• vslachman

Heart Horse

Some of you may remember the story I told of John, pictured on the right, and Dorian last summer. They were both stalled in the same barn right next to each other and when German would bring them in at night, he told me they were always the last ones in because John was old (he was nearing 27 then) and slow, and Dorian wouldn't leave him.

So the heart works in horses just as it does in humans. What we love, we care for. What we love, we stand by and sometimes . . . we wait.

The two of them were pretty much inseparable. And Dorian doesn't always get along well with others . . . but then, who does?

But I think theirs was a special bond.

Dorian is so silly, sometimes. Hanging out in John's stall, like no one would notice! And John, peeking around to make sure Dorian is ok. They were highly entertaining!

Many people speak of having a "heart horse," a horse who is a soul mate, a horse who seems so completely at one with you that you can't imagine your life without him. Or, if you're a "mare" person (which I am clearly not) . . . her.

I think all creatures have those connections. Ones at the soul level, not at the "material" one. I have that with Dorian. I have that with my daughter. And Dorian had that with John, I think.

Dorian watching over John.

But life intervenes, sometimes . . . John's owner, Kendra, served in Iraq. She was away from John all winter, but was able to come back in the spring. John had fared well with care during her absence, and Kendra was overjoyed to be reunited with him.

She bought him special feed and supplements. And alfalfa pellets. She was adept at research, too, and share many natural remedies with me--salves made of herbs and oils that worked to promote hair growth after injuries, fly spray that wasn't made of harmful chemicals . . . I was grateful for her generosity and for her diligence in caring for John.

She was as devoted to John as he was to her.

John resting in the pasture while Dorian hangs by him.

One day, Kendra and I went for a ride. She told me John used to be "hell on wheels" when he was younger, a fairly aggressive horse in turnout. But, it seemed, like Dorian, he grew into a mellowness with other horses that served him well. No more flat back ears and bites all over him.

I certainly have had that experience with Dorian!

The year Dorian got banished to the "bad boys" pasture and wouldn't back down. Bites and kicks galore!

On our ride, Kendra, John, Dorian, and I traveled down the long grass trail out to the back, down along the fence line to the walnut grove and crossed the creek into the woods. It was a lovely summer day, not too hot, not too many bugs, not too many cobwebs strung across the trail. Couldn't ask for more than that!

We went all the way around the big field planted with soybeans this year, not harvested till well into late fall. So there were lots of green plants to dodge along the way!

Then Dorian took the lead through the belly-high weeds that had gown up nearly obscuring the dark creek crossing ahead. But Dorian and I had been through there many times, so he went through the Queen's Anne Lace and other weeds with grace and confidence, and John followed right along.

Good boy to do that, since he'd never been through there before and hadn't been out much in Kendra's absence.

But that's what love does for us, right?--allows us to trust. We follow those who love us, even into darkness, as John did that day, down the narrowing trail into the creek overhung by big trees, and then up the bank into the far field.

We follow, even if we can't see the end because we know those who love us would never lead us into danger.

So many people are speaking about darkness these days. I was made aware of a great quote someone said about the darkness our country is presently facing. She--and it was a "she" (of course!) defined this darkness as not one of devastation and destruction, but the darkness of the womb. The darkness from which a new birth will come.


But there are darknesses that are a different sort of "birthing."

Kendra retired.

I saw her the day she moved to Florida. John was in the trailer behind her truck, and she and I paused to talk a bit and promise to keep in touch. Which we have, I'm happy to say.

John foundered. He had a hard time walking. Then he could barely walk. And though Kendra had found a lovely new home for him in the warmth of Florida, he declined. Kendra did everything she could to make the rotation in his hooves stop, to lessen his pain. Vet care, medically supportive shoes . . . she cared for him completely, just as she always had.

But he stopped eating. He was not going to get better, she just had to face that. Here's the last comments she made about him before she had the vet euthanize him, sending him into that other, blessedly relieving darkness:

"He traveled with me from Arizona to Alaska to New Mexico to Illinois and finally Florida over our 16 years together and I feel so fortunate to have had him in my life. He taught me so much about horses and humans and myself. The world feels a little lonelier and there is space in my days that no matter the activity will feel empty but I know he’ll never be in pain again and that’s the best decision I ever made for him, second only to out-bidding a woman in a yellow Porsche 16 years ago. He will rest in peace and love."

So, what is the lesson? Dorian doesn't know John is gone. I haven't told him. I won't even think about that when I'm with D. I'm focusing on the bond they had, and I believe still have.

We see such a small portion of what's real. I am focused on knowing what the heart knows deep inside itself. That nothing is lost, that no bond of love can ever be severed. That no matter what the material picture looks like, there's another reality true and painless, sustaining, and leading us forward.

I hope those who are speaking about darkness today do focus on it as the prelude to birth. I know that's true for John. And for Kendra.

And for all of us.

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