We All Have a Place
The Story of Shadow
Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, "There is something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of man."
I met Shadow at Throwaway Ponies in the spring of 2012. I had recently cut back my hours at an office that I had worked in for 18 years. I knew that I wanted to volunteer somewhere when time allowed, so I began to pray for a place that would fill a passion within me and where I could be of the greatest help with the skills that I naturally have. "Follow your heart’s desire,” drew me to horses, dogs, and people. I decided to stay away from the dogs, because I have a wonderful little Abby that likes being the princess and I knew that I would be tempted to bring a few dogs home at the end of the day!
I happened upon TaPs online, called and then visited one afternoon. I immediately felt at home and asked to join the volunteer program. I was graciously accepted, and "grace" I needed the first few months - and still do!!
It had been nearly 30 years since I had been around horses, except on an occasional trail ride during our vacations. I had a beautiful bay named Yankee from infancy until I was 24. My daughter, as an infant, even got to ride her with me. With 3 children and living in the city, I was too busy and far away to care for her so we gave her to a neighbor for his grandchildren to enjoy. My favorite memories are when we lived in the country and as soon us kids got off the school bus, we would saddle up and head down the long country roads and fields.
I started at TaPs one day a week, mucking paddocks, sweeping the barn, anything that I could do to just be outside and enjoy the sight and smell of the horses. Since I was a "re-beginner" to the horse world, I basically had to relearn everything and build back some confidence.
This is where sweet Shadow came to play an important role in my life. He would patiently let me practice cleaning his hooves. (It is somewhat intimidating to hold a thousand pound horse’s back hoof in your hand while crouching over and picking at it!) After a few weeks of "learning" with Shadow, I felt a bond with this wonderful, patient, strong, special spirit. He had founder so much that he couldn't be ridden nor could he walk very much without being in pain. Each week, I would visit, groom and thank him for being so patient
One day in particular, I was having a very rough time emotionally. Feeling left out, like I didn't have a "place" anywhere. I didn't have the position at work that I had had for years, my friends were regrouping, and I wasn't knowledgeable enough at the barn to feel confident in anything except scooping poop. Basically I was having a "mid life pity party" with myself !!I just started talking it all out loud to my sweet friend. He listened of course, what choice did he have. But he did, he could have walked away and headed to the hay bale, but he didn't. He just stood there, letting me go on and on and shed a few tears. Then, I looked into his eyes and really "saw" him and "felt" him. What I felt and knew was that he wanted me to understand that he too had had the same feelings. Here was a beautiful creature that by
natural instincts wants to be a part of a great herd, to know their place with in it and to run and live free. Now he was living in a paddock with the other lame horses (with of course lots of love, attention and food!). But like me, I am sure it was an adjustment to his comfort zone and desires. That visit really touched my heart and soul.
I let go of my pity party, dried my tears and hugged my friend a little tighter, thanking him for sharing. Thanking him for giving me confidence to hold my head high and be all I could be that day and every day thereafter, no matter what "paddock" I find myself in. He did his job well. Even as a lame horse, he provided companionship and a patient spirit just as needed.
As the months went on, his laminitis got worse. He began to sit down more frequently and for longer periods of time with his best friend little Bessie always close by. He would also let us sit next to him to love and comfort him and ourselves.
Thoughts were circulating about "having to make a decision" for him. Shadow was loved by so many, how and when just seemed too difficult to think about or face. Then one day while loving him and discussing it with a friend, I held his sweet face in my hands, looked deep into his eyes and asked him to please let us know when he was ready and to forgive us when that day came. At that moment, a tear fell from his eye. I have no doubt that it was a genuine tear. We both saw it and after the astonishment, felt a sense of peace.
A few days afterward, we all said our goodbyes. It was a very cloudy day, yet all of us had on sunglasses to hide the tears. There weren't many words spoken that day. We all shared the same feelings; no words were needed. The vet was so compassionate as he helped Shadow go to his forever lush green pasture. I believe he is running free with his long beautiful tail blowing in the wind.
Thank you God for all the magnificent creatures, large and small, that You gave us charge over. You knew they would need us as much as we would need them.
And a big thank you to Karen and TaPs for letting me be a part to something wonderful :)