Most horse owners are familiar with that sinking feeling when they know, in their gut, something isn’t right. This feeling chilled me to the bone early one calm summer’s morning. It was to be the last time I felt this for Dooie.
She had been my teacher for 8 years and arrived as a hyped up thoroughbred mare who radiated tension. Nervous to load on the truck, sweating when travelling, rushing when ridden and even eating as if it might disappear any moment! Over time this tension eased and she was able to find peace when relating to people. I had nothing but admiration for her high expectations of how she deserved to be ridden and handled – her feedback was direct and pointed when you didn’t meet those expectations! Fair enough – she knew who she was and had the self-respect to communicate her boundaries clearly.
That summer’s morning her time in this world was coming to an end. On the operating table we later learnt that she had torn an inoperable, fist-sized hole in her diaphragm – an injury the surgeon very rarely saw, and only from car accidents. All I found were struggle marks in a drain so I guess she miss judged her jump and fell in at speed. From her fight to get out her eyes were nearly swollen shut and she was in obvious pain – we thought she had colic at this stage. That day I witnessed the immense power of a trusting relationship – this previously nervous loader followed nothing but the sound of my voice, because she was practically blind, and felt her way up the truck ramp to get to what we hoped would be life saving surgery. Such an incredible show of bravery.
After she died I asked why she had to go so unexpectedly and traumatically. The reply was that I had to support her in her passing to fully open my heart (good ol’ grief ey!) and that she was making space for a new teacher as our shared lessons had been learnt. Dooie also left a legacy. As dawn broke, two days after she departed, a voice in my head said ‘get pen and paper, I am about to share something you need to write down’. What she shared that morning is written below – her words, her requests and her words of wisdom regarding how horses deserve to be treated.
Dooie’s Words of Wisdom
- Breathe into me so I can fill my lungs with trust. Your deep breath makes me feel safe
- Ask & invite don’t demand & force
- Your touch speaks volumes – how you touch, when you touch, where you touch & with what intention you touch
- Connect with me, not control me
- Our relationship can only flourish when you offer me my freedom
- Remove the restrictive gear that I am running away from & I won’t need to run away anymore
- How you use your body affects how I use my body
- Be present – all that matters at the moment is right in front of you – when you are not present I feel abandoned and fearful
- There is far more room for tender & kind than there is for fierce
- Being with me is a privilege – always treat it as such
- Respect my dignity & I will nurture yours
- Respect my opinion about people, places and equipment – I sense more about the environment than you do
- Pause to ask what you can do for me, not always what I can do for you – I will tell you
- Learn the lessons I offer you with good grace or I will present them in such a way as you can’t ignore them
- Disregarding or dishonouring me kills my soul – keep watching my eye – that is the window to my soul
- Push yourself to be a better caretaker – learn all you can but always ask me & your heart if it is right for us
- Never betray my trust – I don’t give it easily & I seldom give it twice
- Talk to me – tell them where we are going & what you would like me to do – I understand far more than you realise – show me pictures in your mind of what I can expect or I get worried
- Love me for who I am not for what I can do for you
- Always look at me through the eyes of your heart not your ego
- You are accountable for about 80% of what I do – hold yourself to account & use that to grow not to shame yourself
- I am here to heal you & like nothing more than to see you joyful – this is far greater reward for me than ribbons
- Greet me with respectful delight & I will do likewise
- Say thank you a lot
- Never deny me my soul essentials – freedom, friends, food & love
- Thank you for being with me as I left this earth, you are part of my family
Brave, beautiful soul, so full of grace – thank you for all your lessons – physical, emotional, psychological & spiritual. The grief of losing you was a small price to pay for the joy of knowing you x