Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dance: Liberty's Patron Saint of Lost Souls

This is one hard blog to write. You see, beautiful Dance passed on October 12th at the age of 19. She was owned by Hazel and was a much-loved mare. Hazel loves race horses and horse racing. She acquired Dance from a breeding farm in San Luis Obispo and brought her to Canada in 1997 with a young foal at her side. Dance had seven more foals before "retiring" a couple of years ago to Liberty Stables.

When we first met Dance, she was a bit underweight and a little volatile to handle, especially when she was taken away from her field mates. Hazel asked if we could work with her to build her skills and confidence. And so I spent quite a bit of time taking her away from her field bit by bit and doing some ground work. When she got outside her comfort zone, it was not beyond her to rear up. She was also known to strike out with a back foot with lightening speed. After a while, and with little progress, I decided to find out via an animal communicator if she wanted to "work on her stuff". She gave a succinct "no". And so Hazel agreed to honour that and the following spring, she was turned out with the herd to see if she could enjoy retirement in the wide open spaces.

I should also mention that Dance had a pretty significant addiction: she was a "cribber" or wind sucker. That's when a horse clamps down on a rail or post with their mouth and sucks in air. It gives them a "high" of sorts. It is a menace of an addiction because cribbers can get so hooked that they do damage to their teeth. They can also be very difficult to keep weight on because they literally would rather suck the fence than eat. As well, eating can trigger a desire to crib more and so it is a vicious cycle. Dance was a very dedicated addict.

I have to admit that at first, my inclination was to scold her and to try and discourage her when she cribbed. I quickly learned though, perhaps as with any addict, attempts to discourage are futile. And so, I decided a better approach would be to accept her addiction and to love her in spite of it.

When we turned her out into the field, we thought that she might crib less since it was a hike to come in to the nearest fence. Also, we hoped that she might lose interest with the change in lifestyle.

Her first winter out, we worried about her weight and so we brought her in each day for extra feed. It was during one of these feeding times as I stood waiting for her to eat that we had a "chat". We talked about whether she could take responsibility for herself, to love herself enough to eat lots and gain some weight (and strength). It was really neat. I explained that we could help her so much but that at some point, she needed to help herself.

Gradually, two things started to happen. Firstly, Dance started to show up on her own at the gate for her extra feed most mornings at about 9:00! Secondly, when I fed the herd by rolling out a round bale, I started to notice that she wasn't at the bottom of the pecking order, that she could actually move other horses and get in there to eat.

And then, the really neat thing was her eye started to soften and she would even on rare occasions, nicker a greeting at the gate. Wow. The cribbing continued unfortunately. But we just ignored that and carried on.

Gradually, a new horse emerged. The farrier noticed she was changing, the vets kind of shook their heads in amazement that a horse with such horrible teeth could eat enough to sustain life, especially grazing. And much to my enjoyment, and Hazel's, Dance started to be soft, responsive and gentle. I forgot that she used to strike out with her hind foot, and rearing up on the halter was a thing of the past. Her body weight was good and she had a beautiful shiny coat.

Last summer, Dance formed a strong friendship with an older gelding and a beautiful mare. They went everywhere together. Dance looked fantastic and although she was still cribbing, it seemed less frequent and intense. I truly marveled at how she had transformed herself! In fact, in a lovely moment in July, I was visiting with Dance along the fence and she turned her body to the side. I thought for a brief moment that I could just slide my leg over and sit quietly on her. I didn't do it but made myself a promise to consider it if the offer came again. I had no idea if she'd ever been ridden before but my trust was so great, I believed it didn't matter.

Then, in late September, something changed. I noticed that Dance was no longer hanging with her friends. Instead she was frequently by herself near the horse shelter. The cribbing intensity increased, her eye had changed. She had gone to a dark place. I felt like I'd lost her. We all wondered what had happened? We called on the animal communicator who said that Dance was indeed in a dark place. She wanted to know where all her babies were so she could tell them she loved them and Hazel gave us the information. Then, one day, I had to lead her somewhere and the old rearing, frantic behaviour that I thought we'd said good-bye to had returned. We did energy work, looked at changing her feed again, scrambling for ways to get the newly emerged confident beautiful mare back. She had worked so hard. Was she undergoing another transformation? The animal communicator thought that perhaps she had a role to play in helping lost souls. We weren't sure what that would look like. But her journey with addiction was amazing and an inspiration.

And then we found her in the field on the morning of October 13th. She didn't look like she'd struggled at all. It was as if she'd just laid down and passed. What a shock. But wasn't she working on a new mission? Didn't she see the light in the darkness?

We told the other boarders and clients one-by-one about Dance's passing. It was amazing how many of them she had touched in her own way. They each recounted times and moments they had shared with Dance. Most of these people choked back tears or outwardly cried at the news.

One of our clients in particular recounted an amazing story. She found out about Dance on Friday. The next day, in a moment of self reflection and subsequent sadness, she felt the amazing spiritual presence of Dance. This beautiful horse laid down and wrapped the woman in a warm energetic embrace while the woman cried away her pain. It was when we heard this story that we realized that Dance indeed had a new mission. She is our patron saint of lost souls providing support to whoever needs her.

I must thank Hazel for allowing us this amazing journey with her beautiful horse and for trusting. This way of being with horses is so new and so amazing. And yet, we are being called to notice the openness, the courage, the deep love these animals are capable of. And if we're lucky, we can begin to experience it ourselves.

In life, Dance showed us that we can in fact transform ourselves. What an amazing inspiration she was, and continues to be for all of us.

This whole month as I've contemplated writing this blog, two songs keep playing in my head if you want to look them up. One is Christina Aguilera's "Lift Me Up". The other is Beyonce's "Halo". They are both deeply moving songs that somehow remind me of Dance's journey.


hcumming said...

What a lovely tribute to an incredible horse!

Kolina said...

Amazing, Thank you Cathy.

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