This week I was shown a photo of a stunning coloured mare side by side with a young woman. We all know the saying – a picture speaks a thousand words. But for many of us who have been through those testing ‘befores’ and rewarding ‘afters’ or those ‘It’s hard to believe’ ‘then and nows’ – these photos put us back on the overly-rode emotional rollercoaster where no tickets apply: something innate in you pushes you back on over and over again as you recall and remember.
No, this isn’t just any sweet photo of a horse with his adoring owner: it is that and more. The mare’s eyes seem to look down the lense, and her thoughts maybe travel across countries and over seas back to her ‘before’ – one I shared with her.
The craving to put my head to hers was overwhelming. I can’t and probably never will again. You see it’s hard to love an animal that will never be yours – I guess it’s similar to loving someone who has given their heart to someone else. The emotion is similar. But, Erin was never mine. I remember I was often shouted at from passing cars – ‘feed your horse’ or ‘go get a job!’ Or ‘you’re a disgrace feeding traveller horses’. Many presuming I was the owner or a rescuer with nothing better to do.
Back then – ‘my before’, I use to get up in the morning, travel to a hay yard, and fill my car with hay, hard feed and fill bottles of water. There were horses in desperate need of feed every day- they lived in swamp like areas or along motorways. Their owners belief: they can live off nothingness. Yes, I tried to engage the owners and yes, when I could, I reached out for help to those paid to intervene in neglect. No one came – well, it took 5 years in this mare’s case.
Erin appeared in one of the fields where I dropped hay. She was covered in whip marks and her right eye looked dead. And so began our relationship. A vet told me we probably couldn’t save her sight: we did. A vet said she’d probably never would fully recover: she did. He also told me she would probably never be mine: he was right. Although I nearly got my chance-one day. I got her owner on a goodish day. He said ‘just take her!’ So the box arrived and after I eventually got her in, she suddenly was consumed with fear. I was in the box with her and she reacted by kicking every side of the box with strength that came from a place of terrible fear and memory. I accepted my own ending that day as I calmly listened to my rescue friends outside trying frantically to open the jockey door: it was stuck and so I was too inside a small box with a horse out of control.
But I’m here to write this which means the ramp had to be lowered and Erin ran back out into the same barren field she was meant to leave behind. The next day her owner changed his mind. He wanted to keep her. My dreams of rescuing her were broken. And so it would take another two years, two very hard winters before she would leave this field. It was indeed a blessing in disguise: Erin and her friends broke out onto the road, and there was a car accident as a result and they all got seized. My promise to her that I would get her out was fulfilled by someone else.
And so back to the photo. The photo that speaks a thousand words of heartbreak, of friends who rallied to help me pay for hay when I faced financial ruin as a result – hard to believe but my hay feeding programme, vet fees, farriers, transport, along with other related costs exceeded over 50,000 over 5 years. Always the objective was to keep them alive till their rescue day came. Yes, I did keep some of them alive, some did die in these terrible places, and some died just after being rescued. I know it’s a part I still struggle with. But Erin as you can see is looking into the camera as if to say: ‘I made it out and I’m home!’
I know grief – like many of you reading this – the feeling of death of a loved one cutting a slice of you away and stealing it forever. But what fills the cutting void in time is memories – memories of them that keeps your loved ones in your ‘here and now’. Yes, I cry often for the animals I loved that were never mine – the ones who never got to get away. And that is my tribute to them: to remember their names and to share their names. So today I’m remembering Summer, Holly, and her daughter Bella.
We will always have the ‘before and afters’ and the ‘then and nows’ – many in our life times. I guess we just have to make the most of the ‘afters’ and the ‘nows’ and strive to make the most of them – whilst remembering how we got there when we fall again.
But if you’re reading this, when you can – help those who are constantly searching for and creating ‘the happy ever afters’ for those who can’t do it for themselves. There are a lot of these people out there who could do with your support right now.
So, this is a photo her owner will never see. There are so many horse owners out there who will never get to see the beautiful potential in their horses. They won’t because they will neither feed them adequately or make them feel safe enough to stand still beside them without being tied up. There is another foal I rescued who has now risen to be nearly 17 hands and has become a photo of equine perfection. And no, her owner will never see her photo either. They probably would not believe me if I told them: ‘this was your horse!’ Simply because, they will never recognise the difference care makes.
And so, we need to care more for those who care dangerously less.
‘You don’t take a photo, you make it!’
Erin – her before and her beautiful after.