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  • The Horse Lady

Sterling Silver

For the last two years we have had three horses, Duke, Suzy Q, and Shannon. They have been perfect. They are perfect. Except for one little thing.

From the very first, because Duke and Suzy Q are a lifelong bonded pair, they have used their size and their teeth to maintain their dominant position in our little group. They dominated Dusty, the first new mare to the group after they arrived. Her dominant tendencies kept her constantly in conflict with them, until we sadly had to send her to a safer home. They liked our little haflingers, Willie and Wanda, but Willie and Wanda were careful to acknowledge their position and obey at all times. Obey the horses. Not obey me. The haflingers went to a family near Pembroke who had nine others like them.

Then Shannon came home. Our magic horse is gentle, sweet and sensitive. She fell in love with her new herdmates and wanted nothing but their acceptance. And things were at least not bad. They kept her at bay until they wanted her, and eventually they would let her eat with them, sleep with them, walk with them. There was tentative balance.

Last year, as my regular readers know, Suzy went to Mountain Meadows, and was bred twice, and miscarried twice. Perhaps she is too old, or maybe her last baby was too much for her womb. Either way, she accepted Luke, the beautiful stallion, and each time she came home there was a smugness in her gaze. When she lost the second baby it was clear to me that she did not want to try again. She was sad, but resigned. I don't know how I know this. Just go with it.

Duke and Shannon were friends while Suzy was gone. He kept her close and they seemed to miss their friend in a together kind of way. When Suzy came home, they both were curious about her new smell, her new behaviour. And even after she miscarried, they stayed close to her, in a poignant sort of way.

But then Suzy rallied. And the fragile balance was permanently altered. Duke and Suzy were capricious in their acceptance of Shannon. Sometimes they wouldn't let her eat for more than a day. Horses have delicate digestive systems, so regular eating matters. She always had bites, the odd nicked heel. But the worst part was her demeanor. The ostracism was hurting her emotionally. She would stand in the back corner of the paddock, body hunched, head hanging, with one eye open watching for the slightest sign of acceptance. Sometimes she thought she saw it, and approached cautiously, only to be chased away again.

And interestingly, it was Suzy to whom she was most attracted, and it was Duke who did most of the chasing. Like she was competition.

And it got worse when Suzy went into season. And that's when I would see it. In her misery in the corner of the paddock, Shannon would turn her back, lift her tail, and then look at ......Suzy? Duke? Both? As if to say, "See, I'm fertile. We need babies"

Shannon's distress and need for companionship pushed me to act. I just couldn't watch any more without finding her some relief. I started looking for a companion. But what companion? It had to be able to defend itself against the Clydesdales, and be loyal to Shannon. A llama? They can be cranky. An alpaca? Too small. Aha! A donkey. I spoke to a woman near Peterborough with a donkey rescue. She insisted that I take two. But that would have made our number five, and we wanted to balance of four. I looked all over the internet. I didn't want a show donkey or a breeding donkey. I just wanted an animal who could love Shannon. I could have trailered several animals from southern Ontario. Only a cool thousand. These folks are doing fine work and rescue deserving animals every day. But I guess I am just not in their target market.

Finally, I put a notice on the Facebook site 613horses. I voiced my frustration. I voiced my desperation. All in 30 words or less.

And suddenly it was raining horses. Holy crap!! I had trouble keeping track, until I started writing it all down. There was a nice lady with a horse that had overworked stifles and the resulting arthritis. There was another person who fostered dogs for the same rescue as us. She had a beautiful mare. We would not be able to ride it, as somewhere it had been injured or abused and it would not carry a rider. We didn't care about that. She was a front runner.

And then the answer came. A retired little pony with a dominant personality currently high ranking in a herd of 40. But he was old, blind in one eye, and in need of a more relaxed retirement. And the kicker. He knows Duke and Suzy.

His name is Silver, and we are six days into the process of including him in the herd. Shannon spent four of that six days being hysterical because she had been separated from her tormentors. Because Silver (Sterling keeps falling off my lips) is wise and smart, he is not pushing her. But when she sleeps, he guards over her. When she eats, he steps away, and when she is at the gate looking for the others, he eats. This is all good, and it's part of the process. Yesterday they were sleeping in the sun together.

I'm just glad the hysteria is over. I couldn't bear it any more. How do I know she was hysterical? Don't ask me to explain it. I just know.

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