Most people don’t know that I have been seriously involved with a writing group for over 10 years. And have written even longer if you count my adolescent attempts. Even though I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies along with a PhD, putting me “out there” was scary. But thanks to the encouragement of some good friends, I finally launched my blog earlier this year! Thirteen days after the launch, I lost one of my best friends. While allowing myself to go through the grieving process, I lost my writing mojo.
Last month I was out to dinner for my cousin’s birthday and he asked me what happened to my blog. I was shocked to find out that my non-horsey cousin actually read my blog and was asking for more! Little did he know that on his birthday he actually gave me the best gift ever … encouragement. And even though it is still tremendously hard for me to write after my great loss, I choose to swallow my tears and with a lump in my throat I move forward knowing that there is always a blessing in every issue even though we don’t always recognize the blessing.
For years, I have been telling my clients that they know their horse better than anyone else and how it is so important to trust their intuition. Well, this year I received a grand lesson from my 21 year old gelding Kashusklay. I was smacked in the face with the fact that I need to do a better job of listening to my intuition and my horses. The fact that I didn’t do a good job of listening to my own horse made me feel like I was no longer worthy to share with other horse people. However, my intention is take the life lessons I acquire from my horses and share them with you in hopes that we can learn and grow together.
It is still hard for me to write about this and the details probably aren’t important. All horse owners know that horses colic. Sometimes it is just a belly ache. Sometimes it is just gas colic. And other times, it can be worse like an impaction, displaced colon, or the need for a resection. Either way, colic is scary because it can lead to death. We also know that early treatment is pertinent to saving a horse’s life.
I was working the 61st annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in Arizona. (The Scottsdale Show is the largest Arabian horse show in the country where thousands of Arabian horses and people come together to show off their horses and compete.) I went out to feed the horses breakfast and everything was fine. Fifteen minutes later my Kashusklay was no longer eating and showing signs of discomfort. Due to the fact that I had to be to the horse show, I was hoping a shot of Banamine would do the trick and I would be on my way. I failed to take the time to do everything I know to aid my horse in his health crisis including bodywork, homeopathic remedies, and nutraceuticals. Long story short, the situation went from bad to worse. I called to say I would be late to work. After my vet office informed me that the vet I usually use was not available because she was at the Arabian show, I desperately started calling other veterinarians. Like I earlier mentioned, time is of the essence. But by the time I was able to get a vet out to the barn, Kashusklay was in a lot of pain. However, this wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that the vet wouldn’t treat him because I told her he wasn’t a surgical candidate. My 21 year gelding had colic surgery 13 years ago. A second surgery is much harder on a horse especially at his age. While she gave me the guilt trip for not doing an $11,000 (minimum) surgery, Kashusklay continued to get worse. By now, it was inevitable that he needed to be put down or would die a terrible, awful death. Instead of putting him down right away, the young intern vet was more concerned about how I was going to dispose of the body. “Really!” I said. “Are you flipp’in kidding me? Can’t we talk about this after the fact?” My words went right over her head and she just kept pressuring me about surgery or disposal. Now anyone who has had to deal with putting down a family member knows the great deal of emotional turmoil that goes with this decision. So, having a stranger make me feel bad for not doing surgery was enough to put me over the edge.
None of what I am writing is any different from any other colic situation where a horse owner had to make a difficult decision. When we wake up in the morning and go out to feed our cherished animals, we don’t think to ourselves, “This is the day I am going to have to kill my best friend.” I enter the barnyard every morning looking forward to seeing those beautiful faces hanging their heads over the fence, neighing at me with love and affection and making my heart sing with joy. We all know that part of having animals is dealing with the fact that one day we will lose them to the circle of life. However, this knowing does not make it any easier when the time comes.
So, why is it that I was so shaken to the core over this loss? This was not the first time I had to put down a horse nor will it be my last. For some reason, months later I am still not at peace about it. Part of it is that I knew Kashusklay wasn’t happy in the desert. We know that horses do not thrive in tiny dirt pens being fed twice a day. Horses are meant to move several miles a day and eat free-choice grass. This is not possible in most horse boarding situations--
especially in Arizona.
While meditating a couple weeks ago, it came to me that my inability to find peace is because this happened from a place of dark matter not from the light. As I dug a little deeper within, I realized that this wasn’t so much about the loss of Kashusklay. It was about the process and not just the horrible experience with the vet who had no bedside manners. It was the process of going through it alone. I didn’t even have anyone to hold him for me so I could hook up the trailer to take him to the vet hospital and the vet wouldn’t hold him. And then, there were some of the people I encountered after the fact and how they responded.
It is interesting to me how so many people do not value the life of non-human sentient beings. My own father’s response was, “So, you’re down a horse?” And that was the extent of that conversation. Some couldn’t understand why I wasn’t over it instantly. “Well, that’s one less mouth to feed. You had too many horses anyway. It was just a horse. You just need to get over it and move on.” Of course, there were questions to my whereabouts after missing two days of work. “Well, was he old?” As if losing an old friend is better than losing a young friend … loss is still loss. And yet, passing strangers heard about it and gave me sincere condolences. My cousin from overseas even called me! Even though I had some rash comments, most of my genuine friends responded with the knowing of my hurt as, “SHIT! F&#k! OH NO! THAT’S TERRIBLE!” Sometimes a single word of profanity is all that needs to be said to know that your loss has been acknowledged. And then there were those who didn’t have any words at all and could only offer a hug.
As I began to allow myself to journal about my unsettled feelings and the more I became aware of why I feel the way I do, it occurred to me that what was the most painful was that someone, who I thought cared about me, totally undermined the bond and connection I had with this horse (All of my animals for that matter). I understand that non-horse people just don’t get it. But even more so, undermining my connection demonstrated that this person also didn’t get me. But, I AM the horses. Horses are my life, my passion, and the fire that ignites my soul. The reason I get out of bed in the morning. How or why would someone want to take that importance away from me? That in itself hurt worse than the actual loss of my Kashusklay. It’s okay if one is not able to comprehend the amazing ability to connect with animals. Some people have never had the privilege of having animals in their life. Heck, even some animal owners never ‘get it.’ But what I do not understand is where the compassion for another human being was during their time of sorrow? Why is the pain from losing a non-human friend belittled? And more importantly, who are you to judge my pain?
There is nothing little about the hole in my heart. I am reminded of my loss every single day. It is the hardest in the mornings when I go out and feed the other horses and Kashusklay is not there greeting me with his kind neigh, bright eyes, and ears pricked forward. I am reminded every time I ride. What I wouldn’t give for just one more ride on Kashusklay …
A piece of me died that day with my horse and I am not certain I will ever get that piece back. I have a void in my life that was only filled by him. He had been a part of my life for almost twenty years-the longest relationship I have ever had with a man! As my wise friend, Shelley told me, “It is far worse to live with regret than live with pain.”
So amongst the loss of my beloved Kashusklay, I lost some people in my life as well over this situation. And even though I have to learn to live with regret, I can find peace in knowing that I have learned to not only honor myself and my passion but honor these amazing sentient beings that make me who I am … a better human being.
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