Wednesday, November 04, 2009

respite care for equine advocates (and actually all of us)

This morning I went out to the barn to get my head clear and my focus back. After years spent working on the front lines with traumatized children and families, I know how important it is to take care of oneself while doing high-stress work.

Even writing a small series of blog posts about rollkur and opening up images of other equine issues (soring of gaited horses, tying down in various western disciplines, etc.) can lead to feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness. Folks who do this kind of investigatory work on a regular basis have to replenish their wells just as regularly.

While at the barn I purposely slowed myself down. Keil Bay can deal with a certain amount of my zen-like approach to making breakfast, but if I start slowing down my already slow pace, he is pretty good at ramping me back up. Fortunately my husband fed breakfast this morning, so my work was making a long, rambling trail of hay through the front field.

It starts with me and the wheelbarrow piled as high as my head. The herd falls in behind me and we make our way through the field as I toss out hay in very small piles. Today it was especially quiet out. When I stopped moving it was so quiet it almost felt like someone had turned down the volume of the neighborhood. I walked back up the hill and spent a few moments with each horse and donkey, just being still.

I scrubbed and refilled three water troughs, which took awhile. I opted not to try and do other chores while the troughs filled, but to stand and soak in some sunshine, breathe in the air, and listen to the sound of the water splashing.

Hopefully all the people working hard for animals of all kinds, including we human ones, can find some time to take a break, refuel, and go back to work with renewed energy and calm.

I think we all do better when we take time to watch the water run.

(photo credit to my dear husband)


Michelle said...

Billie, this is so true. It is so easy to get caught up in multi tasking that you never stop to experience anything. I hope your morning routine brought you back some peace.

Claire said...

it's a great pic.

Gale said...

Billie, while I've never posted here before, I've followed and read your blog for quite a while. I'm a Sheaffer you may recognize my name.

Something you said about listening to the water hit me. For me this evening, it was seeing the setting sunlight on the tops of trees...they appeared to be on fire. I told myself "remember this"...there is not an inexhaustible supply of tomorrows.

Thanks for reminding me.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Great picture from your husband as usual.

I know exactly what you are talking about. Even though it may seem silly to some to say it is stressful reporting on horse abuse. I felt the same way when I was doing the posts on Cloud's band and the BLM. I felt I had to stop after the horses were released and although I still get updates through e-mails and feel awful about what is happening to these wild horses, I don't feel I can keep reporting on it. It depressed me and I felt stressed and angry for days. So even though it was just little blog posts it affected me to a point where I had to start doing other less disturbing posts.

Thanks again for all the research and work on this subject. Glad you could ground yourself again with your animals and farm chores.

ponymaid said...

Billie, I won't let Herself read this post. I feel her pace is already too slow and strongly encourage her to step things up whenever I can. Just yesterday we had a brief spell of wintery sunshine and she was topping up our water trough, gazing vacantly into space while patting Violet cat, I snapped her out of her reverie by sliding up behind her and giving voice. It motivated her no end and even sent Violet into near orbit. You should have heard the very un-zen-like things she said!

billie said...

Michelle, thank you - I came in feeling really good. Part of this is that I have a head cold too, so it's not just the yuckiness of the rollkur and other training nightmares clogging up my head!

billie said...

Claire, thank you. I will pass that on to him. He does wonderful work and is very generous to let me steal it right off his website!

billie said...

Gale! Yes of course I recognize not only your name but the adorable young donkey in your picture. :)

I'm so glad that water thing hit you. I bet these flaming treetops were just stunning. Isn't it amazing how restorative nature itself can be?

I have this image of myself at the age of 90-something, going out to feed the horses and donkeys, and finding that when I make it back into the house, it's bedtime already.

There is that much to stop and look at and soak in, and it feels like every year I find more and get more persistent in my appreciation of things.

billie said...

Arlene, it actually has a name - secondary trauma.

It's quite common among therapists who work with trauma victims. Hearing clients describe trauma all day long is very wearing on the therapists who do it.

Similarly, regular reporting on things like this overwhelms the reporter with the information. Think about it - if you read an article on something terrible you read it and then move on.

The writer generally continues to follow the story and may have spent many hours researching, interviewing, etc.

I'm far from being traumatized by the rollkur stuff - but my point is that none of us should let ourselves get inundated with it. Especially those in the real frontline trenches who are actually seeing it as they video and photograph and work with the material to get it to the public.

We need to remind ourselves that there is beauty in the world too. And peace.

billie said...

Sheaffer, LOL - Keil Bay suggests you start a petition and he will beat a path to the front of the line to sign it.

I have to say, donkeys have a way of bringing a certain urgency to things with the very loud voices they have. Rafer and Redford go to town if anyone here is late serving SALINA'S lunches - not even their meal!

It is quite the chorus line out there when they get going.

Dream Valley Ranch said...

Hi Billie,
I have read your blog on and off for a while but never posted.

But this post was just so appropriate for my day that I had to say thanks :)

I have 7 horses all rescued from abuse/neglect (we also have 5 rescued dogs). The latest addition to our herd was due to a "surprise" pregancy in a mustang with a broken pelvis (rescued from the Nebraska 3 Strikes horror): this beautiful 5 month old mustang filly colicked last week and she just came home to recover from her surgery. I'm exhausted from the worry and stress of the past week.

Today I scrubbed and cleaned 3 of the water troughs and found myself immersed in the task. I stood under the Pony Veranda while the water gurgled out of the hose, filling their troughs with clean, clear, fresh water. I took a deep breath and did my best to release that stress and worry. Then I went inside and hugged baby Snapdragon and thanked her for everything she has taught me and brought to my world.

It doesn't get better than that...they bring so much to our world and we just need to remember to see it and feel it each day :)

Then tonight I read this post and I smiled even more...what beautiful words.

Thank you!
Sue and the crew
Dream Valley Ranch

billie said...

Sue, you are truly someone working in the trenches with your rescued horses and dogs - it takes very special people to do what you are doing.

I wonder if we were both filling water tanks and refueling at the same time yesterday - I am very intrigued with the idea of a Pony Veranda!

Thank you for commenting, and I send you and Snapdragon all best wishes for recovery and good health.

jme said...

so true. for me it seems there is almost nothing my animal companions can't help heal, and there is something especially magical about being near horses. i had off from work on tuesday and wasn't feeling well at all. i had a million things i had to do, but the only thing that kept me grounded i think was the time i spent in the barn and riding that morning.

it must be perspective. like other commenters here said, sometimes you're in a moment and you find you're reminding yourself: remember this, this is special. i think we need those moments and those remembrances to keep us in balance and remind us what we're in it for... i'm glad you were able to enjoy and rebalance after all the craziness :-) hang in there!

Matthew said...

Many times I am at a loss for words, especially when trying to write instead of just speak.

Something in me resonates at seeing your fierceness to protect these beings who rely on us to speak for them. Mostly I am in awe, knowing that you and those who share your spirit of love for these creatures are scattering the forces of negligence and ignorance and cruelty. And that, tomorrow, the world will be better than it is today, because you cared enough to make sure it would be.

billie said...

jme, hope you're feeling better. it's weird how the head cold for me coincided with all this excitement and frenzy about rollkur.

clogged head, on both counts.

billie said...

Gosh, Matthew - I love the image of this big group of people scattering the forces of negligence and ignorance and cruelty!