I moved my horses recently, and I took the gravestone I’d had made for my departed gelding Khami with us. I was concerned that we would have to create a new sacred space at the new location, because the horses would no longer have Khami’s grave to roll on. A few days before the move I went out to the grave and it had rained hard so the center was squishy, smooth mud that took on the appearance of the surface of peanut butter upon opening a new jar. One of the horses had walked around the mud center, hoofprints marking the perimeter of the grave.
I knew that leaving the grave was a concern to them, because although they live more in the unseen world than we do, we all recognized the grave as sacred space.
I took the stone and asked the horses to help me find a spot for it in the new home. They each in turn walked with me and would stop to consider a spot and move on. The mares would sniff the air or feel the location energetically to see if it was right. Finally Zuzka, Khami’s longtime companion, stopped by two trees and I felt her settle in herself, and it was decided that it would be under one of the trees. As soon as the stone was placed, Zuzka stood and grazed near it and then she blew on my hand to thank me for the small ceremony. The other two grazed nearby too.
It is all so important. Honoring the memory of those gone to the other side. Keeping them with us in our hearts. Zuzka had said that he would be with us always, and it was important that we all remember and keep that so.
Although it isn’t difficult because he has woven himself into our lives so intricately that not a day goes by without a whisper of him, or someone uttering his name, voicing a memory, a photo.
This year, I have been more aware of the importance of ceremony and sacredness. In the past I have been casual about birthdays, hallmarks of our lives, not marking the growth and change in any significant way unless it was pointed out to me or on the calendar. I think perhaps I had fear about it, but the horses have shown me it is very natural and a part of their lives as well.
If you look at how they love routines: being fed at the same time each day, how ritualistic they are in their interactions, you can see how this is important and will extend to all the worlds they inhabit.
The herd changed again after the move. The two mares have become more deeply bonded, where for awhile I worried that Zuzka would be off by herself too much after Khami’s death. But what is too much? She knew what she had to do to process her own grief. Zuzka is kinder to Patches, sort of parental. Patches moves more confidently with his girls now. They have suffered loss together and grown closer. The mares miss him when he is out of their view and call for him, where they did not before.
I have changed with Khami’s passing. I wanted the horses closer to me, worried that if anything was wrong, I needed to be closer. For awhile, I didn’t want to be away from them at all. They know about my neuroticism and thankfully, they helped soothe my worries as we all settled in. The rhythms they share support and buoy them, and when I walk with them and hang with them, those rhythms support me as well. I am then part of the herd.
This past weekend, my grandson Kaiden noticed when we went to walk the pasture, the horses followed us. “Oh, look, they want to be with us!” he exclaimed. I realize I’m with them every day. That closeness is so natural to me it’s a given. But it’s true. They want to be with us. Thank goodness he pointed it out.
The closeness comes of spending time together, and can begin with the simple things like sitting together. It is a ritual, part of being in a herd. When we go riding, they hold the same enthusiasm for the trail or wherever we’re going, I believe because we’re doing it together, even though it is my idea.
Copyright (c) Susan Smith
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