“The answer is in his eyes.” That was my vet, Dr. Ruth Barbour, referring to my twenty-eight year old Thoroughbred, Sherlock. Ruth first met him in 1989. Earlier that day my blacksmith, Bob Scott, and I stood beside the horse. Bob could only trim one hoof. Every time he tried to raise another one, Sherlock looked incredibly unsteady. “I’m afraid he’ll fall.” This was something none of us needed. Absolutely, this was the beginning of the end. If we couldn’t trim his feet…
That’s what prompted my call to Ruth and she said, “Winnie, don’t worry about his feet. We can keep them under control for a while by rasping them while he’s standing. And, you’ll know when it’s time for him to leave us. You’ll see it in his eyes.”
My next call was to Lindsey who does many things horse-related, including Equine Massage Therapy, Reiki and Animal Communication. Last summer I attended a one-day Animal Communication Clinic she hosted. My goal was to ‘talk’ with Sherlock because I knew he wouldn’t live forever. One of the exercises was to sit outside a paddock for fifteen minutes and ‘talk’ with a horse. The fifteen minutes passed and we were called back to the classroom. I had experienced fifteen quiet moments, but no ‘talk’. As I was walking to join the group I heard Bill’s horse, Kye, say, “I don’t need a paddock-mate. I’m in charge of this farm.”
I had to laugh! Where did THAT come from!!!
Back to the present…
Lindsey came to our farm two days after my phone call and said that she’d connected with Sherlock. She had written down what he had to say and verbally reported, “He says that when you’re ready for him to go, he’s ready.”
I was stunned. Tears streamed down my face and there was Lindsey trying to help me deal with Sherlock’s thoughts.
Eight days passed. As usual, Sherlock was turned out with a yearling Lusitano colt, Denali. My twenty-eight-year-old was serious about this job of his. The youngster needed supervision and Sherlock had always loved the babies. His most recent pupils were Zelador and Zeloso. Sherlock delighted in monitoring any youngster’s behavior. With a slight movement of one ear he’d move an offending horse!
I noticed that as the days passed, he was spending more time alone. Leaning against the fence near the gate…
Dr. Ruth Barbour came to work with several other horses at our farm. As she was preparing to leave Ruth and I walked over to see Sherlock. He was at the gate. Ruth went to him, stroked his face, looked into his eyes and said, “It isn’t fun any more, is it?”
Twenty-four hours later Sherlock was buried on the farm he loved.
The next afternoon I was mowing ‘the’ large paddock with the tractor and bushhog. There’s nothing like mowing acre after acre to help you ‘zone out’. As I was mowing I ‘heard’ things. They came from Sherlock.
“Thank you for taking such good care of me.”
“Zelador will carry you.”
“I can RUN!!!”
And the two names, Denali and Kye, were repeated.
I was surprised that Sherlock said, “I can Run!” But when I thought about it I realized that running was very important to a Thoroughbred. Sherlock had raced till he was seven and his last trainer said, “He’s a GOOD race horse.” Sherlock is a son of Canadian Bound and a grandson of Secretariat.
Sherlock was over-at-the-knee on his left front. He raced all those years, did dressage with me and at age eighteen he went jumping for the first time. This was in the sport of Eventing and every time that I didn’t go off course in Stadium Jumping we were in the ribbons. But, around the age of twenty-two the ‘bad’ knee caught up with him. It became arthritic and as the years passed he had more and more trouble using it. Running was no longer in his repertoire.
Two days later the owners of Mudpuddle (Sue and Randy, they recently bought her) were on the farm. Mudpuddle is a race horse who lives in the upper barn (Sherlock and the rest of the horses are in the lower/bank barn). Sue and I talked for a few moments about Sherlock and when I mentioned that he’d said, “I can RUN!” she was startled.
“Winnie, I have to tell you this. The morning after Sherlock died Randy was galloping Mudpuddle in the big paddock where Sherlock is. All of a sudden Mudpuddle changed. Anyone watching would have noticed it. I got goose-bumps. She got bigger and FASTER. My instant thought was, ‘Sherlock is running with her!’ I talked with Randy after the gallop and he had experienced the same thing. He could feel your big chestnut pounding beside him.”
Lindsey watched me schooling the boys a few days ago. She labeled Zeloso a ‘Monkey’ (he was Sherlock’s favourite, so perhaps Sherlock let the Monkey get away with a thing or two) and she noticed a new ‘presence’ about Zelador, a calmness, a devotedness. She said, “Sherlock knew that Zelador would carry you through your grief and he’d carry you where ever you want to go.”
Well, it’s time to go to the barn and start another wonderful day with my horses.
P.S. I almost forgot!!! Eight days after Mudpuddle’s gallop with Sherlock she won a race! She came from behind and ate up the field, winning by two lengths. She hasn’t won in over a year.