Category Archives: Lessons Taught To Humans By Horses

Second Confession: How I Became Obsessed With Horse Manure :)

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Unexpected illness, unexpected obsession:

A week after the exquisite mare, Baby Doe, became mine, I arrived at the barn for a simple Saturday of grooming, playing with and riding my two beloved horses.  When I entered and saw Baby Doe’s stall empty, I thought trainer Bryan was working with her and I went out to the arena, only to see trainer Bryan, on the grass, walking Baby Doe in a circle swiftly.  “She’s colicking”, he said.  “No worries, I’ve given her Banamine and have been walking her for more than half an hour.  We can’t let her lie down. She’ll be fine.”

But she wasn’t.

We needed to see some (for want of a better word) manure coming from her.  It wasn’t.  No problem. We just needed to walk her more.  Which we did for two more hours.

Anyone familiar with horses knows that colic is a very real potential of a death sentence. I couldn’t even fathom this at that time.  All I could do was…walk her.

No manure.

A call to the vet was made, who turned out to be the substitute vet. She is a wonderful vet.  With the heat and abundant thunderstorms this summer in South Florida, many horses were colicking and vets were busy.  Add to that, my beloved girl, Baby Doe, had only arrived from Illinois less than two months ago and was still processing that stress.

With the vet’s arrival the “baptism by fire” both for humans and for horse began.

The hours of invasive procedures on my Girl were started. To begin with, they had to tranquilize her in order to shove a tube down her nose and pour down a gallon of water, followed by a gallon of mineral oil.

More walking.

More waiting.

There were two anal exams to see what her organs were doing.  Each of which could have caused a septic rupture…

By 11 o’clock that night it became clear that she had displaced her intestines to the left. Good news, because had they displaced to the right, we would have had to put her down within hours to save her from excruciating, unfixable pain.

Then came the next procedure. ..intravenously fill her with fluids for an hour, administer a med that would shrink her spleen for fifteen minutes, during which time we would longe the heck out of her in order for her intestines to hop over the spleen and get back into place.

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Oh, my Baby Doe, my Girl, you have a mission to fulfill! You and I agreed you didn’t want to be a show horse. You made it possible, by having that hitch in your right shoulder, for me to be your human partner in this life, so that you could minister to those in need…disabled, disadvantaged, special needs, those in sorrow, those who need the healing presence of Horse…

What a faithful creature she was as she, in indescribable pain, was longed, valiantly trotting and loping in the hot humid night.029

The all night barn vigil now commenced.

Humidity intensified, mosquitos got busy, the stars radiated and trainer Bryan and I found some lawn chairs, placed them by her stall and settled in for what was to be a long night at the barn.

I am still trying to find words to describe the various experiences of this night.

First, there was the anxious worry.  He and I took turns standing by her stall, looking for a sign of manure, trying to comfort her in her agonizing pain.

My sweet, loving Girl had turned into a wild savage that bit and kicked if we got near her.  She was flailing her head and pacing. Her ears were ever flat on her head.

Neither Bryan nor I slept a wink.

Eventually the lights turned out.  The horses settled in for the night.  And a kind of magic occurred which one only experiences in a barn in the wee hours of the night.

The silence was exquisite. Punctuated only by snorts and shufflings of the horses. We could hear a background lullaby of crickets and cicadas outdoors.  As I peeked into each stall, I saw horse after horse lying down in a deep sleep.  My boy horse, my Appaloosa, Spirit, had sprawled out in his stall, sound asleep and looking like a baby colt.  I couldn’t take my eyes off that dearness.

Each hour, trainer Bryan, going above and beyond any expectation, would lead my Baby Doe out to walk her for a half an hour or so.  I would drag myself out of my lawn chair to be present, but couldn’t have begun to muster the energy Bryan did… hour after hour.

In those late night, star-filled  moments, it was confirmed to me that there are truly people of honor walking this earth and that I was blessed to experience his caring and indefatiguable soul.

At 5 a.m. the first sign of manure!  I don’t know when manure has EVER made me so happy!

But we weren’t out of the woods yet.   At 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. more relief for the Girl in the way of manure!  We cautiously celebrated and took turns going back to our homes for showers and changes of clothing.

However, when I got back to the barn later that afternoon, the roller coaster ride of the past 24 hours took another dip.  She had gone hours now with no more sign of manure relief.  It could be that her intestines were still displaced to the left.  We might have to repeat the whole procedure.

Trainer Bryan called the vet.  She suggested letting her run free for awhile in a pasture, without overheating, and then to hand graze her for about 15 minutes.

As I watched my glorious Girl run, buck, leap and play, looking like the regal faerie horse she is, her whiteness contrasting with the deep green of pasture grass, I knew that this was no longer a horse that was ill.

After grazing her, I took her back into her stall to cool her off and…immediate success in the manure department!  It was proof positive that her intestines were back in place and the procedure had unequivocally worked!

My darling Baby Doe, thank you for your courage, patience, acceptance and profound soul.  You healed so many parts of me that night as I was privileged to be part of your healing. Thank you. 739

Part Three Of My First Confession :)! (…From No Horse to Two Horses in Less Than a Year :)

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The Unexpected Song:

In Part Two of this unexpected journey, an exquisite, purebred Paint mare had arrived at the barn where I had become Spirit’s human and where he was training,  She was to be trained up and finished to sell as a show horse.  Certainly, her lineage was impeccable and pricey and her conformation (simply described, the way her different body parts size up in relation to each other) brought gasps of admiration from those who know and understand such things.

All this Novice Horsewoman understood was that this horse was gradually emerging from her tranquillized and shut down state after her four-day journey and that she and I were bonding.

She would call out to me when I would arrive at the barn, we would spend time just hanging out together with much snuggling and softly voiced “conversations” and one day she was actually able to communicate with me, in my mind, with a clear sentence, ” Please, I don’t want to be a show horse.”

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There was no way I could afford the steep price that would be asked for her.  I was determined, however, to find a way.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, when this mare had arrived, the vet had noticed a slight hitch in her right shoulder when she went in a circle.  She and trainer Bryan were going to wait for thirty days and recheck her to see if it was just soreness from the trip or something else.

Things were just beginning to get interesting :)…

Time passed swiftly in that month of August.  It was a hot, rainy summer here in Florida.  I was learning to ride better, still not very well, but better ;), learning and relearning about longeing, different tack, feed, hay.  I was noticing many things at the barn, where trainer Bryan was leasing about 12 stalls, that were very disturbing.  I was spending time with both my little Appaloosa AND the exquisite Paint mare.

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The thirty days were ticking away.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it, told my dearest friend the story up to this point, confessed that my heart was breaking with love for this mare and asked him for a loan.  A BIG loan!!!!  Much to my surprise all he said was, “How much?”  “Um….fifteen grand?”, I stuttered.  “Okay”, he said simply.

While trying to remember that breathing is sort of essential to remain living ;), I immediately called and texted trainer Bryan (it was ONLY 11:30 at night) and told him I wanted to buy her.

(For the record…I can’t stand that we humans buy and sell horses and call ourselves their owners.  It reeks of slave trade to me but, for now, it’s the way it is.)

The next day I arrived expectantly at the barn to encounter a scowling trainer Bryan.  The folks who had bred the mare and sent her to him were longtime business friends of his and had, for almost 20 years, sent him horses to train and sell.  The last horse they had sent had come up un-show-worthy due to some rear leg tendon issues.  It was the mare’s full brother, Fritz.  Now, it turns out, the vet had rechecked the exquisite mare and the right shoulder hitch was a chronic condition which deemed her un-showable.

What?  She can’t be a show horse?? My heart was pounding with joy and wonder!!

Sometimes horses will find ways to cause “lameness” to themselves when there is a job they are asked to do that isn’t right for them.  Conventional horse people will tell you that those of us who understand this are delusional, but when one is around horses, reads incessantly about horses and is obsessed with horses :), one begins to see this is not anomalous.

Trainer Bryan had determined that he was going to send this beloved mare back to these breeders and demand money for her transport, board and training up to this point.  He was livid.  He was incensed that they had done this to him a second time!

They claimed that somehow her four-day journey was responsible and were not going to pay him a dime.  In fact, the male breeder threatened, if Bryan sent her back they would put her down because now she was of no value. (Welcome, Novice Horsewoman, to just a glimpse of the dark and nasty underbelly of horse breeding and the various ways horses are utilized for human pleasure).

Thus ensued 48 hours of me weeping and pleading for him not to send her back, he arguing back and forth with the breeders and many petitions to heaven that things work out for the best for this exquisite mare.

Well, the angels definitely are on the side of the horses, ultimately.  That 48 hours ended with ME paying trainer Bryan for her transport and training and board up to that point (considerably less than $15,000!).

The exquisite Paint mare was mine!

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And though it’s considered bad luck to change a horse’s name, there is an opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe (by Douglas Moore), in which the title character is described thusly:

“Warm as the autumn light, soft as a pool at night…deep in your lovely eyes, all of enchantment lies, and tenderly beckons, Baby Doe, dearest Baby Doe.”

So apt were those words in describing the exquisite mare, that I knew that was her true name. She IS Baby Doe.

Afterword: To this day, when I call her to come to me from the edge of the large paddock, I sing those words to her and she comes running to greet me… and my song ❤

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First Confession: Part Two (How I Went From No Horse To Two Horses In Less Than A Year:)

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Oh yes! More unexpected was just around the corner!

Part Two:

When I left off in Part One…

I had  been describing the devastation and grief I experienced when the glorious mare, Serenity, had been moved to another barn.  Just for the record, even writing about it now brings up fresh grief added to ongoing anxiety over her well being.  For so many reasons, it was and still is tough to visit her at her new barn.  Not the least of which is the sadness that overwhelms when I have to say goodbye and leave.  She’s been on my mind so much lately.  I try to comfort myself with the words my best friend continually says to me, “Christine, you can’t save them all”.  Cold comfort.

However, just as she was being moved, I was being introduced to Horse Number One!  The adorable, ueber-intelligent, mischievous, big-hearted, three-year-old Appaloosa gelding, Spirit!  He “had me at  hello”. Or should I say “…at nicker” 🙂photo (8)

My barn buddy, Phyllis, had introduced me to trainer Bryan, because once Serenity was virtually lost to me, I was going to begin looking at rescue horses.  She thought Bryan could help me.

Wiser heads convinced me that perhaps I should explore getting to know whole and healthy horses before dealing with horses in need.  Gee, why didn’t I think of that? 🙂 So when Bryan introduced me to Spirit, I easily agreed with the wiser heads.  The one problem being Bryan wasn’t so sure that he would sell me the little Boy.

There is a saying in the horse world, “green on green equals black and blue”.  In other words, pairing me up with a virtual baby, when I was so very inexperienced, could be difficult and dangerous. Bryan was training him daily and giving me lessons weekly for the next few weeks.  Then he had me ride Spirit for my lessons and observed how good he was for me under saddle.  Even if he had a horsey jump/flinch or spook, somehow the little Boy kept me on him.  (This has held true in the ensuing months as well).WP_20141005_15_22_53_Pro__highres

With ongoing training promised, Bryan finally agreed that Spirit could be mine.

In the meantime, just about every horse person I knew was shaking their head in concern that I would be dealing with a three year old; which did NOTHING for my confidence!  Looking back, perhaps they were right.  But it was already too late for me.  I loved that little gelding wholeheartedly.  With lots of prayer, and in humility, I went forward with buying him.

Eight months later, I am still getting a daily education on the three year old horsey mindset and there’s been a bit of black and blue – nothing more than a broken toe and a few bruises 🙂 Perhaps part of the “accelerated plan” our Creator has for me was just this: how to deal with an intelligent, energetic, clever, lovebug of a baby horse.

As Spirit was still boarding at Bryan’s barn, I had the opportunity to get to know many other horses in my time there and just happened to be there the day after an exquisite Paint mare, at that time named Sylvia, arrived from a farm in Illinois.

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She was five years old, had had some fine training, had been in pasture for a couple of years and was coming to Bryan to be trained up (“finished”) to be a show horse and be sold.  Her “family tree” is a an impeccable list of million dollar horses and she was to be sold for top dollar after Bryan did the finishing of her.

When I met her, she was still tranquilized,very still, quiet and shut down.  I offered her some baby carrots.  People poking their heads into her stall told me she wouldn’t eat them because she wasn’t used to treats.   After a half an hour of speaking to her softly, petting her and letting her smell the carrots, even in her shut down state, she ate them 🙂 Of course!  She’s a horse!

She began getting more animated in the week that followed.  I would spend lots of time with her as well as with Spirit.  She would even whinny, calling out to me, when she saw me coming for a ride on Spirit.

Then one day, she and I were just having some pet and scratch time and suddenly it was as though I heard a tiny voice in my head.  “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse”.  I gasped because this sentence was so clear and audible.  I looked at her and said aloud, “I can’t afford you sweet Girl.  But I will do everything in my power to honor your request.”

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Thus began the saga of Baby Doe….

Coming soon…Part Three 🙂

First Confession: How I Went From No Horse To Two Horses In Less Than A Year :)! (3 Parts)

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INDEED… in life, expect the unexpected!

PART ONE:

I began my equine “novice-hood”  by leasing and taking lessons on the glorious mare, Serenity!

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She was both a “hot horse”, meaning even her walk was as fast as most others’ trots, and a gentle sweetheart.

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She was so easy on the ground.  When I’d clean her hooves, she’d just hand them to me.  Harnessing, bridling, saddling…easy!  About a month into my adventures with Serenity, the Houdini of a horse, Fritz :), had unlatched her stall door in the wee hours of the morning. She must have gotten out and gone running into some fencing because she was found cut and bleeding early the next morning.

Enter the good vet, Dr. Hilton.  Serenity’s human and I rushed to the scene as he stitched her up, gave us instructions and predicted she would not be ride-able for at least six weeks.  Her human, who had many different agendas with Serenity, was appalled.  I had already fallen madly in love with this mare and I wasn’t going anywhere.

Thus began my journey of caring for Serenity.  Her human rarely came around during this time.  I went every day when she was stall bound and would groom her gently, massage her, give her treats, kiss her nostrils and just hang out with her.  Soon we were given the okay to take her out, hand graze her and walk her gently.032

I spent happy days and weeks doing this.   Serenity and I developed a poignant bond.032

She taught me things about horses that one doesn’t necessarily learn when actually riding them.  She taught me how to be more authentic, patient and courageous.  She taught me that the best place to shed one’s tears is burying one’s face in a sweet horse’s neck, while hugging them.  She taught me that each horse is completely who they are and no two are alike. Eventually she healed.

I had the honor of cutting off her final bandage.  And the riding lessons commenced again.

So did my “accelerated education”…

I actually  found myself observing a lot of human behavior that I found troubling.  Behaviors like taking things personally when a horse doesn’t do what one wants them to do.  I observed her human slapping her and violently longeing her when she wasn’t happy with her behavior.  It was almost as though the human was acting out how her parents had treated her.  Because I was only the” leasing human”, I had very little say in the matter and would often feel devastated and helpless with my stomach in knots.

After returning from a  weeklong trip to Wyoming, which was ALL about horses, I went to ride Serenity and she was acting strange.  She didn’t want the saddle on her, didn’t want to go forward, was wringing her tail constantly and on trail was jiggity beyond anything I had experienced.  I ask her human’s permission to have Dr. Hilton look her over.  He palpated her, did some other testing and provisionally diagnosed that she was incredibly sore in her hindquarters and needed rest for about 10 days.

Needless to say, her human was again appalled, showed up at the barn, tacked her up and put on a “demonstration” to show how not sore Serenity was.  The whole time, Serenity just looked at me with hollow eyes and dropped her head obediently while being ridden.

It was at this junction that her human and I had to part ways.  I could no longer participate in this.  I  often tearfully pleaded with her human, who was perpetually short of money, to let me buy her so that I could be her human and take care of her needs.  But… no.

I would visit Serenity often in the weeks that followed.   Then, one day, her human moved her to another barn. I was devastated, even though I had permission to see Serenity at the new barn.  But my life had taken a swift and unusual turn…

Part Two Coming Soon!!! 🙂

3 Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse

In the beginning of last year’s Year of the Horse :), I leased a superb horse named Serenity. I posted this on my blog site at that time and wanted to repost here because it so aptly captures the beginning of The Novice Horsewoman’s life lessons 🙂

Christine Hendler's Blog


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Lesson Number One: Release your over-cleanliness issues, germ-o-phobia, vanity and more-than-slightly-compulsive neatness!

I had ridden horses a lot in my life but never with any knowledge or instruction. Galloping and hanging on for dear life on a beach in Punta Cana seemed fine with me. After all, the water and sand would break my fall ;). But as I approach a retreat in Wyoming titled, Literature and the Landscape of theHorse, during which we will not only be writing, learning about the history of humans and horses and enjoying renewal; we will also be assigned to a horse all day for five days as part of the experience. Since I am generally a shy and embarrassed person, I didn’t want to spend those five days in the agony of my embarrassment at horse ignorance, so I asked a friend and yoga teacher who is “mommy” to a superb horse…

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