On the 3rd of May 2016, the time had come — my four stallions would arrive on our Hacienda! Even while writing this I’m getting all warm and fuzzy again by the memory.
It was a sunny early afternoon and I was in high spirits, calmly elated really, with the occasional jump in my step as I was reminding myself that this is really real. I had been dreaming about this day since I had fallen in love with horses at age two.
Or was it? As an astral traveller, I am used to doing reality checks when I’m “out” (of my body), so I put my hands in front of me and said with intent: Hands disappear! Nothing. They stayed the same. If I would have been in a non-physical reality they would have either disappeared or become “wavy”. So to my relief, I was not dreaming and it was actually happening in my physical reality…
I was all set! Or so I had thought.
The horses were brought by José and a friend of his, from José’s yard further up north where the horses had been staying until they could all be delivered to me in one go (after I had my OCA licence approved).
For the past three weeks José had kept “The Baby” Artax and Jonatan together because they had gotten along fine but when he had tried on several occasions to introduce my third youngster Hannibal to the group, José feared that Hannibal was showing too much aggression towards his new “brothers”. He decided that it would be safer to keep him away from the others, presumably in a stall. Ether was not allowed to go near any of them because he had been kept in a box for the past years and as such, like countless other abused stallions, un-learned his social behaviour. A stallion like that does pose a potential danger to other horses and so I was not at all insistent that José would just “give it a go” regardless. [The main thing was that I knew how it needed to be done.]
Now… my vision had been to keep a stallion herd. So no locking up in cages (=stalls) but letting my horses be together 24/7. Before you start huffing and puffing — this is not as naïve as it sounds. In the wild, there are countless so-called bachelor bands that consist entirely of stallions of different ages who often stay together their entire lives. I figured that I had an abundance of very good land for them to roam on, play and graze, which would help them enormously to not get frustrated about having to share a small space with each other and move as much as they wanted.
To me, the idea was no big deal.
When the horses were unloaded one after another and led into their new barn, José and his friend brought Ether in the last box and tied him to the metal bars inside. In the four entryways over each box hung heavy PVC curtains (to keep the flies out), which initially terrified the horses. The youngsters got their PVC curtains removed so that they could move in and out of their barn but Ether’s stayed put so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go outside.
While the three boys were galloping madly in the arena that is adjacent to their barn, the two horsemen were busy clucking and whistling their arses off, in an attempt to “calm down” the colts. I think that José and his friend were worried that the horses would hurt each other while I just enjoyed their exuberance.
Meanwhile, Ether was inside his box neighing, stomping, and huffing and puffing like a dragon. José strongly recommended to not let Ether out of his box for at least two weeks as well as putting an electrical fence line inside his box.
[I must have had very wide eyes when José said that.]
With all that kerfuffle going on I figured it would be best to thank José for his advice and delivery — and send the two men off.
Needless to say, I did not follow his advice.
The moment the horse trailer was past the barn, I went inside to see Ether. He was still fuming.
I walked calmly over to his box where he danced and stomped around as much as the rope at his halter allowed him to. His eyes were completely black.
I told him that I was going to slip into his box through the bars, and take his halter off. I also asked him to not hurt me, please.
As smoothly as I could, I went inside his box where he now stood in front me without moving an inch. He looked at me with his unfathomably deep, beautiful eyes.
I felt a wave of sadness washing all over me as I took in all his fear, anger, frustration and pain. I knew in this instant that he had been misunderstood in his past, and been handled by unforgiving humans.
I reached slowly to the clasp of his halter, opened it and held the halter up with both hands. He went swiftly backwards—and was free. Free to rear. Launch at me. Turn around and kick me. Crush me against the wall. In no particular order.
He knew all that. But he just stared at me.
With teary eyes, I whispered to him that he is now in his new home. That nobody will hurt him here, and that I would do everything in my power to provide him with an amazing, beautiful life. I promised him that I would never lose my temper and beat or kick him. That he is safe now. That I would very likely make many mistakes but that I would equally always do my very best to remain patient, joyful and kind around him and the others. He listened intently and his eyes changed, showing a bluish hue.
I decided to not push any further and leave him on this note. When I went out of the box again I sat on a little stool for a while and read to him from a book. I thought that my calm energy might help him relax, and maybe he also enjoyed the book.
The next morning I was very relieved to see that Hannibal stood right next to Ether’s box, their noses nuzzling another through the bars, the other two horses watching. There was still some stomping on Ether’s side but his overall energy was very different. I asked Dave to help me get the PVC curtain down that had prevented him from leaving his cage… and out in the arena he went to greet the other stallions for the first time!
What then happened was absolutely beautiful to watch.
For a few minutes, Ether just galloped around the arena, down the fenced paddock, and up and around the arena again. He didn’t even care about the other boys at this point, he was too delirious about his new freedom!
Once Ether stayed in the arena, he started to play fight with Jonatan while Artax and Hannibal were mainly watching.
Since this day, 10 months later at the time of this writing, they are a wonderfully harmonious herd. They run around together, they chase each other, they groom each other, they graze together, they doze together and they play and fight with each other. Just like all healthy horses do in a herd.
I won’t be surprised when in the years to come, some hierarchical fights will follow but I trust that everything will stay harmonious overall. If not, I will deal with it then and there.
I wish more people would realise that stallions need not be dominated by brutal physical force. That it’s simply not right to lock them up in cages without letting them socialise with other horses daily — and then expect that they stay sane, safe and calm to handle. People seem to be far more compassionate about any other domesticated animal that lives in a cage for most of its life, so why make an exception for a stallion?