Wednesday, March 3, 2010
It has been five years, but Bear still goes directly to the water buckets to check if there is water when he walks into his stall. Most horses check the feed tub. He also goes over to the water trough when you turn him out. We keep to a schedule here at Leighton Farm. Horses rely on the fact that everything happens at a certain time each day. They find comfort in it, especially the horses who have been abused. The down side is if we are late bringing in from the fields, Bear starts pacing the fence in worry that “today they aren’t coming”. It’s a fear that I don’t think will ever leave him. When we go down the line of stalls to feed Bear stands quietly in his stall – waiting. I’ll never forget the first time he let out a low, calm nicker at feed time. He had dared to ask. Bear is always serious, he lost his sense of humor somewhere along the way. I watch him in the field and many times he reminds me of Eyore. There is an ever-present sadness that surrounds him, even when he’s happy to see you.
Bear appreciates everything you do for him. I mean everything. Your gentle touch is something he has longed for his entire life. When I walk in the stall and put my hand on his face, he accepts it and relaxes. He craves kindness and love. He draws people in with his need. He’s so appreciative that you fed him today, that you turned him out, brushed him, brought him in. Whatever you do, he’s glad you did it. Most horses begin to expect certain things after a while. Bear takes nothing for granted. Look in his eye and you can see the pain. It is obvious he has seen Hell and it wrecks me that I will never be able to make him whole.
One thing I’ve learned from working with abused horses, Bear and Charlie in particular, is if they get to the point where they want to die, they never fully recover. Charlie rebounded from the abuse. He handled the starvation better than Bear. When I bought them Charlie was in terrible shape, but Bear was far worse. Charlie had not given up, he knew someone was coming and better times were ahead. That’s why he trusted us and went onto the trailer. He knew it would be better. He knew it for a fact. Bear had given up, he had wanted to die. He was ready for his end and had accepted the fact that no one would ever come for him. When you look into his eyes that is what you see. I don’t believe animals consider death until it is imminent. I don’t believe they understand it exists. Once they do, everything changes.