Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The Little Mare That Waited

There are no magic words. No easy ways. No kind thoughts or phrases. Only the stark and brutal truth to tell you. Blaise crossed last night.

It has been ten hours and I still can't find a way to say it. I cannot find the words to break the news in a way that is just and kind and respectful enough to do right by this little mare. This was Andy's horse. Blaiser, as we called her. A kind horse willing to do anything we asked of her. Willing to stand while anyone brushed her. Or walk with anyone when asked. Blaise was a gem of a horse. And the abscence of her is enormous.

Everyone ate breakfast yesterday and even Blaise was eager for her feed and her carrot treats. It was in the 20's yesterday morning but it was damp and chilly. I left everyone to stand for an hour while the sun burned through the fog. When I saw the sun was almost through, I went out and changed a few blankets to lighter ones and set them loose for their day.

Blaise had been blanketed for the first time this winter. She just seemed a bit smaller to me and she was getting older, you know. And yet she was proud. Very proud. When I first put a blanket on her after the big storm, she lifted her head as if to tell me she would tolerate this thing. Barely. And only for me. She was sturdy, you know, and didn't need a blanket. But if it would make me feel better, then go ahead and put that thing on her.

Twenty minutes later when I put my hand under her blanket on her side, she was toasty warm and I hugged her and thanked her for doing that for me. "If I know you are warm, I'll be warm, Blaiser", I told her. Not one for showing affection, she simply walked away from me.

So yesterday morning, I took a heavier night blanket off of Blaise to put on a lighter windbreaker-style blanket. I wanted the sun to warm her but the wind on this hill was raw and I didn't want her to chill. While between blankets, I scratched her tummy like she enjoyed. Her jaw came out and she twitched her head. Oh, that felt good! I made sure I reached way under her tummy and scratched her good. When she had been scratched enough, she reached back to nudge me her thanks. I then put on her lighter blanket and left the gates open for her, like I always did.

You see, Blaise was one you rarely needed to lead anywhere. And in these last several years, if she did need leading it wasn't with a halter and lead rope. No, I just lightly, very lightly, placed a cupped hand under her jaw and she went with me. This was one well-behaved horse.

Yesterday, I left the gate to her stall and the gate to the Gelding's Side open while I went about the business of unhooking the horses on the Helen Keller side. I didn't hear her nor did I see her move out of her stall and into the paddock. But she did. When she felt it was safe and she could move without bumping into anything or another horse. Blaise didn't want any trouble. She would move away from a threatening horse and so she waited to move until she could see an open path. She was patient and she was smart.

In the evenings, when I asked she and Liz-Beth to come in for supper, it would be Josephina who would be standing in the doorway threatening Blaise's entrance. So, I would open the gates and make sure Blaise's meal was prepared: feed, four carrots broken into bite sizes, and her pergolide sprinkled on the carrots. Once all was ready, I would walk to Josephina's side and spread my arms wide open to create a human fence and I would say the words, "It's okay, Blaise. I'll protect you." When those steps were completed, Blaise would silently pass into her stall to eat her meal.

Blaise was easy to overlook. She was quiet and obedient. She would not push through other horses for carrots. No, instead she would simply vanish. Crowds of guests did not excite her and she had been in her fair share of noisy arenas. She wanted only the quiet and an easy access to the hay. Not one to hoard the hay, I would see her sharing her meal with Gracie or PONY! or Liz-Beth. She moved away from Josephina or Lanna, but those that were more blind than she or more in need than her were given access to her food. She was kind and gentle. And she willingly shared.

And Blaise was a caretaker. When Laddee first arrived - way before her surgery - I put that dangerous, rambunctious, fast moving mare in the Helen Keller pasture with Blaise and Quarter Horse. Now, Quarter Horse had been a mirror image of Laddee - blind, rambunctious, fast moving, and defensive. But after only three weeks, Blaise had pal'd up with Quarter Horse and shown her "the ropes". There was no need for biting here. Or pushing here. Or kicking here. There was plenty of hay for all of us. "Here", she said to the Quarter Horse, "I'll show you a better way to be." And Blaise brought Quarter Horse to a place of calmness that I could never have taught her. Blaise was a caretaker.

And so when Laddee appeared in her pasture, it was Blaise who took Quarter Horse with her over to this big, smelly, pushy mare. And the three of them worked it out. Blaise, with the one good eye and knowledge of where to stand out of the sun. Where to find the cool water. Where the good hay was sitting. And who else in the pasture could be trusted and tolerated. Blaise, the wiser, calmer, experienced resident of Refuge Farms taught the newbies how to relax and enjoy themselves. She taught them to be calm because they were safe.

It was Blaise that taught Laddee how to come in and go to her feeder for her meals. In the beginning I would go out and get Laddee only to come in the barn and find Blaise eating at Laddee's feeder. As Laddee came to trust Blaise, I would just step aside and the two would come in and stand at the big corner feeder and share a meal. To watch that transformation was to witness a miracle. The little paint mare bringing the huge, angry Belgian mare into the barn and then the two of them standing and sharing feed together. Like I said, Blaise was a caretaker.

In all of her years with me, I never saw Blaise fight or bite. She was a peacekeeper. A caretaker. A truly gentle soul. And she was Andy's horse.

When I pulled in this driveway on that hot July day after driving fifteen hours up from Texas, I was terrified to open the trailer. My primary concern was for "the old horse". Would Andy's old Tennessee Walker make the ride? Right from the beginning, Blaise just kind of melted into the woodwork. She just didn't stand out. She was just there. The attention was always on someone else other than her.

But not that day! "The old horse" was just fine after the trip and so I unloaded him then went back in for the little mare who stood so quietly in the trailer. With my mind on the old one, I reached for this mare and startled her. She reared, caught me with her left front hoof, and knocked me out cold. When I awoke, I was flat on my back in the empty trailer with the mare standing at the back door. Waiting for me. Obediently standing two inches from the back of the trailer, patiently waiting for me.

Yesterday, Blaise had laid down in the pasture in the avenue I had plowed for delivering hay. I covered her with blankets and called Dr. Brian. Then quickly hooked everyone else to insure no one got hurt or in the way. Blaise spent a few minutes outside and then looked for the rest of her herd. When she saw no one, she gathered her strength and with herculean effort, got up on her feet. Those shaky legs took her into the barn and she put herself in the very center of the barn. On her side. At rest. In the middle of the barn. Surrounded by her friends. For the first time, I saw Blaise do something to give herself comfort. She took, for once. And with that gesture, I knew her time had come.

What a girl. What a friend she was. What a trusted ally. What a dependable member of The Herd. What a caretaker she was. What a partner she was in helping me teach humans about horses. What an intelligent creature she was.

And now, I believe she is finally happy. Blaise moved here in July of 2002. And in all of those years, I never saw her smile. When she and Cole arrived, the two were joined at the hip. One did not move without the other. They even went to the stock tank and drank together. You couldn't see her because Cole was a bit taller than her, but she was there. On his side. Stuck like glue.

After introducing them to The Herd, Cole found other horses to pal up with. And Blaise waited for him to return to her. But Ole' Man Cole never did return to her. He found many other girlfriends and never stood with her again. But Blaise waited. And once in a while, she would wander up to him and he would move away. She had been rejected and I could hear her heart breaking.

I tried many horses with Blaise, hoping one of them would scratch with her and heal her little broken heart. But no one was ever successful. Blaise was waiting for her one love to see her again. Those two had been through starvation and neglect together. They had traveled fifteen hours together in a little horse trailer. They had moved from Texas to Wisconsin together. And Blaise trusted Cole. She would stand by him to sleep, trusting that Cole would watch out for her.

And her waiting became more obvious and more intense after her right eye failed her. I still clearly remember the morning she came in and that eye was blinded. Her face was wet and she acted as if it was a scratch. I cleaned her and saw that the eye had literally flattened. I gave her some bute in case there was pain but she continued on with her life as if it was simply a wound and in a bit of time it would heal. She waited. Waited for her eye to heal. Blaise never compensated for that blind eye. She did not accept the blindness. It was a wound. And wounds heal. And she waited for this wound to heal.

And so, as I told Dr. Brian last night, I am hopeful that now Blaise will find her love partner and those two Texas kids will be together and happy once again. I pray that this little mare finds peace. And whatever she was waiting for. Waiting for all these years.

The black flag for Blaise will be put on the road sign post after the storm. Out of respect for Blaise. She didn't like the wind or the rain. She didn't like to be messy. Blaise didn't like to walk through the mud. And this little mare did not roll in the dirt to keep the flies away. She was too much of a lady for all that. So, when the storm has passed the flag will go up. When the wind and the rain have passed, the black flag will fly for Blaise. In tribute to the little mare that you didn't see. That melted into the woodwork. That didn't stand out. That would not push up to the rail for a carrot. The one that was silent. The little mare that waited. Blaise.

Born: 05/12/1981 Arrived: 07/27/2002 Crossed: 12/27/2010

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