The Flight of the Big Red Dragon
Yesterday, after 3 months of intense “Blind horse meditation”, we let our beloved Doodle return to spirit. Blindness was no place for this most free-spirited of creatures to live, so despite our breaking hearts we released him.
For 3 months our lives here have revolved around keeping Doodle safe and happy after he suddenly became blind. No small task when his greatest happiness and only security is feeling the herd is with him. But this is Nature Plus horse care, we do everything we can to give our horses a natural lifestyle and then give them all the care we can on top of that.
Doodle has never lived in a stable. For all his 19 years he has lived in the company of other horses, with the freedom to move wherever he wishes, albeit within the confines of a fenced field. His smallest field was 4 acres, recently he has roamed over 30 hectares in a challenging environment of hilly scrub, rock slopes and oak forest. As free as a domestic horse can be. And then one day he went blind.
So what to do? He must be kept safe while we try to heal him. He can’t move around freely, the terrain is rough and his herd try to drive him away (horses are deeply disturbed by disability in a herd member). We don’t have a stable here, our horse keeping is designed around giving horses a familiar herd and freedom of movement. And he would panic if shut inside. So we created him a safe space in the middle of camp, a small fenced area. We fed the herd around the perimeter of his pen and kept two horses penned beside him at all times, so he was never alone.
One of us slept in the tack room, where Doodle could reach in and shake our feet when he needed a carrot (often!). And we could calm him down in the night if it rained, which panicked him because he couldn’t smell where the herd was. Or if the herd moved away a little, when Doods would start calling and knocking into the fence.
Every day we took him walking with the herd. From a distance you wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong with him, but as idyllic as it looked on warm spring days it was not easy. We had to be constantly alert to the movement of the herd to protect him if necessary. If you spaced out for a moment he could walk into a tree, or trip over a root, fall in a ditch. So, total alert presence was the meditation.
Many a day one of us would come back distressed or exhausted, especially if he was having an ‘off’ day when the flies could drive him crazy, even one or two of them. Or suddenly he would just start walking and not want to stop. I thought it was an impulse horses must have to just walk till they drop. It made sense to me, but it was emotionally distressing for we humans.
We were still hoping that his vision would return with the help of medicine, herbs, essential oils, pure love. But as time went on and he saw no more clearly I had to ask: is keeping him alive Nature Plus Horse Care, or Nature minus? And the answer was clear.
There is nothing this horse loves more than moving freely with his herd. Without vision that is never going to be an option again. It can look like he’s living well, but he’s only ever a fraction away from panic. We were managing, but if I was to set him free he would be dead or dying within minutes, panicked and in pain. In this situation the Plus is to let him pass away peacefully with no fear.
So I did the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. I wasn’t sure I would have the strength. Envisioned myself panicking at the end. But love is courageous and we knew, he and I, that the time had come.
On a fine spring day
With a brisk wind blowing
We put him down
The hole dug
The cuckoo calling
On this bright hill
With yellow flowers dancing
And the fragrance of life eternal filling our nostrils
And the eagle soaring across a backdrop of misty Monchique mountains
Is where it ends,
The world as I know it.
The day he died was full of spring. As we awaited the vet’s arrival, he ate succulent green grass surrounded by his friends, horse and human. Then the injections, the terrible moment when his body dropped. His quiet passing. The whole proceeding was blessed with love and meditative presence. An explosion of love that was felt by all. The last great lesson from my greatest teacher as he left this world.
It will take a little while for the world to find its axis again. We have had a long and magical journey together, me and the Doodle Meister. I am full of gratitude for all he has taught me, and the many he has touched with his intelligence and humour, his pride and power, his courage and gentleness. It was truly an honour to be chosen as his guardian. But now I must let my Big Red Dragon fly away to catch a comet tail while I stay here. Until we meet again….
Don’t be sorry for my loss
For how can love ever leave me?
From within it arises
And returns again within,
to rest there.
Love sits upon my shoulder brightly
As I trot along the paths we shared.
Love takes me soaring on its dragon wings
When life looks dreary.
The dream is dead
the love eternal.
Hold me so I don’t forget.
Don’t be sorry for my loss
Celebrate my completion
For even as this sorrow drowns me
I am reborn
Finally I have released my clutching fingers
And float here, staring at the dawn