Friday, August 17, 2012

The Healing Power of the Herd

Yesterday afternoon late Salina must have decided to take a nap in her stall. She's doing this more now, and has had a number of lie-downs from which she had no trouble getting up again. Keil Bay was with her on the barnyard/grass paddock side of the barn, along with the donkeys, and they had grazed and fanned and eaten hay and meandered around most of the day together.

But when daughter went out to feed Salina her third meal of the day, she found the grand old mare lying down, a bit sweaty, unable to get up. By a stroke of luck my husband was home and he went out and basically picked Salina up enough that she could get her hind legs engaged to stand.

She was of course a bit stiff, but she was able to walk out to the oak tree to get hosed off. She had a number of scrapes in all the places on her side that get pressure when a horse struggles to get up. Fortunately it was on the opposite side of the body than her very close to healing hip point pressure wound.

Aside from the stiffness, my main concern was her eye. She was down with good eye to the ground and it had gotten some bedding debris in it.

So there were a number of things to do, none of which she really wanted to be done.

Once she was hosed and assessed, had dropped manure, and was steady on her feet, we gave her her feed tub, which has a lot of good stuff in it including a good bit of water. She ate voraciously, and that was a good sign. A little while later she peed. In these moments all the basic signs of normal functioning are little triumphs, eliciting audible sighs of relief from us.

Because she's on Previcox, and yesterday was her double dose day, we didn't want to give Banamine. I got out the Arnica and the Symphytum and alternated doses. I syringe the homeopathic remedies in a base of distilled water, in a tiny syringe, so she is used to that, doesn't mind the syringe, and knows there is no taste.

My husband helped and then took over the eye rinsing. Some things Salina likes me to do, others she prefers my husband. We try to find what she prefers and honor her preferences. We went at the rinsing in spurts - in the barnyard where she could move and see her herd, and gave her breaks to let the eye do its own work to clear itself.

All of this transpired in about 45 minutes' time, and then Salina went to the gate to the front field and demanded to be let out with the rest of the herd. I was thinking NO WAY at the same time my husband opened the gate and let her walk through. And then I had the clear thought: if this ends up being the end, I want her to be with her herd, not locked in a stall or by the barn away from them.

We went with her down the hill. She took careful steps, stopped periodically, but where she ended up was all the way down in front by Keil Bay. It was prime horsefly time so we made sure she didn't get dive-bombed. She grazed, she rolled her eye around, she blinked, she kept up with Keil as he moved across the field grazing.

We sat on the log jump and comforted the donkeys, who always seem to want our reassurance when anything is off with Salina.

I watched her improve with each step. She spent about an hour with the herd and then she and the donkeys were ready to walk back up and go back to their grass paddock.

She has some new scrapes along her side. The eye is clear now and getting super-duper antibiotic ointment. Last night the donkeys left the barn after dinner tubs and Salina went into high gear, walking the barn aisle with her over-striding Hanoverian walk that we don't see all that much anymore. She pivoted at the end of the barn aisle and marched back to the other end. It was a display that I suspect had something to do with letting us know she is okay. Sore, scraped up, but essentially sound.

Right now we're in the very visceral place of looking at each day as it comes and trying to make sure we see both the small focused things, like the scrapes and the eye, along with the big picture - Salina's mood, demeanor, and quality of life.

It's hard seeing the scrapes, it's difficult seeing her one good eye have anything at all wrong. In normal moments she moves slowly, with some stiffness. But how do you obsess over those things when you see a beautiful black mare, 29 years old, who whinnies for her meals, eats with gusto, adores being bathed and groomed, wants to be with her herd, and looks like she's in a Hanoverian inspection when she strides out?

Salina needs the herd to heal herself and I need the herd to heal my own innate desire to manage, control, and prevent all mishaps. In this part of our journey with Salina, I'm learning how to take each moment in its own sweet time, be there for her, sometimes persuade her that yes, we do need to do this bit of care for you, but more than I thought would be the case, I am learning to stand back and allow her to do what horses do best when they are given the choice: keep her place in the herd. Let the herd do its healing.


Calm, Forward, Straight said...

It almost seems like Salina is preparing you for the future in measured doses. She is very, very wise, and we humans have so much to learn.

I'm glad you are enjoying every day you have with her as a gift...

billie said...

It does seem like that, doesn't it? It has struck me that she is teaching me all the things I will need to know for all the rest of her herd in years to come. Hard lessons, and I am having to really push myself to learn them.

Right now I am extremely stressed because husband is going out of town and I'm so hoping we get through those days and nights without any serious issues.

A friend had to help her older mare go a month or so back, and she said when her mare went down for the final time, she camped out in the field with her until the vet was able to get there. All her other horses made a circle around them and they waited like that until the vet arrived.

I hope I have the grace to do something as beautiful as that when the time comes. That she did it all by herself really blew me away. That's where I am trying to get to - feeling okay about being here and doing what needs to be done, on my own.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

You can do what needs to be done billie, and I know you will.

Thinking about it, anticipating it, planning it and dreading it are all much more painful than the reality when it comes. This I can confidently say...

Listen to Salina and live in the moment. (((hugs)))

Grey Horse Matters said...

Salina is a very wise lady. She seems to be teaching you how to deal with the way things will be one day when she isn't there. When the time does come she will be able to leave with peace and grace. I hope she stays with you all for a long time. Each day with her is a gift to treasure.

the7msn said...

29. Wow. I sobbed as I read this post, not for Salina...she has things totally under control...but for you and for me and for everybody else with an aging horse. Guess all we can do is live in the now and keep hoping now lasts alot longer.

billie said...

Thanks, C... I really really needed to read that "you can do what needs to be done and I know you will" - like many of us I am in the midst of a stressful year in many ways and at times it feels like saying goodbye to any equine will push me right off the edge. I think in reality they are what keeps me on safe ground, but it is so easy to get caught up in forestalling things.

billie said...

A, thank you - I so hope her leaving is quiet and easy and quick, whenever it comes, and may that be a long time away if she can keep her spirit and presence.

She went out this evening for an hour or so with the entire herd, in advance of an approaching storm, and when the thunder started up in the distance she and the donkeys meandered up the hill and waltzed right on through the gate into the barn. Today, that is a huge big deal, as were her demanding whinnies this a.m. for breakfast, her shoving the stall doors and the feed room door open with her nose, and all the usual "Salina things" that make the days special.

billie said...

L, I think we might need a cyber-support group. It is not an easy thing, and unless someone is in the same situation with similar sensibilities about the equines they live with, it's hard to talk about it and feel understood.

I'm lucky to have all of you to bounce this off of and your blogs to go to and read your own stories of the journey with horses, and donkeys, and cats, and dogs.

Thanks to all of you - I so appreciate your words here.

Mamie said...

A very moving post, Billie.

I haven't been on your blog proper in quite a while (I read you on Google Reader) and hadn't seen the re-design. The banner is gorgeous and I like the new color scheme.

I'm sending healing thoughts through the air waves to all of you as you maneuver through Salina's health problems and aging.

billie said...

Thanks so much, Mamie - I really appreciate the good words and healing thoughts!

Victoria Cummings said...

Oh Billie -what a scary thing to see your beloved mare down again. Sign me up for the cyber-support group. I'm right there with you, watching Silk's every change and constantly asking my husband, "How does she look today?" Salina knows that you all love her and that you won't ever let her suffer and she will stay with you as long as she is able to. We wouldn't really want to be able to put a date on when that would be - it would just make it that much harder. You are doing all the right things and I'm sending you a big hug.

Dougie Donk said...

I too have the need to control things, so much empathy for the roller coaster ride.

However, you are obviously in touch with the way your herd are feeling; so you can be confident that you will recognise when Salina is asking you to let her go & that means that she will certainly leave with grace and dignity.

In the meantime, she obviously still has things to teach you; so take a BIG breath, let go the desire to control & enjoy your time together!

billie said...

Thank you, Victoria - I often think of you and Silk and hope that she is doing well. Today should be a good day as the chiro is coming and I suspect what she does for Salina will help her.

And of course the OTHER senior here, Keil Bay, will be in chiropractic bliss. He is the poster horse for chiropractic adjustment. :)

billie said...

L, thank you - once I quiet down my need to take action self, it does get a bit easier! Hope Dougie is doing well - Rafer and Redford are constant comforts for Salina and for us. Rafer especially will come and put his head up on my chest and just gaze into my eyes after we have one of these episodes with Salina. It is clearly a mutual comfort thing. He is so sweet about it.

Máire said...

Billie, I really feel for you and know what you are going through, watching Salina with such anxiety. How wise to stand back and leave her to her herd. A very difficult part of our journey with horses, but, I think, worse for us than for them.

billie said...

Maire, I know you know exactly - it is hard but in some ways such a gift and a growth experience.