Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sorraia Solace

Esperanda (Sorraia x Kiger Mustang), several days after her dam, Ciente died

With Ciente no longer in corporeal form, some readers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie may be wondering how her filly Esperanda is coping with the loss. Esperanda is a little over three months old and even before her dam died, she has been supplementing mother's milk by grazing and browsing and munching breakfast oats just like her grown herd mates. After a bit of research (wherein I was surprised to learn that some large breeding complexes actually wean foals as young as three months) I decided not to bottle feed, or provide processed grain mixture unless I began to detect a decline in Esperanda's vitality and growth.

I had noticed right away that Bella (who delivered her filly, Altavida, several weeks after Ciente gave birth to Esperanda) was being especially alert to Esperanda, watching over her and allowing her all the same close bodily connection that she provides her own filly.

Esperanda grazing alongside "Auntie" Bella

While I didn't think it was essential anymore for Esperanda to consume mare's milk, I did rather hope that Bella might allow Esperanda to nurse off her, feeling it would be a special solace as well as provide just an extra measure of sustenance. However, during those times that I was with the family band, I had not observed Esperanda even attempt to nurse and I assumed that probably Bella's extension of fostering Esperanda was not going to include nursing.

I was given a gift on Sunday, though, when I happened to be collecting twigs and bark to bring back to the "captive" horses and chanced upon the family band hiding out from flies in one of our many Cedar forests. I went into their shady grove and while I was just hanging out with them (and swatting away flies, too) Altavida began to nurse. As she was nursing, Esperanda also put her muzzle under Bella's flank, though she was on the same side as Altavida and could not gain access to a nipple. However, as soon as Altavida was finished, Esperanda connected with a milky teat and began nursing, while Bella remained as relaxed as if this had been all along something she had been offering to Ciente's filly.

Esperanda also nursed on the opposite side a little later

It was a beautiful moment which filled me with tears of joy and thanksgiving.

Altavida (left) and Esperanda

I also captured a photo of young Destemido demonstrating another variation of the solace these Sorraia Mustangs provide for each other. As we can see here, the harassment of biting insects is made easier to cope with when one has a gentle mother (Fada) and friendly aunt (Tocara) to help brush the bugs off.

When the cold wind
Blows a chill through your heart
And the world
Seems unforgiving,
Be patient,
And persevere,
For always gentleness
And love
--L. Gerard

While it doesn't at all replace for me the loss of my close and dear friend, Ciente, I am sure readers will agree-- this type of Sorraia Solace is soothing to humans as well as horses. I am very grateful for the generous nature of Bella to look after Esperanda with such tenderness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Be Grateful For Whatever Comes


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Excerpted from, THE ESSENTIAL RUMI, translated by Coleman Barks

How succinctly this poem sums up the spring we have experienced here at Ravenseyrie! "Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness...", yes, this has been the flow of our days ever since the stillbirth of Espírito. It has felt as if our usual charmed and poetic existence with the horses has become a crucible of trials and tribulations. No doubt such tempering by chaotic elements is as essential to personal growth as it is to the all of poetry.

An evening view from the "Top of the World" at Ravenseyrie

In my former life, I produced greeting cards and gift books under a free lance contract for the C.R. Gibson Company. While most of the time I was able to create art and verse with minimal manipulation by the company's art director and text editor, we would at times disagree about the content of something I had submitted. Typically, the dissension revolved around an element in the art or text that referenced darkness, difficulties, etc.--the potential negative aspects of life. My aim was not to bring one down by including something perceived as unpleasant, rather my work was always tailored to facilitate a positive transformation--to provide hope and inspiration. Nevertheless, marketing consultants had convinced the staff that only bright colours and cheery words would provide optimum sales of their products. Sometimes I would alter my work to appease them and other times I would manage to convince them to accept my work as it was--I felt strongly the message was much more powerful and useful to people because it did not hide the fact that the world is not always "butterflies and roses".

Two such verses come to mind that I refused to alter, and I include them here to help us all understand that part of the poetry of the life we humans create is to experience and transcend difficulties and sorrow.

"We cannot escape the blowing of life's wind, but we can make sure the seeds we leave behind are seeds of love and understanding."

"Life is not always bright, but if the sun can shine after the darkest storm, so can we."

-Lynne Gerard

This is not to say, however that I have been an adept at being "grateful for whatever comes". Initially, I tend to resist, stomp my foot in frustration, rail with fear, worry, anger, helplessness, etc., but I no longer dwell long in these passing emotions and I am even more frequently able to make a pause, stand apart from the drama as a dispassionate witness and see much more clearly what is required of me in the situation that is most helpful and edifying and the product of love, rather than carrying out an action arising from fear or desire.

Iron bondage artifacts which we found on the Ravenseyrie beach

Each difficulty, or rather "unexpected visitor" we have received in our "guest house" could have its own detailed entry in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, but I confess, I am not up to the task. Perhaps a little later, certain elaborations will be forthcoming, but for now, I will simply list them as they occurred.

--Belina delivered a still born colt.

--Enhanced attacks by Altamiro and now also the younger stallions on Mistral (our 30 year old domestic Arabian gelding) prompted breeches of the fence boundary as Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre (who were also being targeted for lesser attacks) sought refuge on the cattle range to the east. Fortunately, the land owners of that range agreed to a lease so the horses could stay there for awhile.

--The arrival of a foal out of Fada stimulated further social upheaval among Altamiro, Animado and Interessado, i.e. intense aggression among the three stallions, throwing all the typical herd dynamics into a state of agitation and conflict.

Three year old Animado and his surging hormones are on the charge after his herd mates

--Pinoteia (our yearling filly out of Bella) was expelled from the family band by brutal hazing and attacks from her sire, Altamiro. Wounded in body and mind, she went into deep hiding.

--The cattle rancher who also leases the neighbor's range (where Mistral, et al were taking refuge) requested we remove the horses before he released cows and calves there for summer pasturage, so we had to bring Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre home and put them into the holding pasture by our house. This meant we could not yet bring those youngsters who are due to be exported to the states in from the range, since that holding pasture was erected for them and we had no other place available.

--With the deadline looming ever nearer for when the Olson's can come to pick up Encantara, Animado and Segura, Kevin worked on erecting a dual electric fence with a buffer zone to create a separate +/- 10 acres of pasture and woodland on the southwest of our yard, bordering Scotland Road for Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre.

The new fence follows the line of power poles all the way to the west boundary

--We turned Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre out in their new, much larger area, where they are separated from the aggressive antics of the others, but Mistral was completely distraught and took to pacing near the gate well into the night.

--Next morning, Mistral charged the fence and got tangled in first the electric wire on his side and then pushed through only to get entangled by the outer wire on the buffer side. I could only stand paralyzed in horror as he went on running with the wire around him, pulling up fence posts as he went until finally the wire tripped him and he flip over, landing on his back with his legs completely bound by the wire and more wire tight around his neck. While on the ground he continued to thrash in an attempt to free himself and somehow, miraculously he does! In the next moment he was up and running free of the wire and headed for the northeast. Zeus and Silvestre, who had been as thunderstruck and paralyzed by the event as I, came now unglued themselves and stepped over the downed fence and ran to catch up with their friend.

--With Kevin gone that day, I did my best to repair the fence, only to discover when I got to where the energizer was up by the gate, the force of Mistral's breaking through the wire had pulled the fence charger unit completely off its mooring and it lay smashed to pieces on the ground.

--Zeus, Mistral and Silvestre had disappeared and instead of going on a search for them (they could be anywhere!), I made the decision to carry on with my house chores and wait for them to come back into view, which they did in about an hour. I could see them running up and down the east fence line, so I began to hike out that way to see just how much damage Mistral had caused himself. I saw that Silvestre was on the opposite side of that east fence (now in with the cattle) so I went back and get a halter and lead rope, hoping I could convince him to come back with me.

--As I neared the east fence line, out from the woods came Animado and Interessado running to attack Mistral and Zeus. Soon Mistral and Zeus came galloping my way, and as they flew by I could at least see that Mistral didn't have any signs of blood or torn flesh (amazing!). They ran like the wind to the west and I continued to the east to fetch Silvestre.

--I heard thundering hooves again and saw Mistral and Zeus now coming back to the east while under attack from Altamiro! After sending them back to the east sector, Altamiro thankfully returned to his family band in the west. But as soon as Animado saw Mistral and Zeus, he came after them to attack again and this time they tried to break through the southern fence along Scotland Road. Meanwhile, Silvestre was frantically running the southeast fence from the opposite side until he found a low section and jumped it. Another miracle, and another problem solves itself since he is once again on the proper side of the fence...only now he is being chased and attacked by Interessado.

--Not finding a fitting place to break through the south fence line, Mistral and Zeus started running again back to the west and Silvestre managed to rejoin them as Animado and Interessado had turned away from the chase and headed back to the northeast.

--Mistral, et al stopped by the holding pasture where we first had separated them and just ran up and down the line of that fence. Another miracle, they kept this up until I got back there and I simply opened the gate and let them inside. They soon settled down and incredibly there wasn't a visible wound on any of them!

--Several more days tick by while Kevin reinforced the ten acre fence that Mistral had ruined.

--Once again, we turned Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre out into their larger separate pasture. Once again Mistral paced virtually night and day, but no longer tried to break out. He paced for three straight days before settling down.
Mistral paces the section of snake fence bordering our yard, churning the rain-soaked ground into a path of mud.

--During all this time, we were hiking the property looking for Pinoteia, somedays finding her and somedays not. But she was healing and doing remarkably well. We told people she was on "walkabout" in search of her "inner filly".

--Soon Pinoteia joined in, finally, with Interessado, Animado, Fada and Fada's colt, Destemido. This was short-lived as by the next day, she was no longer with them.

--Our neighbor, Bill, stopped by to let us know that Pinoteia was on his property. She managed to get into the sector of his land that is separate from the cattle and Bill generously agreed to let her hang out there until we could get her to come back with us. (She is not halter trained yet.)

--Kevin and I worked on strengthening the section of the east fence that weaves down the bluff to discourage any more escapes by others to Bill's property.

--We were smoothly able to bring Encantara, Segura and Animado into the holding pasture, although the mules came in as well. They had such a calming influence on the youngers that we decided to let them stay in with them.

--I began halter training Encantara, Segura and Animado with no troubles.

The youngers like to help Kevin out when he is working in their corral

--Altamiro expelled Levada from the family band, but without brutality and she immediately joined up with Interessado, Fada and Destemido.

--The veterinarian came to perform the health inspection on Encantara, Segura and Animado, but Segura refused to participate. Encantara and Animado did great and we made an appointment to try Segura again a week later.

--We managed to get Pinoteia home by dismantling a section of the snake fence and creating an opening for her to follow me through, then putting the section back together after. Worked great. She did not join Interessado and the others however, but stayed out of their view just inside the northeast woods.

--Tocara was expelled from the family band, without brutality and joins Interessado's group.

--Pinoteia joined Interessado's group and they all settled in well together.

--But there was no relief from troubles for next up Ciente became ill, much like Bella did last September.

--The health inspection for Segura was successful on the second try.

--Ciente's immune system wasn't strong enough and this beautiful, favourite mare crossed the "Rainbow Bridge". (When I have my grief in a better equilibrium, I will write about this properly, for now, this is all I can say on the matter...)

Between the wise, rather playful writings of Rumi and the earnest effort I have been making to comprehend life as elucidated in the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I have found the strength to "be grateful for whatever comes". And, as you have read, amidst the trials and tribulations we've been experiencing there were many small miracles as well--things could have been much worse if not for these "lucky breaks".

If you seek reality you must set yourself free of all backgrounds, of all cultures, of all patterns of thinking and feeling. Even the idea of being man or woman, or even human, should be discarded. The ocean of life contains all, not only humans. So, first of all abandon all self-identification, stop thinking of yourself as such-and-such, so-and-so, this or that. Abandon all self-concern, worry not about your welfare, material or spiritual, abandon every desire, gross or subtle, stop thinking of achievement of any kind. You are complete here and now, you need absolutely nothing.

It does not mean that you must be brainless and foolhardy, improvident or indifferent; only the basic anxiety for oneself must go. You need some food, clothing, and shelter for you and yours, but this will not create problems as long as greed is not taken for a need. Live in tune with things as they are and not as they are imagined.

--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
(Excerpted from the book I AM THAT)

To provide some perspective on the way Ravenseyrie is situated on the landscape, I have put together these aerial photos. Click on each of them to see the larger version and read their captions.