Matters of Life and Death

So much of my trust in horses comes from personal experiences.  Being privileged to live in close proximity with them, I am afforded more opportunities than the average “joe” to observe their processes together.  There are daily glimpses of their uniquely sensitive natures and occasional displays that take my breath away.  This is one.

It was a sultry morning, warm and humid.  We were winding up our first morning of PEACE Camp.  The farm had been a flurry of activity as we dodged the raindrops going from the cabin, to the garage, to the barn, to the paddock with a happy group of kids learning all kinds of neat things about horses.   I left the dogs in this morning purposely so the kids would not be distracted by their constant want to chase sticks.

Our German Shepherds Belle and Ella are an important part of the farm providing faithful playmates for all who visit the ranch but more important, protection from unwanted visitors.  Some such visitors were a pair of wily foxes which had been stalking our chickens, boldly grabbing them in broad daylight even in our presence.  It was the dogs that kept them at bay and this morning it had crossed my mind more than once that our chickens were unprotected.

The kids were all in the cabin finishing up their craft projects, the camp volunteers were outside putting things away as day one was coming to a close.  All of a sudden someone yelled “The fox has the chicken!!”  We stared in disbelieve at a quarter to noon at the audacity of the fox who, in the midst of some 12 people came right into the yard , grabbed a chicken and began to drag it away.  One gal ran toward the fox, I ran for the house—to get the dogs.

The dogs blasted barking out the front door toward the fox, the fox dropped the chicken and ran for the woods, and the chicken lay limp on the ground.  When the dogs reached the chicken Ella picked it up and shook it.  I was filled with both horror and relief because the sight of the limp chicken made me worried it might not be all the way dead and that would mean I would need to finish it.  Now I was sure.  The horses were running wildly around the pasture so much so that one actually slipped and fell by the fence.  Belle ran off to find the fox.

I walked toward where the chicken lay in the pasture.  My daughter Nikki, the resident chicken whisperer, joined me.  Bending down, I lifted the dead chicken and held it.  We stared at the lifeless body and said nothing.  Death is a common visitor on a farm but his visits are always surprising and never welcome.  After a few moments, I realized that we were not alone in our silent vigil.  Every horse in the pasture had gathered around us, heads bowed reverently.  One by one they approached, as if to say their final good byes with quiet snorts and blows through their flared nostrils.  And then they left, quietly, perhaps even solemnly, trusting that their fellow creature now rested in peace.


5 thoughts on “Matters of Life and Death

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