Two days ago my amazing friend Jane Pike lost her beautiful yearling Irish Draught colt called Bear. From discovering him being ill to having him put to sleep by the vets was less than 24 hours.
It was sudden, it was harrowing and as loss such as this always is, it was heart-breaking.
Due to our 13 hours time difference, it was late at night with me when Jane messaged to tell me that Bear had gone.
Early the next morning in the pitch black I went to get my two girls Evie and Teazel down from the track and in for their breakfasts.
They were there waiting for me at the gate. I immediately began to weep because I knew Bear would never be there again at the gate to greet Jane. My heart was breaking not only for Bear, but for Jane as I knew my friend was going through such pain.
I went up to both of my horses and snuggled my nose into that softest of places where their jaw meets their neck.
With each of them I inhaled deeply their unique aroma of their beingness.
I stood there telling each of them that I saw them, I felt them and I was SO blessed that they were in my life.
I then stood between them and began to tell them all about Bear. The sweetest of beings, who loved Jane and his life with her, but was now gone…… I then actually started giggling.
“Why am I telling you this?” I asked “You already bloody know!!!”.
It was at that moment that I went into the deeper place of sitting in pure connection.
When Bear first became ill less than 24 hours previously, I had asked my beautiful horses to help Bear in any way they could, even if that was to help him make the change from physical form to the pure energy being that we all are once we transition.
I knew they knew all about Bear. It was just my humanness had momentarily got in the way of me realising that.
The pain of losing a horse of whatever age is real – very real.
And here I just want to say this. There can be judgement from some people about the grief we go through over the loss of an animal be it horse, dog, cat etc.
Yes you are allowed and “expected” to mourn the loss of a person but the oft spoken reason to rein your emotions in for your beloved pet is that “It’s only an animal”.
For many people the animals in their life are:-
The only reason they have to get up in the morning.
The only reason they actually step outside the house each day.
The only company they have in their life.
The only thing that keeps them going.
And then there are those who are on that deep path of exploration into connection, consciousness and energy who realise that humans are part of the natural world.
Humans are not separate from it and not “above” it, they are an intrinsic component of it.
Just as are all the other living organisms from the amoeba to the blue whale, from algae to the sequoia tree, and of course the Earth itself which is an elemental part of the natural world, humans are part of nature.
So for me there is no need to try and justify your grief for an animal whether a companion or wild creature. They are as worthy of our emotion as any human.
I have in my 30 plus years of being with horses suffered the loss of the very young, a ten-day old home-bred foal, and the old a 25 year old mare who had been with me for 23 of those 25 years.
Was either of those losses easier or less painful? I’d have to say no.
The foal that I lost happened the only time I ever planned to put my mare in foal. I had wanted an Appaloosa for such a long time and then came up with the bright idea of breeding my mare Midnight to a blanket spot stallion. Throughout her pregnancy I kept envisaging, hoping for, intending a blanket spot filly.
When the day came with the help of two vets (a whole other story ) a live, bright bay, blanket spot colt was on the floor and sucking. My world was complete – OK colt not filly – but who’s counting!
Ten days later as I went to the field early in the morning I could immediately see that the foal was not right. Vet out, antibiotics, foal on drip.
That evening I had just prepared a bed to sleep on in the shed where Min and the foal were to keep an eye on him as he was still on a drip, when at 8pm some 12 hours after discovering him ill, he buckled at the knees and died in front of me. The anguish was real, but I knew there was nothing to be done at that time of night, so I left him with Min, knowing I would have to deal with everything in the morning.
The morning when I found the foal ill and knowing we had to bring him into the shed a distance of less than a 100m from the field, we had actually put him in a wheelbarrow as he was finding walking difficult. Min went ape-shit even though we kept her right by the barrow as we transported him to the shed.
The morning after he had died, I walked into the shed and found a very calm Min standing next to what looked like a pile of straw. It was in fact her foal whom she had covered with straw during the night. I was dreading taking the foal away from her so thought I would lead her out so she wouldn’t see him being man-handled away for burial.
Min walked out of the shed without a second glance. There was no neighing, no looking back just seemingly complete acceptance of the situation. I had by sheer luck done the correct thing and left her with the dead foal overnight. This had given her the time and space needed to realise he had died.
At that moment I realised how in the moment horses can be. I’m not going to assume she didn’t in some way grieve for longer, but the one thing she showed me was that she was OK to leave the physical body of her foal. He no longer needed her.
He was gone.
His loss taught me about being present. It taught me how caught up in ourselves we can be with plans and desires. It taught me we only have now.
The other loss I went through was of Min herself.
Min was the horse that led me to the energy. She is the reason I am doing this work. She was my teacher or more accurately my task master – she took no prisoners – she was exactly what I needed.
About three months before Min died, I was out riding her round the valley and this VERY real thought came to me.
“Once Min has taught me all she needs to teach me, she will go!”
I remember exactly where I was when I “heard” that thought. My blood ran cold and from then on, I figuratively stuck my fingers in my ears and starting loudly singing “la la la”, in the vain hope I wouldn’t hear Min’s final lessons for me and she would have to stay that bit longer.
It didn’t work.
That thought had been my head’s up about Min leaving me, and it soon became my reality.
On the morning of New Year’s day 2015 (Min chose a date I couldn’t forget – she knew how crap I was at remembering dates!) Min had obviously during the night been suffering major colic.
The vet was called and came out immediately. Painkillers and muscle relaxants were administered and a repeat visit booked for two hours’ time to see how she was.
The option to transport her to a vet hospital was discussed, but both hospitals were over two hours away and even if we got her there safely, at 25 years old the outcome was doubtful to say the least. I couldn’t and wouldn’t put her through the ordeal.
To cut a long story short, an hour later I phoned the vet to come out and put her down.
Min was quite clear as to this being the correct outcome. So with everyone who loved her there present – including our amazing healer/cranial osteopath Cat who just “happened” to turn up to see the horses on New Year’s day – as you do – I totally believe Min planned this gathering as well, Min was put to sleep.
My friend and I were with Min for the whole journey including when a friend and neighbour kindly came with his digger and carried her to her final resting place. We stayed until she was completely covered and the last clod of earth was in place.
Min is buried high on the hill facing West towards the setting sun in a spot that overlooks the farm and the deep valley below. When the time comes, I’m joining her there.
So which of these deaths was hardest?
The foal (who I hadn’t even got round to naming) who was my dream come true and had his whole life in front of him, or my darling Min who had given me so much and had been my companion for 23 years?
I don’t think you can classify degree of loss, they were both painful in their separate ways.
When the foal died my long held dreams of a home bred Appaloosa died with him. His young life was cut so dramatically short – it was all in front of him. Having to have two vets needed to birth the foal did bring about the realisation as to how I could have at that point lost either or both mare and foal.
The feelings following the loss of the foal of “if only”, “what if” and “why me” lasted for quite some time.
I vowed I would never put Min through that again. My days of horse breeding were well and truly over.
When some 10 years later Min died. I posted about it on Facebook, but I was in a place of consciousness where although I was sad, I could celebrate her life and rejoice and acknowledge all she had given me. There was grief, but there was also so much joy remembering what we had shared together.
And so back to Bear.
Yesterday Jane put up two beautiful posts. One was a description of how she would go and sit on the log in Bear’s paddock and just “be”. Bear would come along of his own free will and just “be” with her.
The other was a soul touching video of just such a moment. Jane is sitting on the log and Bear has his head beside her, his muzzle resting on the log itself, eyes closed in totally peace and connection as Jane gently strokes his beautiful face.
Watching that video you would think that the pain would be even greater because of that connection.
But I tend to think no – and these are my thoughts. Please know I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything being good or bad, right or wrong. This is just how I now see the world.
Could it be that Bear found Jane to give her that connection, that love and that peace in his presence?
Bear led Jane to a knowingness of these things and Jane being in the place/mindset/energy was able to totally acknowledge what he has given her.
Jane now knows those feelings, she will never lose that knowing. That is Bear’s gift to her.
Talking with Jane over the months since Bear first arrived there has never been a conversation of plans for Bear’s future. Not that he was going to be shown as the beautiful Irish draught that he was. Not that he was going to do dressage. Not even that there was a plan that he was destined to be part of Jane’s work.
No, Jane always spoke about being present with him. Of how his energy was so gentle and kind. Of how he just exuded goodness. Of how he so quickly connected to Jane. Because Jane stayed present with Bear and received the gifts he had to give her with an open and grateful heart, there was in some ways no loss of the future to mourn. Jane stayed present.
Jane sent me a message today where she spoke of riding on the inlet and knowing Bear was there with her.
“But I went riding today on the inlet and I felt him all around me. I felt like I could see him riding next to me and saying that he could be as big as the kelpies or as small as a ladybird, and everywhere all at once. Now he doesn’t have a physical body. Like I saw holograms of him everywhere.”
I think that is Bear’s gift to Jane and the fact he managed to give these gifts to Jane in a few short months speaks of the powerful place that Jane works from. Yes, obviously there is undoubtedly the pain of the “if only” and the “why did this happen to Bear?” but the gift realised is immense.
Here is to the foals, the Bears and the Mins of this world.
Thank you for our time together however long or short.
Thank you for the gifts you came to give.
We receive them all with grateful hearts.
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