BARBARA K. RECTOR, USA
Learning what horses can teach us about basic life skills in an interesting and often fun approach to awaken our capacity for authentic empowerment. Self empowered individuals make healthy behavior choices and practice mindful awareness of thoughts, feelings and emotions as determinants of personal reality.
Brown Makes His Needs Known (January 2012)
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Barbara Rector (January 2012)
BROWN MAKES HIS NEEDS KNOWN
A few days ago, a very generous spirited colleague and friend, Linda Kohanov, invited me to participate in her four day teaching seminar focused on the Wisdom of Pioneering Spirit. Linda knew I was recovering from yet more dental surgery and that my horse Brown was living nearby. Brown had been moved two weeks earlier to El Milagros for the purpose of learning how to be a horse amongst horses. He was turned out with nine other geldings in a ten acre grass pasture paddock. Jean Burke, supervisor of the Milagros herds, has a good track record with me; she kept Rama for three years while I was in graduate school.
Brown is an August ‘92’ foal and near as I can determine, I’m his third owner. He is a Minnesotabred American Quarter Horse who trained at a Duluthshow barn showing so successfully as a Western Pleasure and Trail horse that when he was about seven years old he was hauled to Arizona for our Sun Circuit where he achieved Regional Championship status in both divisions. Brown came into my life as he was turning twelve years.
On the sixth day of Brown’s socialization adventure my friend and colleague Lisa Walters agreed to visit him with me after we finished up with our third annual face to face meeting of the Epona Quest Foundation Board held at Linda Kohanov’s new home in Amado. Jean’s Milagros pastures are just two freeway exits south past theArizona–Mexico Border check point. We call Jean to let her know we are on Bridge Road approaching the railroad tracks; she agrees to meet us at the locked gate where Brown’s section of pasture is located.
Each nine to ten geldings or mares or babies and their Mom’s have two ten acre irrigated grass paddocks that are rotated each week to week and a half depending on the grass length, growth, and water needs. Lisa and I follow Jean’s truck out to the designated gate for Brown and his group.
My heart sings when in response to my whistle and yell out, “Hey, Mister”, Brown pops his head up from eating and knickers a greeting. I’m thrilled as he begins to walk towards me.
Then, while he’s still some distance away, I observe in alarm that he is walking as if in a perpetual half pass to the right with a strange wiggle twist to his right pastern or hock. In fright and panic I think his leg is broken. Jean says, “No. His eye wouldn’t be so bright, his interest so high in my offered carrot; if his leg were brokeen, and he would hardly be walking – if at all.”
The three of us determine something isn’t right and that he needs removal from the pasture for further checking. Jean goes in amongst the hovering crowding geldings, to halter a willing and compliant Brown. I slam the gate shut on the three youngsters attempting to follow him out of the pasture. He has developed friends. The big Percheron grey, Mac, bellows to him and Brown answers back even as he’s busy minding Jean’s request to back up.
I confirm his eye is indeed bright and run my hands down each of his legs. No sign of heat, no obvious swelling. Mystery. He is definitely walking with an odd twist, drag of right hind leg and as he does so is curved sideways. We decide to walk him up to the barn a distance of some mile and a half. I start off walking him on his lead with Lisa following driving Vanilla (my trusty 01 Subaru). Jean and her truck filled with three large shepherds bring up the rear.
Brown is dancing in place as the notion dawns he is leaving his friends. Soon they begin to gallop down the fence line next to the tree lined lane where we are walking. Knickers and bellows and general racket, Lisa tells me later that Brown did several steps of pretty good piaffe. I have to remind him to stay with me and not go up taking me with him. Relief floods through me; his leg isn’t broken with this agility display.
Three quarters of a mile at the gate, Jean wants to switch places; she can see he is about to lift me off the ground. As I hand him over to her, she reminds me the dogs know me. No matter really as I open door to drive her truck, they all bound out. Not a problem for Jean. She’s a remarkable hand with a horse, even one strong as Brown now attempting to pull her stocky bulk up. Yes, I can now see, he’s actually doing quite a decent piaffe.
I lock the gate per Jean’s instructions and Lisa follows me around to the barn. Jean has walked the shorter route down the house lane through the private courtyard of the owner’s home. We arrive in time to see Jean and Brown round the mesquite shaded bend. He’s walking still with that odd curve, twist and drag. Jean puts him in a large barn paddock about the size of a small dressage court – two twenty meter circles stacked on top of each other. She wants him to keep moving; so puts hay at one end and water at the other.
A small adjacent paddock holds an aged Shetland pony and a long haired donkey. Further down the fence line is a lovely bay Arabian gelding. Brown immediately investigates the pony and donkey – two animals with which in the past, he has exhibited strong reactions of fear. Not so now. He is definitely displaying a more socialized ‘horse amongst horses’ demeanor.
The vet will be out Thursday or Friday for his regular weekly ranch visit day. It’s Joe Robinson out of Nogales, our old friend from the days of Trekhner mare, Tasha and Kelly’s Welsh pony type, Dolly when we hunted to hounds in Sonoita. In the meantime, Jean will keep him in this spacious paddock and give him a gram of Bute (horse aspirin) per day until Joe has an opportunity to go over him. Jean is of the opinion he has over done it playing and romping in the herd life; she has observed some full out gallops; Brown has made best buddies with Mac the big grey Percheron.
The coming week I have dental surgery and won’t be able to drive for a few days. I agree to stay in touch with Jean by phone and check on his progress. I do want him vet checked and if he takes a turn for the worse sooner rather than later. On Friday when Joe looks him over, he finds no obvious sign of injury. Brown actually passes the basic flexion soundness exam and still walks slightly curved with the odd twist and drag. Joe didn’t have his x-ray machine with him; he agrees to bring it next week. He speculates there could be arthritic changes in that hock. Once he sees the picture, he may decide he could be helped by injection into the joint of Legend (product name for a hyuralic acid joint fluid).
As I hear this from Jean, the picture of the first day of turn out six days earlier pops into my mind; head groom Jesus walking Brown on the lead as he first entered the paddock. Amongst all those geldings down and across the entire ten acre pasture, being familiarized with the perimeter of fence line, the location of salt blocks and the water tanks. Brown had been passageing. “Making himself BIG”, in Anna’s words. That was probably more passage than in his entire nineteen years life up to that point. He’s tweaked something in his hock, I’m thinking.
The following week post dental surgery, I’m cleared to drive and visit him daily late afternoons after the Wisdom seminar at Linda’s. Rather nice to discover I’m approximately 45 minutes away drive way to drive way on the back roads past the Fairgrounds and down the ‘Suharita autobahn’ to old Nogales Highway through township of Continental.
First day’s visit, I brush his shaggy winterized coat and clean his feet. I notice his poops are healthy and there is even a roll spot in the sand so I know he is getting down and up with no problems. After finishing off his six carrots Brown does an odd thing. He walks over to a cattle loading chute and puts his head underneath it. He stays motionless for a few minutes and then retracts his head from the dark interior and looks at me intently.
Several minutes looking at me and then he puts his head between his front legs and rubs his eyes. Again Brown looks at me and then swings his head around to place it in the hole of the underneath side of the loading chute. “OK, what the heck?” I’m thinking.
As he finished off his carrots, I had asked him what more he needed from me as we waited out the week for next vet’s visit scheduled for the following Friday. Now Brown is again standing motionless with his head inside the dark hole of the chute. I go over and actually poke my head in along side his. We are eye to eye, neck along neck, shoulder to shoulder looking ahead into the dark interior. I notice the shade on our eyes is pleasant.
After a few moments, it occurs to me this probably isn’t the safest position and I’m clueless as to what he is looking at if anything. After I retract my head and step back, Brown brings his head out and turns again to look at me intently. Then he puts his head between his legs and rubs his eyes.
“You want your fly mask!” I exclaim.
Brown nods his head up and down several times affirmatively. He puts his head on my heart. “Message delivered”, he seems to say.
“Well, OK, I’ll be here tomorrow afternoon with your freshly washed fly mask.” I give him a big heart hug and go get the remaining apple to cut up for his departure treat.
Home from my Minneapolis teaching trip, I visited Brown yesterday (November 5, 2011) and he is even better. Almost back to normal with only the faintest of wiggle twist drag to his leg. He’s been five days with no bute. Joe did his x-ray on Friday and we’re currently waiting for the reading and news of whether he is cleared for pasture turn out. I’ve already told him that I don’t care if he’s ever ride worthy. I just want him to be free of pain and willing to engage with me and others in the Adventures In Awareness process of expanding our Awareness and developing Consciousness.