With every horse that arrives, we see grief of some sort. At minimum, it’s the confusion and angst of a sensitive creature with no idea what’s happening; and at the opposite spectrum is a being with a good idea of what happened, the awareness of the home and friends that are lost forever. Our world and our motives remain a mystery. All they have, that they hope to count on, is each other. And this isn’t possible when owned.
Today I spent a lot of time with our newest mare, an older thoroughbred, dark and beautiful. We’re calling her Holly, altho’ I doubt she cares. Her story, as related to me, is a long tale of loss. She was supposed to have been a premarin mare for most of her life, which means that she spent years and years being impregnated, birthing, and having her foal taken away, so that she could be impregnated again. This is so that her piss can be collected and used for making human drugs. The only escape would perhaps if she started miscarrying, or if she stopped getting pregnant at all. Think about this for a minute. Spending your life creating a child, and having it taken away at birth. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that any sentient being would be scarred by such treatment?
Somehow, she left this grief filled life, and went to a local horse trader. She would have been about 14 years old. She was sold, and sold again, as a riding horse. This new home was with an older woman who loved her, and I expect that for a time, she was a happy horse. She was boarded at a stable and she had a friend, another mare, and they would be taken out together. For five years, this was her life, a good life for a horse. Then her owner died. The human friend took responsibility for her, and the two mares stayed together for a time. Then they moved (while the horses cannot understand money, we do, and the money was running out to support both of them). The mares moved to a small field beside the house, and spent the summer there, being ridden bareback by the teens, grazing, being happy. Holly’s friend was a mare much older then her, and the oncoming winter proved too much, and she weakened. The vets were called, and the downed mare was determined to be at the end of her life. She was put down, a tarp covered her body. Holly was hysterical; this may be the first time in a long list of losses that she could see, and grieve. And grieve she did, laying by the body, uncovering it over and over, her dead mare friend, her only friend left. This went on for three days, while the humans made plans to bury the dead one. Another call was made, it was time for Holly to leave, and altho’ she doesn’t know telephones, it was used to contact us. With an hours’ warning, we prepared to receive this grief stricken mare, who arrived yesterday, and is now in our barn. Now my horse.
So we all have a summation of her life. Somewhere trained to ride, somehow surviving the many stresses and horrors visited upon her as a servant of man, and now she is precarious. She is filled with loss and grief and she is not young, she is not as flexible in her body or her heart. She spent her first night here in a big private stall, across from other horses, and with a window to look out on more. She did not eat or drink. She watched and she called. Today, seeing that grief was her biggest enemy, she was turned loose with the herd. It’s her only chance. It is amazing that she still has some desire to live. She was very uncertain, going around and speaking to the herd. I left her for a few hours to be a horse.
Twilight, I return. I cannot find Holly. The rest of the herd is clustered around the barn, waiting for grain, treats, attention, but not her. We take the tractor, with it’s strong beams of light, and begin searching. Why does my mind go to a downed horse in the corner, every time? My mind has been wrong each time, thankfully. Each corner of the far field was searched, no mare. So we search the other side, where the pond is, and the roadside fence. I circled on foot to the front, and down to the pond, and saw a dark, horse shaped silhouette. Holly was there. She had circled the pond, and ran out of land trying to get back into the field. She was stuck on a sliver of land, stuck against the fence, and couldn’t figure how to get free. How glad I was that I had left a halter and a blanket on her! I scrambled down the hill, speaking softly to her, and climb thru the fence. Now I am between a horse who is a stranger, and a fence. Not very bright. And it’s dark. I try and move her out, forward, because I know it’s just a hop and then we are on land again, but she is scared, and pushes into me, into the fence. Then the tractor beams find us, and I call out for help!I am pinned and stuck on the fence. Adam comes over and moves some fence and clears a path, and with the help of light, we can see. Holly understands the path now, and rushes forward, out of my hands, to the field. Two other horses have come over to watch, the two that she was speaking to earlier, and together they run off, while us more earthbound creatures slog through the rest of the mud, fixing fence lines and freeing ourselves. It’s clear as I watch Holly that she is looking for an escape. She moves beautifully. But I do not wish her to escape the field tonight. We catch her and the others and lead them back to the barn.
Tonight, Holly is staying in the stallion pen, which is a stall with an attached turnout area. She has for company the young mare Sahara, and her constant companion, the young gelding Marshall. She likes them well enough, altho she is pacing the fence, seeking a way out. If I thought she had anywhere to go, I would let her. We are her refuge. She does not understand that, she may not know what her heart is grieving anymore, which is true, at moments, for many creatures. I hope for some peace for her heart. I hope that her grief does not overwhelm her, I hope that she can find some calm here, with us. She has survived so much.