When I first rescued my miniature horse, Spring, she had a near death experience that left us both in a panic.
It was a Friday late afternoon when I went to pick her up and bring her to her new home. When we arrived at my farm, Spring walked cautiously into the barn and immediately perked up when she saw there were two other horses looking down at her: my mare Grace and my business partner’s horse, Atticus. There are half doors on the stalls so each horse was able to sniff her and safely make initial contact.
They spent the night and part of the following day gently touching noses. For Grace, it seemed to be love at first sight, and Atticus seemed to have a friendly curiosity about this new tiny equine. The time came when I felt everyone was ready to meet in the field. First I turned out Grace and Spring, and my heart expanded watching as Grace started behaving like a mother right away. After letting the girls have their initial moments, I released Atticus into the mix. This was a mistake.
Atticus’ demeanor changed the second the lead rope was unclipped from his halter; he charged with a fury I had never seen in him before. Although his personality is certainly on the bold side, he has a kind heart and I had never before seen him aggressively go after anyone, human or horse. With Spring, this changed.
Grace instantly went into protection mode. She performed a beautiful mare dance as if she were protecting her own foal. She mustered up all the physical agility she could find within herself and determinedly put herself between Atticus and Spring, telling him off while trying to match his quick movements as he tried to get around her.
Although Grace put her whole heart into this role, and although she was the dominant and lead horse of their herd of two, she was no match for the intense athleticism and determination that Atticus possessed that day.
Atticus faked a turn, spun around and kicked Grace in her rear end, literally knocking her to the ground as her footing failed her in the mud. He ran around the maternal mare, locked onto Spring and ran her over.
This all took place in about five seconds, long enough for me to try to move and be completely useless. As I watched my mare get hurt and my sweet little Spring get run down like an innocent child on a battle field, my breath caught and my throat constricted. I remember seeing the whites of her eyes as she rolled underneath Atticus’ powerful, long legs, and I believe my heart actually stopped.
With no voice left to use, I stumbled over to their stall doors, opening them with a hope that I could encourage them inside and stop this chaos. Grace immediately took the cue, rushing over and herding Spring into a stall with her. I quickly shut their door and Atticus ran inside too. The four of us were panting, sweaty and bug eyed.
I went into Grace and Spring’s stall to see the extent of the damage done. After meticulously checking every inch of them, I cried a few tears of joy and relief that they were actually ok. I couldn’t believe it, I honestly thought Spring was going to be brutally maimed and on her way out of this world, but it seemed like Atticus somehow avoided stepping on her. Both girls would be bruised and sore, but no serious injuries. It felt like a miracle.
As I stood there with the three horses who were slowly calming down, I started to become very anxious again. My hopes of having these horses live happily together were gone and never returning, but I had no back up plan! I rescued Spring on a bit of a whim, and it was dawning on me how absolutely insane my decision was. My mind raced, trying to come up with a solution. I needed to separate them of course, but how? I needed to build another paddock, another stall, and most importantly, I now needed another horse. I knew Grace and Spring would need to stay together, so that meant Atticus by himself. That would be ok for a short period of time, but it is a sad existence to keep a horse alone and I couldn’t do that to him.
I thought of a way to temporarily divide the paddock so they could all be outside. Solution one: check! I needed to build a stall for whomever was going to be keeping Atticus company. Solution two: not looking good, but possible… I actually needed to find this mystery horse! Solution three: why did I get myself into this?
I had said no to many people wanting to board a horse with me since I built my barn. For many reasons, I really didn’t want a boarding situation, but at that moment I was starting to regret it. I couldn’t afford another horse of my own, and I was stuck in this loop of negative self-talk and despair. Then, like a flash of inspiration, it dawned on me to call my dear friend, Megan.
Megan and I met working at the same barn years ago, she was a coach and trainer, and I was one of the farriers. We instantly hit it off and have been developing a great friendship ever since. However, my idea felt like I was about to really test the limits of that relationship, and I didn’t know if I really wanted to go there. But one look at Spring and my inhibitions vanished.
Megan had four horses at her farm, two of them her own. My hope was that she could lend me a horse until I could get this all settled. Her incredibly huge heart and giving nature immediately dissolved any trepidation I had in asking, and she agreed to bring over her main horse, Flurry. True to her word, she showed up the following week with Flurry in tow, and we un-dramatically introduced the boys with great success. Somehow, I managed to get the stall built just in time.
Flurry is a “been there, done that” quarter horse, with a personality everyone seems to get along with. Atticus enjoys his company, and I can even group him with Spring if the situation calls for it! He is patient, kind, and being a palomino, incredibly nice to look at!
As it turns out, Flurry is going to be sticking around longer than a temporary solution. Megan and I are finally getting opportunities to ride together with her horse being at my farm, and Flurry seems quite content with his new digs. I can’t thank Megan enough for bringing balance back to this herd.
As humans, we choose the company of our horses and decide who they should be friends with. Clearly, that doesn’t always work. I think of how I have to navigate different social situations with people who were chosen for me – family, coworkers, whoever I sit next to on a plane. Dynamics are complicated, hopefully not as violent as with Atticus and Spring, although sadly we see that with people too. Perhaps with a little help from our friends, we can find some balance in our human herds as well.
How has the light shone through a dark moment for you? Would love to know, leave me a comment.
This is part of a continuing story, click here to start from the beginning.
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