Dollar, my elderly quarter horse, developed a series of colic episodes within a month or so, each time with a different known cause. To you who are unfamiliar with the horse world, “colic” is a potentially life threatening tummy ache having multiple causes but is usually, but not always, indicated by a blockage in the digestive tract. In most cases, it is treatable by a vet. Usually the horse will turn and bite at his or her side, and will want to lie down and roll which can be dangerous in some cases causing a twisting of the gut which is alleviated either by death or a $10,000 surgery, or in some cases, thankfully, a miracle. In any case, it is not something to take lightly.
The first occasion with Dollar I saw coming early in the afternoon. My horses do not colic often but after rescuing my first horse years ago I was trained in the different acupressure points for use when a horse colics. I have used it successfully over the years I have worked with horses, even with horses that were not my own. I have never needed a vet for colic with my own horses.
But this time nothing worked. And the vet was hours away. I tried various things with Dollar but he continued to worsen until it was extremely unsafe to be in the corral with him. He was flailing, throwing himself to the ground or against the fence, pulling himself up to a standing position just in time to crumple to the earth again and again. He is in human years 90-100 years old and I could see his energy waning. I surrendered to the inevitable. My guy was leaving us. We just needed to wait it out as I sent him as much love and compassion as I possibly could, and thanked him for all that he had given to me and taught me, and all that he had suffered on my behalf. There seemed to be no connection with him.
I have learned over the 30 years of being taught by my horses, that when I am presented a challenge by them, there is something for me to learn from a spiritual perspective. I spent far too much time trying the conventional or even alternative approach which in the past had always been effective, but as I entered a new phase on my journey, those methods no longer brought the needed results. I was being nudged to move beyond even alternative ways. One of the things the horses have taught me is that when I touch in at the spiritual or mystical place, the horses move through their discomfort quickly. But this night, it seemed not even that was working.
To get some space for myself and my spirit, I went inside the barn for awhile. When I checked a little while later, I found Dollar lying quietly asleep. Although I was happy, I considered that it was pure exhaustion that had quieted him.
There was a slight drizzle and I wanted to throw a cover over him while he slept, but did not want to risk awakening him to his driving pain again. I tip toed to my car parked nearby and I too slept. When I woke before the sun crested the hill, with resignation I looked for Dollar’s silent carcass. What I found instead was Dollar standing calmly nibbling at food as if nothing had happened the night before, and a small pile of poop nearby, that magical sign we all await when a horse colics. It is an indicator that that things are moving again in the gut and, in most cases, all is well.
A week later, tummy ache again, this time it was mild. I spent the day with him expecting things to work out. By late afternoon, there was no change, neither better nor worse. Easy enough just to keep waiting and hoping until approaching nightfall joggled me into action. Because of my history with the horses, I knew that often when I sketched the horses, they got better. The thought kept nagging at me and I kept putting it off feeling I had no energy for it. That skeptic voice wanted me to believe that it was just wishful thinking anyway. Even after the many years of experience to the contrary, the skeptic continued to win. Since there had been no improvement with Dollar, I finally overrode its voice, and reluctantly got my sketch pad and charcoals. As an uninspired effort, I made a couple of sketches of Dollar, then put the pad away and went on to other chores. About 15 minutes later, I happened to notice that Dollar was eating and then, since I was paying attention, he pooped in front of me. Hmmm. Okay. Great! He was fine!
Over the next couple of weeks, Dollar showed signs of colic 2 more times. The first of the two, I was still being stalked by the persistent and convincing skeptic. Again, I reluctantly got my sketch pad, sighed, then haphazardly sketched Dollar as if by rote. I was sure the statute of limitations had kicked in and I would be left with disappointment and Dollar still in discomfort. However, to my amazement, his colic symptoms reversed within minutes. He was eating and he pooped.
With his final colic, there was no hesitation on my part. Sidestepping the skeptic , I immediately grabbed my charcoals, sketching pad, a bucket to turn upside down for a stool, and headed out to the nearby pasture where Dollar was lying down restlessly and pointing to his side. I had settled in with a good start on a very pleasing sketch of him when he abruptly got up and walked away. Simultaneously, I received an important phone call and completely forgot to observe him. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I found him at his food bucket and was feeling satisfied with that manifestation when he stepped away from his food, lifted his tail and pooped. With that exclamation point, I could only laugh heartily that he had not only recovered from his colic once again, but he had waited until I was watching to do his final pooping magic. Such is the language of horses. I was finally getting the amazing lesson.
It wasn’t until then that I remembered that the night he was in such violent pain, and just before I found him quiet and asleep, I had sat on the steps inside the barn and sketched him. I had not put that together at that time. I had finally realized the connection between my sketching him and the reversal of his colic.
It took 30 years of bits, pieces, and inklings but the whispering equines finally got it across to me, the equine art of healing: There is more to our physical talents and gifts than we realize. They have gathered me up, challenged me, taught me, healed me and taken me with them on an amazing mystical journey.
And well done, Dollar! He has been stronger than ever.