I don't usually get too worked up about animal issues. I love animals -- I've had countless pets over the years -- but, every time I get a little sad about an abused animal or a lost animal or a sick animal, I just think about the 1.2 million human babies that are cavalierly dismembered and vacuumed from their womb homes every year in America, against which so few cry out; I think of the children across the world who face every day the realities of war and famine and oppression, against which so few cry out; I recall that certain darkened souls plot and enact acts of unspeakable evil against innocents, about which we have gotten too calloused; and I find myself a lot less worried about the animals. Animals are nice, and we humans ought to be kind to them and be good stewards of this beautiful earth and the inhabitants herein, but it's been made clear that He who knits us together in our mothers' wombs, and He who planned out the days of our lives when as yet there were none, finds us far more valuable than sparrows (and I think we can bet more valuable than cats, dogs, spotted wood owls, etc.).
Ah, but horses. I shall always have that special concern for those of the equine persuasion. And that mushy part in my heart gets even more soft when I think of Thoroughbred racehorses. And so, I cry over Barbaro, that lion-hearted colt who is hovering on the brink of death. His case is so painful to me because I once had an ex-racehorse (tattooed lip and all), and I know the nobility of these athletes; also, I lost a horse to laminitis when I was younger, and Barbaro's case is renewing memories of that loss.
Laminitis is an insidious disease that is nigh impossible to cure. My beautiful dressage champion, Inverness Heather, slowly declined with that hoof ailment until she had to be euthanized. It is a wretched thing to witness the pitiful sight of your glorious horse lying on her side in her stall because it is too painful to stand. The last night of her life, I lay down in the stall next to her and rested my head on her belly. Echoing throughout her body was the beat of that noble heart -- the heart of a grand dancer whose precision and elegance were responsible for almost all of the show ribbons in my collection.
Am I anthropomorphizing my horses? Of course! But -- and I think that anyone who has spent time hands-on with horses will tell you the same thing -- horses are different. I suppose that people will say that dogs are different, too. I've never been much of a dog person. Many will declare that cats are also capable of having those inter-species bonds. I guess so, but I still insist that with horses it is different. As I stated, I've had many, many pets over the years. But, the only "pets" that haunt my dreams are my horses -- especially my ex-racehorse, Spirit. I still have heart-wrenching dreams about when I gave him up to go to college in 1994. Twelve years later, I still haven't recovered completely. If he is still alive out there, he would be 25. I'm guessing that he is in greener pastures by now. Is it wrong to hope that the God of Creation will have set aside a corner of eternity for those friends that somehow managed to transcend the barrier of dumb beasts and capture a bit of our souls to claim as their own? Oh maybe, but that's not going to stop me from praying for Barbaro, and my own long-lost equine friends. As always, God's grace is far bigger than my heresy.
My mom and I often didn't "get" each other, especially when it came to my riding. But, when the trailer came and took my last horse, Spirit, to his new home on the brink of my leaving for college, my mom saw my stricken face and wracked soul and made this observation:
Your horses were your friends when you felt all alone. They were your parents when we didn't understand you. They were the school where you learned your toughest lessons. They were your sounding board for all of your fears and hopes and frustrations. They were the biggest part of your life for many years. It is okay to miss them terribly.
That was a very freeing statement from my mom, who, I had always thought, viewed my horse obsession with contempt and disgust. I bless her for that, because it allowed me to go into my childhood bedroom and cry my eyes out. And it still lets me do that today, as I tear up while typing this out. And I bless my dad, without whom I never would have had the joy of owning horses.
I'm hoping for a miracle for Barbaro.