Today is an interesting anniversary. Ten years ago, I had a serious fall from my horse, Farletta. I was thirty-one. I broke seven ribs, tore my right hip flexor, damaged my left rotator cuff, nearly fractured my left shoulder blade, and partially collapsed my left lung (actually, the impact of fall was so hard it blew a small hole in my lung). It was kind of a big deal. I spent the night in the hospital and the next few months in my recliner, unable to lie down, to drive, or return to work at the horse farm where I’d been employed for the past couple years.
For the first couple years I rode a lot. I showed Farletta in dressage and we were fairly successful, unless you count the part where I turned into to a panic-stricken, crying, shaking wreck every time I went to mount her. I suppose it’s all in how you define success.
I also had a lot of riding (or more accurately, mounting) rules then. My tack had to be adjusted just so. Farletta had to be exactly in the right spot. The mounting block couldn’t be too high or too low. The stirrups had to be just right. A change in saddle pad, girth, or reins would fill me with fear and trepidation. With every passing month, my obsession with having everything exactly right increased. My pre-mounting ritual negatively impacted my horse, increasing her anxiety, which exponentially increased my own.
Within three years of the accident, I’d gained nearly 100 pounds. Where once I rode 5-6 times a week, I barely rode that often in a month. By the fifth year or so, I was riding maybe 20 times a year. Then, one day I just stopped. For over a year, I didn’t ride Farletta or any other horse, not once. How had it slipped away so easily? How did something that at one time practically defined me turn into something that paralyzed me with fear? I gained even more weight. I missed the person I believed I once was. A rider. A horseman. What was I now? Who was I now?
A month shy of the eight-year anniversary of my fall from Farletta, and more than 14 months since I’d last been on a horse, I stood on the tailgate of my truck, holding my breath and trying not to cry. Farletta stood quietly next to the tailgate, saddled and bridled, waiting for me to decide what to do. I’d been here before in recent months and given up. Apprehensively, I swung a leg over the saddle, withdrew it, then swung it over again. Farletta shifted her weight and worked her bit in her mouth, she was getting nervous. I pulled my leg back again. Stroking Farletta’s neck, I told her what a good girl she is. I thanked her for her patience, not just now, but for the past eight years. Tears welled up in my eyes. I prayed. I swung my leg over the saddle, and slid on.
I still don’t ride like I used to, rides are short, not very challenging; they are calm, satisfying. I still struggle with nerves when it’s time to climb aboard. But much has changed. I’ve worked hard on myself, uncovering, processing, and healing from the events of my past that, while seemingly unrelated to my riding, very nearly robbed my of it forever. I’m still not back to my pre-accident weight but I’ve lost nearly sixty pounds. I’m taking yoga. I feel strong again, capable again, empowered.
Farletta is fourteen now, and I’m thirty-eleven (ha-ha). I trust her. I know she did not then, and would not now deliberately hurt me. But it’s me I still need to learn to fully trust. Trust in my ability to evaluate a situation, to read people, to keep myself safe. It’s all intertwined. I think my biggest mistake was my belief that one part of my life was not affected by another. I am, after all, one person. What happened in my past is part of me, part of the story that makes up who I am. And it is through the lens of that story that I view my life today. We all do this, whether we are aware of it or not. The secret is to sift out truth from all the lies we tell ourselves (I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve this, I have no value) and the lies that others have told us (you’re stupid, you’re not worthy, no one will believe you).
It’s hard work, sifting out those truths from among all those lies but I’m going to keep working at it. You can too. Let’s do it together. We’re worth it.
"One hoof in front of the other, slow and steady, the little mare struggles up the steep grade. Her amber coat drenched in sweat, white lather foaming wherever leather touched her body....the rock-strewn path explodes before her..."
You know that “What if fall... but oh darling what if you fly” quote that’s been floating around the internet? At times that quote felt inspirational but as of late it’s been annoying the hell out of me.
One thing I learned somewhere along the path of through social work school and becoming an equine assisted therapy facilitator is to be aware when something bothers me and ask myself why. This allows me to look inside myself and figure out the true source of my anger/fear/frustration and deal with it accordingly. I have found this to be an invaluable tool in my personal development…it means no longer being a victim of my emotions but instead learning from them.
Full disclosure here…there are times I am fully aware I need to explore a reaction to figure out what is really going on but I purposely avoid it because, let’s face it…being honest with yourself and figuring out your truths is both difficult and scary. Also, having the answers means you have to do something about it which is often even more difficult and downright terrifying.
In addition to my recent annoyance with the “what if you fly” quote, I have been struggling in two other areas of my life and sure enough, when I think on it, all three appear to be related. I’m going to share these struggles with you for two reasons: 1) I hope putting this out there will help me move forward; and 2) I believe it could potentially help you as well.
So, here goes:
I haven’t ridden my horse in months which is both shocking and sad to me. I have a variety of excuses, some of which are at least semi-valid. The primary two being lack of time during foaling season (January-June = if it doesn’t happen in the foaling barn, it doesn’t happen to me) and the fact I have no saddle that fits my horse. It is well past June now and I have plenty of time to ride Farletta. I still am saddleless though.
don’t need a saddle to ride but I also haven’t ridden bareback since before the serious fall I had from Farletta in 2007. I have come close on a few occasions to talking myself into trying bareback again. I even recently took a picture of Farletta as I stood on the tailgate of my truck in mounting position with the lyrics “wishing and hoping and planning and praying…” running through my head.
I still haven’t been on her (What if I fall?).
What if I fall indeed. Lots of people fall off their horse. I have on several occasions. Usually it is no big deal. You dust of your pants and your pride and get back in the saddle. In the morning, you wake up a little stiff and sore but hey, that’s life, right? The key word here is usually. When I fell off Farletta in 2007 I broke 7 ribs, partially collapsed one lung, tore my hip flexor and damaged my rotator cuff (OUCH!). It’s not so much a question of what if I fall but more, what if I fall like that again. It terrifies me and as a result, I’m stuck, hovering above my horse’s waiting, willing back; unable to make a move.
As I continue to grapple with this riding problem I see a very definite parallel in another area of my life – my memoir. I’ve been working on it for a few years. I want to publish it someday soon (like last summer) but for some reason I keep getting stuck. I have been very close to putting out the proposal to publishers but I somehow can’t seem to find the time or motivation to do the hour or two of polishing the proposal needs to be ready to go. Why is that?
In both situations, fear is blocking me. With Farletta and riding bareback (currently my only riding option) it is fear of falling. I suppose it is the same with the memoir…I pour may heart and soul and a few deep, dark secrets into the pages of my memoir and send it out there only to receive rejection letters (you suck, don’t quit your day job, by the way…your life is bizarre…have you considered taking up residence in a psych ward?).
So there it is, all laid out. Fear. Fear of failure, fear of getting hurt. Normal, right? Now I know and I am better prepared to move forward because of my awareness. I challenge you to look the things in your life that aren’t serving you (What makes you angry? What are you avoiding? Why are you procrastinating?) and make an honest, personal evaluation. Ask yourself “Why does this make me so angry?” (hint: the answer is not as simple as “because it’s stupid” or something similar -- ask yourself why you feel that way, the deeper you go, the more you learn).
Now I think I’ll go talk to Farletta about going for a little ride. I think if I can move past that, perhaps I can also move forward on the book proposal. I might fall but more likely than not, if I keep at it, eventually I’ll fly.
As I read through some of the FB comments on a news story the other day (yes, I know, I should never read the comments on a subject I care about) I almost responded to one of them with one of my mom’s Mom-isms (Two wrongs don’t make a right!) and in that moment I realized two things: 1. Mom’s Mom-isms have been subconsciously influencing me for the better part of four decades; and 2. She apparently was making a good point even if they were painfully annoying when I was a kid.
I have kids of the four-legged variety – a dog and a horse. Neither care about Mom’s Mom-isms but the more time I spend with them the more I realize they have life figured out way better than I do. Not having two-leggers running around the house has not stopped me from having an opinion on how some others have been raised. After some of the thoughtless, hurtful, and shameful crap I’ve seen posted by kids (if you're under 25 you’re a kid to me…don’t get snarky…it will happen to you too) and adults alike I think perhaps everyone should hear Mom’s Mom-isms:
Two wrongs don’t make a right…
I hated hearing this as a kid, it completely deflated the best excuse I had for fighting with my sister: “BUT SHE STARTED IT!” Two wrongs don’t make a right…it’s not an easy one to follow. Our go-to response when someone wrongs us is to “get back” at them. What if we put as much effort into getting along as we did into thinking up good comebacks or tearing people down who don’t fit into our world view? The truth is revenge in any form doesn’t change a behavior -- it doesn't actually fix anything. Sure, you may get a little gratification from hurting someone as they’ve hurt you but, well…two wrongs don’t make a right.
…but three rights make a left
OK, this second part is technically a funny-ha-ha statement that in recent years my mom has enjoyed adding to the previous Mom-ism. However, it does bring me to another important lesson. Mom taught me to always make a left turns onto busy road where there is a light to stop the traffic. (if possible). Usually there are several driveways leading to and from your typical mall or mega-store. Some of the drives have a light, others just a stop sign. Please, just go to the light! This is really good advice. Take a couple seconds to go down to the exit or the intersection with the light, avoid an accident, save a life, make mom happy!
You is plural!
This was usually preceded by me or my sister saying: “It wasn’t just me! She started it! She did it too!” or some other variation of the blame-game. You is plural is a reminder that you can mean me or it can mean me and my sister or it can mean all of you reading this or it can me that whole group of people over there watching you through the window (as in “Hey You! Stop watching me!). The takeaway? Calm down, not everything is about you (that is singular you in this case) or only you (still singular).
You can’t make blanket statements.
At first this may seem to go against the You is plural Mom-ism but it doesn’t really. Where “you is plural” is telling us the world doesn’t revolve around your own little self-centered universe, “you can’t make blanket statements is a warning to not generalize. Of course, technically you can make a blanket statement but you come off sounding like an uneducated jerk who has never seen anything outside your own world. This is especially good advice in light of current events…let me give you a few examples to think about: all Muslims are not terrorists, all Christians are not like the Westboro Baptist Church, all white people aren’t racist, all black people aren’t criminals… Get the picture? Remember how the world doesn’t revolve around you? Well, you also can’t view the lives of others through the lens of your own experience.
It takes two to have an argument!
Variation: It takes two to fight. This goes along the same line as two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s near impossible to have a fight with only one participant. Be a peace maker or walk away…does fighting really solve anything? Now, this doesn't mean you can't have or express an opinion (so don't comment about your right to your own opinion or how that Duck Dynasty guy can say whatever he wants, that is not the point). It is good to have and express an opinion but it is possible to do it respectfully.
For example: I see someone wearing a red shirt with yellow, green and purple polka dots all over it. Someone asks how I feel about his shirt? Should I say: a) OH YUCK! What an ugly shirt! How can you wear that shirt it is so tacky! What is wrong with you! Seriously, WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. YOU? No one I hang out with would EVER wear a shirt like that! b) Not really my thing but I like how bright your smile is. Let's go get lunch!
If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?
I really hate this one. Teenage me saw it as an attack on my intelligence…of course I wouldn’t jump of a bridge, that’s stupid! I would only do something someone else did if I also thought it was a good idea. What took me years to understand is I needed to put a little more thought into my reasoning. If I have a valid reason for saying, doing, or wanting something, I need to express it. If I don’t, perhaps I should think about it a little more.
Corn is a starch not a vegetable!
“Go downstairs and pick a vegetable for dinner,” instructs mom. Every kid’s favorite “vegetable?” Corn of course! Who wants peas or spinach when you can have corn! Except corn is grain (starch) which puts it in the same class as bread…it is yet another clever disguise for the dreaded and often misunderstood carbohydrate. Potatoes are also a starch. Sorry for the bad news.
I want a super rare, glossy, gold charm running foal! Easy-peasy…if you’ve got the cash, you can find the horse! Start with Ebay…if you can’t find one there you could try the Model Horse Sales Pages, make a posting on one of dozens of dedicated Facebook pages, or message boards, or chat rooms (do they still have those?), or maybe even Craigslist. It might take you a couple hours, or worse, a couple days, but you’ll find that elusive plastic treasure...it’s almost a guarantee. But wait…we didn’t have any of those things in 1989. The internet as we know it today existed only in the imaginations of people who are now much richer than I’ll ever be. Those of you who are children of the 1980s and earlier know what I’m getting at…the internet has changed the face of Breyer horse collecting forever. It has influenced values, changed our perceptions of what is truly rare, and produced an entire generation of kids and young adults who have no idea what an LSASE is.
I received my first Breyer for my 11th birthday in 1987, a gift which started a life-long fascination with and at times inexplicable desire to purchase and prominently display horse-shaped hunks of plastic. I had a favorite store I purchased the bulk of my early collection from; an IGA/Ben Franklin store that had an entire back wall filled with glorious horse formed from hard, odoriferous, tenite plastic! I’d happily plunk down two weeks of hard-earned allowance to take home one more horse to add to my slowly growing collection.
Part of the exhilaration of getting a new model horse was the catalog that came in the box. I’d pore over the catalog circling each horse I wanted and hoping against hope than the elusive Appaloosa yearling (I was going to name Sandy) or dapple grey Proud Arabian Stallion would be at the IGA the next time I was there (they never were).
The catalogs introduced me to models I’d never seen before. Occasionally, I’d find a discontinued model still on the store shelf. With trembling fingers I’d grab the rarity and hold it close, protecting it from the imaginary prying, covetous eyes of fellow shoppers. In my young mind finding new in box models with catalogs as far back as 1984 was like finding a rare antique in a flea market. The “old” catalogs were a highly prized part of my collection.
As a subscriber to Just About Horses, the Breyer model horse publication, I learned of rare and unusual models from the prehistoric era of the 1960s. They were called “Woodgrains” and “Decorators,” there was the “Old Mold” Proud Arabian Mare and various Special Runs of decades gone by. These elusive models seemed far beyond my reach…they were so rare, how could I ever hope to own one? I dreamed of walking into an antique store some day and finding one of these priceless plastic horses…even to see or, (dare to dream!) touch it would be an honor beyond imagination.
The pre-internet era search started in the classified section of JAH magazine. There were dozens of tiny classified ads with lists of model numbers for sale. No prices, no descriptions aside from the 1-4 rating scale many collectors used. Some ads simply said “Entire collection dispersal. Send LSASE for list” followed by an address. Those ads were my favorite, to get a list of models for sale in the mail was like stumbling into a secret store with a nearly inexhaustible supply of never-before-seen models!
Box catalogs in hand, I scoured the sales lists for the models I was looking for. If I found one I liked I could call and ask if it was still available (if a phone number was given), or I would write down the model I wanted on a piece of paper, put it and a check for the correct amount into an envelope, stick it in the mail and hope that the model would show up on my doorstep in a few weeks’ time. Sometimes, the check would come back with a note explaining the model had been sold. Luckily, I never ran across a dishonest seller who simply cashed my check without sending a model.
On some of the lists I received I found some of those rare models from yesteryear with exorbitant prices due to their extreme scarcity:
Woodgrain FAS +3 (few rubs) $350
Gold Florentine Running Foal +2 (chipped ear, rubs) $2500
1990 Commemorative Edition (like new) $1500
I could only dream of such riches to add to my collection! Some of you may be eyeing those prices and wondering what happened? How could anyone ask those prices? Especially 25 years ago?
Enter: the internet
Yes, the internet. Ebay taught us that our uber-rare models were not as rare as we thought they were. As soon as the Woodgrains hit Ebay and sold for hundreds of dollars each, dozens more came out of the wood work (pardon the pun) – supply soon surpassed demand and drove the prices down to never before seen lows! I got mine in 2002 for $25.
There are a surprising number of Old Mold Proud Arabian Mares hanging around the internet. Not nearly as common as a Woodgrain Family Arabian Stallion but still possible to get the most common, the glossy Alabaster, for an affordable $50-$60, less if you’re not too picky on condition.
The “ultra-valuable” Limited and Commemorative Editions? Yup…nope. You can’t even get your money back out of those anymore. I’d seen the 1987 Limited Edition “Precipitado Sin Par” on a sales list for over $100 and therefore was tickled pink paisley plaid when I found the same model still on a store shelf in 1989 and snatched it up for a measly (but expensive for the time) $24. That Commemorative Edition ASB weanling from 1990? I saw that on a sales list for $1500 in the early 1990s. Picked it up at Breyerfest a few years ago for $20.
Among my most prized models were the special runs from the Sears holiday catalog. My 12-year-old self is still exceedingly disappointed to see they are worth less now than Mom paid for them as Christmas gifts 25 years ago. Alas…life goes on.
There are some rarities that still are, well, rare. The Decorators still command high prices…turns out they really are rare. A mid 1990s collector’s guide listed the glossy Appaloosa Proud Arabian Mare as “rumored to exist” – they do exist, I’ve seen two. Glossy Honey Bay Proud Arabian Mare, you can find it but it will cost you. Not as much as in the 1980s but still pricey. Black point Proud Arabian Family? Still rare but you can find them as well. Pre-internet you’d better be prepared to pony up several hundred dollars each. Now, less than half that – much less depending on the day and your bidding competition.
I guess overall it’s a good thing…for the buyer anyway. I’ve been able to fulfill a couple childhood dreams at an affordable price. It is still a little disheartening to discover some of the models I thought were such treasures really are not – kind of like discovering Superman is really that geeky guy changing his clothes in a public phone booth.
Oh, and for those of you under the age of 25 who defied the odds and stayed with me all the way through this long post: an LSASE is a Long Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. That means you write your address on a business-sized envelope, put a stamp (or two) on it, fold it up and put it in another envelope and mail it to the address you want to get a sales list from.
Young collector, old collector, or somewhere in between…happy collecting and appreciate the benefits of living in the age of instant gratification.
A pre-internet purchase. Found this PAF on a sales list in the early 1990s. An oldie from the 1970s, I longed to add her to my collection. Bought sight unseen (as they all were then). Condition is pretty good but the factory overspray on the hind leg was not mentioned in the description. I think I paid $25
Three women wait quietly outside the paddock holding a large bay mare. The youngest of the women sits in the far corner of the paddock on the top rail of the black board fence; her crystal-blue eyes watch the mare intently. A middle-aged woman with fiery red hair and deep green eyes stands with her arms folded across her chest, leaning her left shoulder against one of the thick, wooden fence posts. Near the paddock gate, a slender woman with long, grey hair and multi-colored eyes watches the bay mare closely from her tattered old folding lawn chair.
Inside the paddock, the mare circles restlessly, working her soft, black muzzle back and forth along the ground. Her large belly swings gently side-to-side as she moves about the enclosure. She stops to paw at the ground, her sharp, heavy hoof sending clods of dirt and bits of grass flying out behind her. Looking up from her pawing, the mare snorts loudly and shakes her graceful head. She looks at the woman sitting on the fence; flaring her nostrils she blows out a deep breath before she begins circling once again.
The large, bay mare’s burnished red coat glistens in the waning sunlight as she began to sweat lightly. She continues to circle, stopping more frequently now to paw at the ground. Pausing for a moment, she lifts her head high; sniffing the air before turning to look at the red haired woman for a moment. A soft breeze gently lifts her jet black mane away from her sleek neck. The mare’s gaze turns toward the grey haired woman sitting by the gate; she blinks her eyes slowly as she licks and chews, working her mouth gently as if savoring something particularly delicious.
Suddenly, the silence is broken as the mare squeals and rears up on her hind legs. Rocking back on her haunches, she lifts her front hooves above the ground before coming back down, squealing and kicking out with both hind legs. She shakes her head fiercely before once again rearing up in the air and kicking out with her hind legs. Again and again the mare circles, squeals, raises herself into the air and then kicks out, lifting her hind end as her hooves shoot out behind her.
The girl on the fence watches the mare as she moves about. She is scared, the girl thinks to herself. That is why she is acting that way. She doesn’t know what is going on, she is terrified. She didn’t ask for this foal, she does not know what to do. She is scared of what is out of her control.
The red haired woman watches the mare’s unusual antics. That mare is angry, the woman says to herself. She will lose that foal and she knows it. Sure, she will be allowed to care for it for a while, just long enough to get really attached to the little one. Then, the cruel hand of fate will reach in and pluck that foal right out of her life. They call it “weaning” but they may as well tear the mare’s heart out. The red haired woman absently touches a tattered picture of a red haired toddler in the pocket of her faded blue jeans.
A smile spreads slowly across the rose colored lips of the grey haired lady sitting by the gate. She watches the bay mare rear and kick as she moves around the paddock. “That mare is dancing!” She said aloud although no one was near enough to hear her. She is celebrating the life inside her. She loves to be a mother and she is dancing for joy at the coming of her new foal! The woman thought of her own children, now grown with children of their own. Her multi-colored eyes sparkle as she relives the memories of her children growing up. Then the corners of her mouth quiver slightly as she reminds herself that she would never have another child to raise; that part of her life was long over.
The mare stands quietly now in the center of the paddock. One-by-one she gazes at each woman, slowly and steadily until each looks up from their own thoughts to meet the mare’s deep, brown eyes. The mare blinks slowly before turning away from each one. She circles one final time and carefully lowers her heavy body to the ground.
The three women each move from their respective vantage points and come together near the gate to watch the mare deliver her foal. The mare lay on her side in the soft, lush grass, breathing heavily and grunting with each push. Soon a tiny hoof appears; then another followed by a tiny muzzle still covered by the amniotic sack. The grey haired woman quietly opens the paddock gate and steps cautiously over to the mare. Kneeling behind her, the woman speaks softly, stroking the mare’s hindquarters before carefully breaking open the thin, white sack with her hands. The mare continues to push and the foal’s shoulders slip through the birth canal, followed by the midsection until only the foal’s hindquarters remain within the mare. The grey haired woman guides the foal’s legs and head down toward the mare’s hocks as he emerges into the peaceful evening air.
As the sun dips below the distant horizon, the mare gives a final, mighty push and her colt is born. “Welcome to the world, little one,” says the grey haired lady, her silver locks falling softly around her shoulders as she kneels over the new foal. She smiles as she gently clears the fluid from the little colt’s nostrils. She has delivered many foals over the years, each time it was still magical, still new. Her heart sang at the thought; there would be many more.
The two younger women watched from outside the gate. A single tear escaped from a crystal-blue eye and slid down the youngest woman’s cheek. Fear and terror have been replaced by wonder and amazement. She watches as the mare nickers excitedly to her new colt, gently licking his still-wet body; she placed a hand over her own belly and smiles.
Brilliant streaks of pink and yellow dance across the sky. The red haired woman now clutches the picture of the red haired toddler tightly in her hand. She watches as the mare lifts her large body up from the ground and turns carefully to tend to her new foal. The little colt is already pressing his front feet into the ground, one at a time, back and forth as he prepares to stand for the first time. The mare nudges and encourages him, still nickering to him softly. The woman looks down at the picture in her hand, tears stinging her emerald green eyes. Anger is replaced by gratitude, even time much too short was a precious gift to be treasured.
Hours have passed and now the foal lay dry and warm, sleeping under the watchful eye of his mother. The women have gone their separate ways, each with a new understanding, a new awareness, a new perspective. The mare stands contentedly, satisfied with the events of the day. She looks down at her sleeping colt knowing he has already touched the lives of the three women outside the paddock that day. There would be many more opportunities for him and for her. She cocks one hind leg and slowly closes her eyes. Her head lowers bit-by-bit as she relaxes her neck and drifts off to sleep.
This piece was written as part of the Connected Project with the goal of demonstrating how different people watching the same horse can have three very different experiences -- one reason why equine assisted therapy is so successful when we allow the client to tell their own story.
A jet-black stallion stands majestically atop a stone ledge jutting out from the rocky hillside. From here he can see for miles around him. His coat glistens in the hot sun, the glossy sheen interrupted by jagged scars of many battles. Below him, his band of mares picks at the sparse clumps of dry grass; their spindly-legged foals playing or sleeping in the sunshine. The stallion intently watches the distant horizon; lifting his graceful neck higher, he tips his nose upward, nostrils flared, scenting the wind as it swirls around him.
The wind lifts tangles of black mane away from the stallion’s well-muscled neck. He shakes his magnificent head, sniffing the air again. He catches the scent of an intruder. The stallion scans the landscape around him, searching. In the brush near the edge of the clearing where his band grazes, a mountain lion crouches, eyeing an old mare heavy with foal as she sleeps in the sunshine.
A scream of warning trumpets across the canyon as the stallion whirls and bolts down the rocky slope. The old mare stirs and struggles to get her stiff, aged legs beneath her. With precision and lightning speed, the other mares work to group the foals together, nipping at them urgently as they drive them to the opposite end of the canyon. With the foals grouped together, the mares form a circle around them; their heads facing inward and their hindquarters forming a protective external barrier.
The stallion charges across the canyon toward the aged mare, his hooves pounding the hard-packed canyon floor. He screams in fury as the lion descends upon the old mare still struggling to get to her feet. The lion pounces on the mare’s back, clawing and tearing at her flesh. She falls to her side, thrashing and squealing with terror. Moments later, the stallion arrives. Quickly he runs to the prone mare and grabs the lion by the neck with his teeth, throwing it to the ground.
Before the lion can regain his feet, the stallion rears on his hind legs, his front hooves crushing the lion as he comes down over and over. When the lion was dead, the stallion turns to the old mare. She is lying on the ground, breathing heavily. The stallion stands over her, watching. She nickers softly to him. Lifting her tired head, she looks toward her tail. She is in labor.
The mare struggles and pushes; soon she delivers her foal. She turns her head and nickers softly to the little filly before she laid her head back on the ground and breathes her last.
With the danger passed, the mares slowly open their protective circle and the herd moves back out into the canyon. A grey mare, her new colt close at her heels, walks cautiously toward where the stallion still stands over the body of the old mare and her foal. The grey mare sniffs the old mare’s body and let out a deep sigh. She then turns to the new foal and begins licking her dry, nuzzling her and nickering to her, just as her mother would. The stallion lowers his head and blinks his eyes slowly as her turns to walk back down the canyon to keep watch over his herd.
In a few hours, the new filly is on her feet and nursing from the grey mare. The stallion comes back up the canyon; it is time to move the herd out to find water. One-by-one the mares file past the body of the old mare; each pausing to sniff her or gently paw at her. The grey mare stands quietly as her colt and the new filly sniff the old mare. She then lowers her graceful head, blinks slowly and touches her muzzle to the old mare’s head. Blowing softly through flared nostrils, her breath gently lifts the old mare’s forelock away from her face. She licks the old mare’s muzzle then slowly turns away to rejoin the traveling herd; her own son and her new half-sister following close behind.
This piece was written for the Connected Project -- Featured at ArtPrize and published in an upcoming book. To find out more about the project, click HERE.
Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW - EAGALA Certified, author, horse midwife, artist...not always in that order...