Three Dark Horses

The Choctaw Princess is handing her circumstances serenely enough. I, however, have had a bit of a meltdown because she is the third horse in a row that has arrived on my place with such severe  central nervous system (CNS) I have had to have them out down.. I have  not been able to find much information on neurological issues in horses. As James R. Rooney DVM  points out, we humans do not really understand the normal equine nervous system, never mind the abnormal.

I am not sure how much of that lack of research is that CNS issues are actually uncommon in horses, how much is that horses with neurological problems are prone to injure themes;eves, especially their legs, badly enough to have to be put down without anyone bothering to seek out the reason for the lack of coordination that causes the injury and how much is that horses with neurological damage are far too often dismissed as  behavior problems especially by those who abuse horses badly enough to damage their neck and spine .

Regardless,  I find myself wondering why three of them would show up in my life especially since all three have arrived when I was most convinced that taking another  equine project was not feasible. I told all the owners the same thing – if you feel strongly enough about the horse to get them here and turn them over to me, I will feed and care for them. When they arrived, they all had numerous problems due to neglect and abuse.  But it is the CNS problems  that have done them in.

The first was a  sixteen year old Thoroughbred gelding that had been trained as a roping horse which meant he had been round penned to excess and eventually beaten so badly with a with a police baton that he ended up like Mohammad Ali, with the equine equivalent of boxer’s Parkinson’s disease. I had not owned a horse since I started traveling the shamanic workshop road without a steady income or a home of my own. But my taking ownership of the horse  resolved a dispute between one of my brothers and his owner during the probate of my mother’s estate which happened to include the horse facilities.

Owning a horse meant that I had to fight for  a place to keep him as we settled my mother’s estate and I ended up with the horse facilities where I now live, ironically enough the very spot where I began my Spanish Colonial horse training and breeding adventures.  I ended up having to put that horse down about eighteen months after I took him because half a ton of thoroughbred with dementia and seizures is a danger to others as well as themselves. But just before he died, I was offered a last-ditch three-year old  rescue off the racetrack in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

I took Domo sight unseen even though hay had just quadrupled in cost because I figured any horse that could persuade his trainer to feed him for  months despite his owner’s refusal to pay his board had to be a very special character. The trainer told me that he was too good of a horse to send to slaughter but she was having a hard time finding some one who could handle him.

He was a challenge to handle not only because he was big, smart, fast and hot-headed, but because he had been ‘stallbroke’ meaning beaten in his stall with a length of hose until he froze up, and yanked around with a chain through his mouth, over his poll, and/or under his jaw. When he arrived he could not open his mouth more than an inch or so because his low jaw was partially dislocated.  His neck and back had also been injured and the damage to his nervous system was aggravated when we got hit by lightning.

I had to put him down when he had such a severe seizure that he collapsed mid-stride and broke his upper arm (humerus). But that horse opened my eyes to the realities of the modern horse industry. I began to write about horse slaughter (click here) and horse training. And those posts on horse training got attention of the fly-by-night publisher that suggested I write a series on horse training. Even though the publisher dropped out of the picture early on, Domo was the inspiration for my series of books on horse training (click here).

So I have found myself wondering why an aged Choctaw Princess managed to get herself hauled some 500 miles to get here. When the Choctaw Princess appeared in my dreams  with thick sticky black tarry goop coating her spine from her poll to her tail, it was clear that healing her CNS was not part of the picture.That kind of dark, thick, sticky and stagnant stuff in my dreams usually means degenerative disease processes.

But then a few days after the black goop dream, I found myself considering fences from the Choctaw Princess’s point of view. At first I was calmly considering how to crawl through barbed wire fences.  I could see where and how I could fit through the strands of wire even though I would have to get into some rather unhorselike positions to do so.

My vision and my proprioception was clear and precise enough to do so without leaving more than a strand or two of tail hair behind me. Experiencing the gift of horse vision in my dreams was quite fascinating because I could see my own lovely black nose, but also both of my sides and all four feet. I still have the body-memory of how a horse knows where they are, how they fit into the world as they move and how they present themselves, even including what color they are!

Then the scene shifted and I was facing a much taller much more solid fence. I had to raise my head to see over it, which made it close to six feet high and whatever it was made of was more vertical than horizontal and more metal than wood. I felt that getting out was urgent, but I was crowded by other horses and the footing was not good. I lunged upward regardless and got my front hooves over the top of the fence.

But I was unable to scramble all the way over. Instead I was jostled and fell on my back down into rushing water. Then I was tumbled around until I eventually came up against the fence while still on my back. Then the fence went down because the water was running strongly enough to wash me downstream along with fence debris, other horses and such. I eventually managed to get turned upright enough to find my footing so I could scrabble out of the water.

Her past owner did tell me that the mare had been injured when the Platte river flooded some time back because the whole herd was penned up in the floodplain. The details make me willing to consider the dreams an accurate sharing of the Choctaw Princess’s memories. And the intensity of the memory of near drowning while being helplessly washed downstream has stayed with me.

But sharing the Choctaw Princess’s gift of seeing through the world through her eyes means I have to address to more esoteric aspects of horsemanship. I have not been able to get a grip on how to proceed with the last two books in the horse training series. And if I am quite honest with myself, that is because I have been reluctant to address the more esoteric aspects of horsemanship directly.

Perhaps that is the point the Choctaw Princess is trying to get through to me.

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