I want to preface this to say I think rescuing people is wonderful also -- even better-- but is a whole other ballgame compared to rescuing a starving horse when you have to go thru the social services system. I was a foster parent and found that to be very rewarding. For today I will talk about what is on my mind with my recent rescue horse and how that relates to it being a good thing for us, as a society.
Some of you may remember Boomerang's story. This blog post from a month ago will give you an overview.
First I'll update you as far as her physical condition. She came to me probably at a 1 body conditioning score. There is a standard body condition scale that helps identify how much weight a horse is carrying. The scale goes from 1 to 10 with 5 being where you generally want to be. This is helpful because excess weight can be just as bad for a horse as not enough but a score of 1 is very bad! New horse owners in particular need to know how much weight a horse is carrying so they can gauge how to feed. When Boomer came home again she was at a 1. Today she is between a 2.5 and 3. She is gaining nicely -- but not too quickly so to bring on problems from an overloaded system. Physically she is well on her way to being her beautiful self!
I do have to remind myself though as I encounter the emotional/behavioral aspects that this is not the same horse I had a couple years ago. I think she'll come back but as with anyone or any animal who has been thru difficulties the emotional/behavioral after effects take much much longer to overcome. This interview got me to thinking about her in a different light. I mentioned this horse when asked about inspiration or my muse.
I was reminded of the patience I need to take with this horse after her halter came off again. The one she came with was rubbing hair off and did not fit well. I got her a nice, pretty new one and went to change halters. I was thinking of her as I knew her before and just went to put the new halter on. We were doing okay until the new halter bumped her pink nose that was slightly sunburned. Now she felt pain- even though it was accidental on my part it was something she reacted strongly too. Maybe the people = pain connection was brought in the forefront of her mind? Who knows. Any of my other horses would of not reacted at all but they have a different history. They would of sensed and known from our time together that it was accidental and just brush it off.
Boomerang's halter came off just a day or so after I first got her back a month ago. Last time it took me 3 very patient days to get it back on. When she is loose I can walk up to her and pet her and handle her but if I have a halter in my hand it is a different story. A month ago we didn't have a pasture of green grass so I had some leverage when it came to feeding her-- I want her to associate me with good things= food, scratches, gentleness etc. She wants to be the horse she was but fear and bad memories hold her back. That's okay... I have time now to just let her come around (other than I want to get her feet trimmed and need to be able to lead her around!!!). In the meantime I am trying to be smarter than she is when it comes to getting this halter on!!
I made some progress because I have her in a stall now. Up to this point I did not make it an issue to get her IN the barn because she was SO thin I wanted her to relax and eat. A month ago she would not go in the barn. Did not want to step into a confined space. I do not think she's been in a stall for a couple years or so. So that was a major step! I am no longer 'trying' to get the halter on her because she can sense the directness. I am now grooming her and feeding her with a halter in my hand and rubbing it on her but with no motions to try to get it on. Take the urgency away and I know she can sense that and relax more. I remember as a foal she responded so well to a soft gentle touch. I remember telling my husband that as a young foal being halter broken she would be all tense but then melt like butter when I laid my hand on her. I am spending time thinking of the soft touch she needs.
Okay so back to the title of this blog entry. Why is this a good thing for me? In many ways I see this beautiful, highly intelligent, highly sensitive, highly reactive horse as an equine version of a trauma survivor. I don't see myself as beautiful but I do as an artist appreciate beauty and am highly sensitive to my environment. I have a trauma history due to severe domestic violence and child abuse in the home I grew up in. I can relate to not being able to let go of the trauma at times to enjoy the good that is before me. I know why-- the trauma burns those memories deep into a person/animals brain to help them survive. Poor Boomerang would rather starve then take a chance on being caught and go thru again whatever it is she's been thru. Even if this time the being 'caught' is for her to get the necessary care she needs.
I am finding it easy to feel compassion for her. I am finding it easy to be patient (even though I do remember the horse she was before that would let me just walk up to her and put on a stupid halter!!! I didn't abuse her!!) But I understand why trust at this point needs to be earned ever so slowly. That's okay. She is here to stay with me and I can go slow for her. I am also reminding myself as I am gentle with her that I can do the same for myself when my trauma history rears its ugly head which it does at the most in opportune times!
Open Hands by Sue Steiner
Rarely can you get to where you need to go with brute force as well as you can with understanding and compassion. So if we as people learn those lessons first by applying those principles to hurt and starving animals maybe one day we can do it for each other!
equine and animal artist