This is Magik, my baby who's birth made me somewhat
nervous after knowing Hummer years before!
Sometimes we don’t get the answer we had hoped for when we communicate with our animal children. This is a simple reality that we might be faced with at times when we open ourselves to the world of Animal Communication. Today I want to share with you the story of one little horse with a big impact on the lives of those he touched. His name was Hummer; named for the humming noise he made during his early bottle feedings.
Recently I shared a little about Rapheala and how she had come to the barn where I boarded Eli & Spiral years ago in Hollister, California. One of the women who sat down with her was Kari. Kari owned a Quarter Horse mare that was as solid as an Oak Tree, professionally trained and showed. She was a beautiful mare and understandingly, Kari wanted to breed her and enjoy raising the baby from the moment it was born. I remember the excitement in the barn as Bruni grew larger in pregnancy and how I hoped someday I to would feel the joy of impending ‘grand-motherhood’ from my own mare Spiral. During the pregnancy no sign was caught of any problems and none of us were prepared for what happened when Bruni went into labor late one night.
Kari was there along with some supporting loved-ones and the owner of the barn. Trusting her instinct, she knew something simply was not right. This is why having a good relationship with a vet you trust is of utmost importance in my eyes. She called her vet to report that Bruni was having issues and that she really needed him there. He refused to come to the barn, telling her that she was worrying over nothing. In his words, the first one is always most difficult for the humans watching, not knowing what to expect, etc; he completely blew her off. She returned to Bruni’s side and did what she could do, which turned out to include helplessly witnessing the birth of a still-born filly.
However, the labor wasn’t over and soon enough everyone realized there was one more baby inside wanting to come out! The vet had never seen evidence of twins and this was a huge surprise to everyone. (This is the reason when I breed Spiral I had 3 ultrasounds done at different times during the pregnancy-just to make sure!) However, he was very small, very weak and unable to stand to receive that much-needed first drink of mothers’ milk, filled with nutrients and anti-bodies to help him stave off illness. They had to embrace him in their arms and hold him up, encouraging him to suckle; eventually finding success and a small amount of relief that he was alive and able to drink.
The relief was short-lived as both Dam & Baby went into Toxic Shock within 24 hours and had to be rushed to a relatively close & well known University Vet Clinic. Bruni recovered first and returned home to finish her recovery and mourn her losses. I challenge anyone who says horses cannot feel depression or loss, for she was not the same horse she had been before. It took her awhile to bounce back to her previous self.
Hummer had a long fight ahead of him, but was able to return to Kari; luckily she lived with her parents who owned some land, so caring for Hummer was made a little less difficult. He required regular feedings as any baby would and work was begun by some local folks to create some braces for his front legs. They had begun to ‘bow’ backwards due to the softness of his bones; being the only surviving twin had depleted him of necessary development before he was born and his own weight bowed the developing bone.
As soon as his survival was no longer in question he began to show signs of a very strong personality. He behaved more as a dog than a horse, following his humans everywhere, sleeping on the porch and in place of a lead rope he had a dog leash. Ropes were far too large, cumbersome and heavy for his small head. Kari’s mother would take him to her work (she worked at a vet clinic), transporting him in the back of her mini-van until he grew too large to join her.
His legs never recovered and were permanently bowed under his front end. The knees bent the correct way, the leg was just concave, bending back instead of straight. It did not seem to hinder him over-much when he was little. At some point during his young life Rapheala came and Kari sat down with her to see how Bruni was feeling over the years’ events as well as Hummer. What she heard from Bruni did not surprise her, Bruni was very clear that she held no desire to ever become pregnant again, Kari couldn’t have agreed more at that point!
But what she heard from Hummer left her in tears.
Understandably so, because he was very clear in communicating that he was A) in serious pain, always and B) he did not want to go on living in his body.
What can you do when faced with such strong feelings? Kari had gone thousands of dollars in debt to keep him alive when he was a struggling newborn. She had spent hours of time, tears of emotion, frustration & triumph during the time they fought for his survival. Now he was telling her it was all a wasted effort, he hadn’t signed on to be in a body that caused him pain instead of the joy it should have. Her dreams of training him, of riding him were long forgotten because of his legs. Still, she hoped to offer him a life of some enjoyment-a large pasture, other horses and if ever a horse lived knowing how loved it was, Hummer was that horse.
Kari did what any one of us would do: pretend that what Rapheala had heard and translated was somehow a mistake. I don’t know of anyone who would euthanize a pet simply because someone told them the animal wasn’t comfortable or happy. While Kari tried to put it out of her mind, Hummer was still living a life he wanted no part of. The other horses relentlessly chased him, as if their instincts knew he would be a threat to their safety in the wild. Even the pony would not accept him as a horse. He grew too large to live on the porch and was placed in a smaller pasture by himself-for his own safety. He could not run and play with his herd, he may not have even understood what a herd was due to his hardship filled beginning.
He became increasingly aggressive and hard to handle, pushing everyone around who tried to handle him. Kari once hired a local trainer known for his ability to work difficult horses through their issues into calm, well-behaved ones. He was not with Hummer for long that first day and literally ran out of that pasture fearing for his life. He told Kari he had never in his life felt truly afraid for life & limb-until that day.
The question of what to do with Hummer, how to give him some quality of life, remained a fixture in Kari’s mind. Between the time Hummer had been born and this time Kari suffered another huge blow to her world: her sister was killed when the car her father drove went head-first into a tree. Her nieces came to live with them while they all tried to heal from the loss of Sister, Mother & Daughter-for her sister was all of these. If ever I’ve known a wonderful person who brought to mind the saying of bad things happening to good people, Kari was that person.
One afternoon Kari was outside with her nieces playing in the yard. They were still fairly young and the youngest found herself next to the fence where Hummer was housed. Kari caught motion from the corner of her eye and was shocked to see that Hummer was charging toward the fence, ears pinned, teeth barred…right to where her nieces’ head was. It was that moment she realized he had become more than simply unmanageable; he was becoming a threat to human safety-and with circumstances being what they were, she would take no chances with the lives of her sisters’ children.
Hummer was humanely put to sleep.
It was such a sad thing, for all of us. We all knew Hummer & hoped he would find some sense of happiness in the world Kari tried to give him. The day Rapheala told her that Hummer would prefer to not live in his body was not a good day for Kari. The day she realized she could no longer offer safety to those near him was not a good day either. I can’t speak for her, but I know for me I had the ‘at least…’ sense of this one thing.
At least she knew she had honestly done everything in her power to provide a loving home for Hummer. She spent every resource she had to give, financially, emotionally & physically to provide the best quality of life she could; and when none of that proved enough, she gave him the grace of a peaceful transition to a new beginning. Knowing that he had expressed a desire to escape the prison his body had become helped me personally accept his euthanasia with a sense of peace. I always felt he had decided to prove to Kari that he carried no joy in his life, continuing to spiral downward into aggressive behavior until he pressed the right ‘button’ to communicate to her in a way that even she could not ignore.
Recently I read an article about a young horse, born with similar bone issues that Hummer had (the lack of being hardened before being born) and was so relieved to find that since Hummers’ day people have realized the best thing for those few horses are to not stand on those legs at all until they are fully developed and hardened. Had they known then what they know now, Hummers’ life could have been much different.
I share Hummers’ story not to simply to take a moment and honor a life that I was witness to-a tragic life, but a life that I will never forget. Perhaps to make you think for a moment about all the beliefs you’ve held about animals. Who would have thought that an animal could hold a desire to be free from their body, even one that causes more pain than joy? Animals always seem to adjust to whatever comes their way; this doesn’t mean they are beyond understanding what “quality of life” means.
Sometimes I think it’s not what we have, who we are or what we do that matters: it’s what we have overcome. Maybe it’s just nice to know that Humans don’t have the corner market on learning through difficult times as well as joyful ones: we are not alone. Sometimes it is good to stop and remember that.