend, as a nine-year old girl!

By my time as a summer employee, there were no working horses on the farm. The horses were used for recreational riding. I studied them in the fields as I drove around the farm doing my chores but never learned how to ride them. After I left the island to go live out West, I forgot about the horses, but my experiences at Pimpneymouse never left me.

When you wear the world like a loose garment, sometimes surprises happen. In my 40s, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center. Now, I am a therapeutic horse riding instructor working with children who are autistic. I wish Edo was still around so I could ask her all my questions about horses. Yet, the images of her with her horses are vivid in my mind. I can see her lunging her young horses in a round pen, riding solo on the land bank trails that she worked so hard to protect, and grooming her horses before going to a demo at the Agricultural Fair. She did it all. As a city kid and the son of an immigrant, struggling with my identity, I felt the horses accepted me without any filters. They did not buy into my story of identity. Today, I share this principle first and foremost with the children in my work. The horse sees beyond the diagnosis, the titles, the material wealth or the lack of wealth, and the stories that we create. They see inside a person.

Children who are autistic often have a deep sensitivity. I call many of my students “truth tellers.” Equines have their own unique gifts. They are curious, playful, adaptable and have a willingness to be cared for. The child sees the horse for who they are. This partnership is the foundation for equine therapy. The horses are the great equalizers in a world of separation.

Edo found peace, the same as I do, and the same as many students who I work with. The horse can change our perception when we cannot see. They have emotional intelligence and read our body language while sensing how we feel. They appreciate being given a task that honors their abilities.

In Edo’s book, she writes about a horse named Dolly. The owner, Bill Handy, delivered groceries with Dolly pulling a buggy. Bill often would pass out from drinking too much alcohol while on his delivery route. Dolly knew her job and would continue making the journey to each house, finally returning to the barn and waiting for Bill to wake.

Like Dolly, therapy horses know their job. Many will change their behavior when they work with children who need support. My job as an equine therapist is to let the horse be the teacher while I assist students and make the session fun and safe, either mounted or unmounted.

With the recent news of the preservation of Pimpneymouse Farm thanks to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, it is a reminder of the importance of continuing the legacy of horses on the island. Having a place for horses and children to connect, like young Edo experienced, continues the legacy of working horses. Although horses are no longer plowing the fields and delivering groceries, they have a much more important role.

The horses’ new job, as teachers for us, is to bring us back to being humans. We are all in this together, no matter what our backgrounds or personal struggles. Through partnership, as demonstrated in equine therapy, anything is possible.

Camron Adibi lives in Topsfield and summers on Chappaquiddick, where his family has owned a home since the early 1970s. He is an equestrian, PATH Therapeutic Horse Riding Instructor and autism coach.