Rehabbing senior horses have some glorious moments and some challenging moments. Witnessing another being in pain or not feeling well, can be incredibly challenging for a human caretaker. It’s easy to want to try and control it or run and hide from it. Finding the path down the middle, of embracing the present moment and all that it has to offer is the silver lining of connection for me. It is one of the most real experiences of life I’ve ever been a part of.
Thanks to the senior horses I have cared for in some challenging times, here are:
The Top 10 Things I Learned from a Sick Horse:
1. I am not a horse. I am a human. I have human capabilities and limitations.
2. Horses are masters at holding space for sick herd members. They don’t just do this for a few minutes. They do it every moment of every day. This is where it helps to remember that I am not a horse. I need to sleep at night. They can sleep standing up and still hold space.
3. Horses are much bigger than I am. Their expression of pain can exceed my capability to witness it. It is ok to excuse myself if it gets too big for me to witness.
4. My first job is to take care of myself. It is only then that I can even begin to offer support to the horse.
5. A sick horse does not need me to crowd them. They do not need me to spend every moment with them. It’s ok to let the horse be.
6. Keep horses in a herd in wide open space, preferably with as few human constructs as possible. What are human constructs? Anything man-made: fences, posts, barns, feeders, etc. It is easy for a sick horse to injure themselves in tight quarters or with human constructs. Wide open space is the safest place for a horse to be able to take care of themselves when they don’t feel well.
7. Provide food, water, shelter and horse friends. Let them decide if they want to eat, drink or take shelter. They know better than we do what they need to heal.
8. Not eating very much or stopping eating is not the end of the world. It is simply information. Losing weight is not necessarily painful. Not eating very much is the body putting all of its energy toward healing and not toward digesting a lot of food. If the eating stops completely for a few days, the body is simply preparing to die.
9. Sometimes standing in the rain is a comforting place to be. Tucking themselves into a grove a trees can also provide comfort. Resist the temptation to control them. Allow them to make their own choices.
10. Observe. Observe. Observe. Horses are masters at taking care of themselves. Allow a sick horse do what they need to do to take care of themselves. If they are preparing to die, let them do that too.