The whole herd was sleeping under Sorrels' tree this morning. (Sorrel is pictured here on the left with Jessie and Patches laying down 1996) They were sleeping in a circle; Valentine, Jessie, Summer on one side; Patches, Mya, Jacquie then Hearty at the top close to Valentine. And close they were, lying down, everyone except Mya, who, when standing up is no taller than any of the other girls lying down, standing in the center of the circle standing as the Sentry, once again solidifying her value in the herd.. They are a close family band who has lost their herd leader to old age. We found him this time just yesterday, sleeping in death there, under his tree.
As I listen this morning to all their familiar little noises, I wonder how they will sort themselves out. For now they are mostly quiet, no major feates of athleticism created by huge black bombers, just a roll in place with a squish. I understand this somber feeling. We were suppose to go visit my son who just moved to Manhattan. It sounded like so much fun, and I was looking forward to it. But what we did was nap, watch a movie, eat and talk about our friend, my first horse who I ever had; lived here with me at my farm for the past 20 years. It didn't occur to me that that alone was an overly special thing, but recently when a new vet came to see him, she commented on what a lucky boy he is that he was bought at an auction and has gotten to live his life all in this place.
Sorrel was more of the honored and respected man and elder of the group, rather than the herd leader, the girls have that part covered. He was loved by them all. I know this because time and time again they would do what was needed to get their grazing time right there next to him. Of course, Patches was always on one side, but that left another whole space available and when it was available, another hopeful mare would do her best to win his favor. Just last week, after a long nap off of his feet in the barn, when he came out, he called for his herd and one after the other came to him and every girl touched this boy, some on the nose, some with a hug or like Patches starting at the nose ending at the tail rubbing her body the whole length of his ending with some mutual fly swishing.
Mya loved Sorrel immediately. She doesn't seem to know that she is only 30 inches tall. She literally could and would stand under him. Like a puzzle, she would fit right under there with no worries. She is older than most of the girls and savvy in her ways. She knew what she was doing. Most times while the rest of the herd was grazing in the pasture, she would need to stay off the grass with Sorrel. Him, because of his issues with laminitis, her with her issues of size! If she is 30" tall, she is 30" wide.
From the time Jessie was tall enough, she and Sorrel have been mutually grooming one another. It's a special thing, I have come to realize. This is not something all horses do, it seems only for a chosen few. The itchy ones who like to be touched and are willing to show you the spot, they are the ones. Happily, Hearty and Jessie share this passion now. That makes me happy on many levels. Friends do this.
When she first arrived, about two years ago, Hearty (Shawnee) knew, after dealing with Jessie, she wanted the favor of Sorrel and set out to work. Romance in the horses world is an interesting thing. Looks matter, but what you do is the thing. She had the opportunity to show Sorrel, all those days with Mya while munching hay instead of grazing on the green grass. She has found peace in our herd here, and Sorrel's quiet loving nature, was a lovely part of it all.
Patches has been wherever Sorrel is since she was 4 months old. She is 18 this year. If she is not with me, she is usually touching him. She used him to help with bugs and itching and to shield her from another mare vying for her position. She learned quickly that he was as steady as a rock, completely count-on-able, just like what he taught me, when I used him as a shield from Patches when she was a hyper growing yearling! And now in his death, she seems completely ok, knowing it was all coming just like the rest of us, likely with way more insight into how much pain he was really in. She stood by his side day and night. When everyone came in to eat, she waited for him to make his way in too. Many times coming in after him. I believe she even felt his pain, showing many signs of lameness and a lack of interest in moving very much. About a week ago, all that went away for her. She blew a huge abscess out of her hind heel, moving lots more, lost a few pounds and is running around again. Like any of us who have been through helping a loved one through a difficult time, sometimes our health seems to be put aside. I am excited for her. I am excited that she will now go to another place in her life, kind of like after the death of a long time spouse.
Jacquie seemed mad at first, biting and kicking the herd. I made up, that she wasn't able to save his life and she is not use to this. She is an angel and a healer and that's the way it is. She is the youngest member of the herd and like many of us, I suppose has not experienced death yet. Butch and I spent a bunch of time last night out with them, and Jacquie just wanted to sit on our laps and have us rub on her. (She is a lap donkey!)
Summer, Valentine and Hearty seem to want to care for me. Valentine quietly hugging me, looking for something. The responsibility of the herd is now hers. I think she is looking for help, knowing she had guidance before yesterday. It's a valiant thing to step up and say I'm the one. I'll bet more than one herd leader has had doubts, but this girl has a ton of heart, together, we will do whatever it takes.
Summer is one of the most loving beings I have met. She is a caretaker in every way. The biggest reason she and Butch get along so well is because of Sorrel. Being Butch's first horse as well as mine, Sorrel taught Butch much about confidence over the past 4 years. They were brave together and were happy to explore. Butch had no agenda with Sorrel, just to be friends and to be together and he knew, is was no small thing that this horse was willing to carry him. In the woods, on the beach, in the mountains or at home on the trails, off they would go exploring, Sorrel choosing and Butch following or visa versa. One of my favorite memories is of this handsome red horse carrying my 3 young sons around the yard together. And it was just this past winter when he insisted on coming with us to work at the DREAM Park. He clearly had work to do and a lovely girl Amanda was the lucky one who got to learn from him. She delighted in the way he would follow her around with no ropes, at the walk and trot, even jumping over things with her. He knew what he was doing. And I rejoiced in the way he was so happy to be with his friend Cesar again. For the semester he came with us for therapeutic riding, if you had your lesson on Cesar, you had a 2 for 1 deal. Sorrel followed his friend happily. It was like they were old college buddies who were now older, wiser and working for a living.
I knew there was another shift early last week. He was trying to tell me something, insisting even. Of course I did not know what he was telling me, but what I kept asking for was that he let me trim his feet and get his boots on, finally on Wednesday he stayed laying down long enough for me to get them all trimmed and his boots on. I was grateful then, but looking back I wish I was able to know what he was telling me. He has delivered many messages to lucky participants in our equine assisted psychotherapy sessions. Even most recently when the new vet came her assistant was crying, having been touched by this lovely spirit of a horse and they way Patches stood with him in loving support. I am the luck one.
An 800 dollar horse from Harker's auction - Sorrel Beauty - Priceless.