Aheila’s Drabble Day Challenge – Freedom

I have a horse, which is all I have to say to explain this post.
This is for Aheila’s Drabble Day Challenge.
Here is how the drabble challenge works!

Read the prompt and find your angle.
Write a drabble (100 words story, give or take five words).
Post a direct link to your drabble in the comments (or, if you don’t have a blog, just go ahead and post your drabble in the comments).

Drabble – Freedom.

I feel you move beneath me, every tug on the reins, every step, every slight toss of your head. I know what you look at, what you feel, what you fear.

You are me, and I am you because we are one.

When I ask, you give. Speed. Power. Loyalty.

You gave up your freedom for me, and through that you give me mine.

Freedom to fly, to feel the wind as you feel it. Freedom to feel my heart beat with yours as we race on God’s given earth.

Because you are me, and I am you.

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Being Basjan – Part 3

And quite suddenly, a year had passed.

Exactly a year.

365 days ago, I had left my home early in the morning to go and collect my horse. The scruffy horse who had cowered away in a corner whenever anybody tried to get near him. The horse who would not let me catch him and used to run away from me for hours. The horse whose coat was dry and his skin flaky. The horse whose feet were in a mess.

The horse, who became mine and changed my life.

A lot has changed in the past year. It had been an interesting time for me, adjusting from a life abroad where I worked as a professional in my profession to a life here, in this country with all its politics, where I worked as a waitress for twelve months. It had had its ups and its incredible downs but one thing had remained in place, had settled me and anchored my soul.

Basjan.

My horse had changed as much as my life has in the past few weeks. Gone was the frightened animal that I had gone to collect from his previous owner and in its place was a steady horse, with a quick grasp on matters, a strange sense of humour and a gentleness that was so fragile, yet so precious. He wasn’t scared of me anymore, didn’t shy away when I went to him. When I got Basjan, he was tired and thin, with a series of bad habits I thought I would never get out of him. I made my mistakes and he made his and at some point, when I had shattered his comfort zone by accident, I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision to buy him, whether I was doing more harm than good.

But, we learned together and I believe that we triumphed at the end.

Basjan was now an energetic, stocky horse who was incredibly quick on his feet and absolutely loved running. I had discovered that both he and I liked using voice commands a lot more than we did the physical aids of hands and heels. I trained him to stand on command (and stand he will until I ‘unstood’ him). It had proved invaluable when I had to go and catch him in the field, where one (or sometimes two) clear ‘stand’ commands would get him to patiently wait for me to mount. I could ride him without a saddle and a bridle, guiding him with my voice and touch alone.

He had learned that I won’t hurt him and in turn I had learned that his fear would always be something to consider. Whatever had been done to him in the past would never leave him and that sometimes, we will have bad days but that they were no reflection of his trust in me, only of his trust in people. And I had learned that I could trust him, that he would never do something intentionally to hurt me.

He wasn’t the horse which I had seen myself buying, but he was the horse that I needed. When my Other Half met him, it was remarked that I couldn’t have found a horse that was more like me if I had put out an add. As it turned out, Basjan and I were very much alike, our moods, our emotions, our perception of other people and I think that in the end, that was what had made me willing to work with him and able to for that matter. I treated him as I wanted to be treated. I respected him as I wanted to be respected.

You see, when I was younger, I mused that horse riding was build on three corners. Trust, Love and Respect. I’ve seen a lot of things in the 15 years that I have been riding and I have realized that very few people realize that, that you cannot be a good horsewoman or man if you didn’t respect the animals that you worked with. In turn then, they wouldn’t trust you and if they could not trust you, they could not love you and, that – that defeated the whole object of the exercise.

I have never seen myself as a horse’s master, but his equal and his other part. These strong beasts allow us to ride them, to work with them and they put their trust in us to ride them in places where they won’t be in danger. In turn they ask a tiny bit of our soul, which is why for those who truly understand what I’m talking of, it is so hard to be apart from them, why you’ll always find a bit of yourself yearning to be where they are.

Basjan holds my soul. Not all of it of course, but a tiny part, a precious part which I cannot live without and in a strange way, he’s not mine – but I am his.

To Save a Life.

I don’t remember leaping over the four foot barbed wire fence, but apparently, it had been quite spectacular. All I knew was that I found myself knee deep in mud, my shoes ruined. It was ironic, because not an hour earlier I had told my friend Sumi that I was going to be careful on the farm. I had forgotten my usual hiking-gone-riding boots and had to wear my decent boots which I had brought with me. I didn’t spare it a second thought though, my attention focused on the sight in front of me.

A month old Simmentaler calf had slipped in the quick sand like mud at the watering trough and one of the other cows must’ve pushed her head under. Sumi and I were working with our young two year old gelding when something told me to look at the beef cattle her father kept who had just come in to drink. I had seen what I thought was the calf rolling in the mud. It had taken me only seconds to realize that I didn’t see the calf’s head and it wasn’t rolling, but jerking. My heart skipped a beat and before I had time to think I was alongside the calf. I think my instincts had been honed by hours of watching lambs being born, always ready to leap over the fence to keep an eye out for the ones born still in the amnion sac. I grabbed the now still calf by the shoulder and pulled up but my hands slipped. Cursing, I shoved my arm up to my shoulder into the boggy mess, not caring that I took half of my braid with me and grabbed the calf around the neck, pulling her up – using my weight to get her loose. The moment her head was free, I reached out and removed the mud from her nose and mouth, her tongue stark white from asphyxiation. By now, Sumi was with me, having taken a few seconds longer than I had to figure out what was going on. By now, the calf wasn’t breathing and my first instinct was to do mouth to mouth with it but sense and practice told me to wait. There was still mud in the calf’s airway and if I blew it back into her lungs it could do more damage than good. So I gave her a good and proper shake, bunching her stomach and then grabbing her tail and bending it as far back as I could without breaking it. The calf jerked and took a sharp breath. A pain response which saved her life. I took more mud from her nose and mouth and then, when we were sure she was breathing (and continuing to breathe) Sumi helped me pull her out of the pit and onto the dry land next to it. We both continued to rub the calf and clear her airways as the sticky turf mud poured out. I went on my knees behind her and lifted up her behind to help with the process and Sumi washed the mud from her ears and eyes. It took ten minutes for the calf to regain its sense but when she lifted up her head, I found myself laughing and hugging her, praising her for her will to live. Sumi watched me for a second, then started laughing with me.

“You did it.” She said as she hugged me. “Well done, you did it.”

Her words meant so much more. Yes, I had managed to save the calf. But, I had also managed to hold on long enough in this country of mine to get a job. On Thursday I was offered a contract as a Sales Representative at an Animal Pharmaceutical company. A job in my field. One that would utilize not only my official degree, but the various other subjects in biochemistry that I had studied alongside my animal science. It’s as if I had been shaped and moulded for this job ever since I started studying, ever since I had chosen to rather go into Animal Production than Veterinary Science.

I have done it.

I have saved a life, but my life has also been saved.

My new world, my new life begins 1 September.

The Longest Road.

More bad luck. More worry. More fear.

My horse is ill. Very.

I was supposed to work today, but by a strange coincidence and convenience my boss had forgotten to put me in for my usual Monday night shift. I was about to go home, silently relieved that I didn’t have to work, when Sumi called, her voice tight.

“I’m sorry to tell you this,” she had said. “But, Basjan is ill. My father just called. I’m still at work but I’m finishing up and will go to the farm. You have to phone the vet, get him to come out…”

I had listened to her words, but didn’t hear them immediately, the pain of panic that had flared up in my chest overwhelming. God help me, I thought quietly. Help him. I can’t loose him, not now. Not now. “I’ll go,” I said. “Immediately, but…” Afternoon traffic. Money. I didn’t have anything with me and going home would take time that I didn’t have… I didn’t say anything else, unable to work the words into existence. Instead, I leapt into my father’s pick up, because my car was still being repaired after last week’s mishap, and drove the agonizingly slow route to the farm. I hate traffic, hate driving and in those few moments, hated the world and everything in it that seemed to have turned against me.

10 miles had never felt so long.

We reached the farm together, Sumi and I, and found my horse standing in the shade, his flanks dark with sweat and his head low. He had a headache and hardly moved when we approached him. For once, I’d have given anything to see him run away from me as was his occasional habit or flinch at my touch, but he did nothing, his eyes closed to the world as he seemed to sway on his feet. But, he wasn’t down, not yet.

We gave him what we could, injected him with medication a vet had provided to us. Tomorrow morning early, before my next shift, I’ll go back and see if he’s alright. See if he’s still standing. Darkly, fearfully, see if he’s still alive.

If I loose him, I don’t know what will become of me.

Being Basjan Part 2

In my own language, we have a saying: Marriage isn’t as easy as buying a horse.

Personally, I think who ever had said that lied.

Having bought Basjan, I was immediately confronted with a series of problems. I had no way of getting him to my friend’s farm and precious little money to do it with. We drove home that afternoon after I had decided to buy him in a quiet daze, the gravity of my decision settling around my friend and I like a pall. We drove to their farm immediately and spend the rest of the afternoon trying to get a stable ready for him, making a list of things that we needed and judging (or trying to judge) what the other horses would do to this new comer. I went home and spend the next two days trying to find someone with a horsebox and a pick up truck that could help us transport him. The only one that we could find was a person who Sumi had used a few weeks earlier to bring her stallion home from where he had stood at her cousin’s. She strongly advised me against it, saying that the horsebox was falling apart and it was alright for a horse that we knew but, not knowing how Basjan would react to transport, we couldn’t risk it. The last option that we had (thought sadly the most expensive) was to dial up a woman to whom Sumi had sold a horse to once. She was very keen and even said that she’d drive for us, which was a relief.

We went to collect him four days later and through the ordeal of boxing him, I was once again struck by the sense that I was dealing with a very sensitive horse. He had not wanted to be boxed, sensing I suspect, from his previous owner and her sister-in-law, (who had come for the departure) that he wasn’t going to come back. We struggled to get him near the box for the better part of an hour before, in a moment of insight, we send his previous owner away to get the other horse that was still on the yard. She thought that we were going to try and load the horse in front of Basjan and then get him to come in after him but in truth, we were just trying to get rid of her. When she disappeared down the dirt road, I remember looking at Sumi and the slip of a woman who had come to help us and telling them; “We’ve got ten minutes.”
We organized ourselves around Basjan, trying various positions of pulling and pushing before finally putting Sumi in front, and myself and the woman at the back. I didn’t think that our driver had enough strength in her as we linked arms behind Basjan, but she surprised me with a surprising show of strength as we all but picked the half ton horse up and pushed him into the horsebox. It was over before the other woman could even come back to us.

Any move is traumatic, any change of scenery not as refreshing as people would like you to believe and I think, being an animal that doesn’t necessarily understand why he was being taken out of his comfort zone, it was particularly hard on Basjan. Sumi’s family farm is big, with a lot of space and tons of grazing as well as three other horses, Rico – the Golden Stallion, JC – the Thoroughbred mare and Wimpie, her two year old son. This all sounded ideal, but the truth was that Basjan was coming from a situation where he was kept in a small camp all day, adjacent to one other horse, to a situation that could be described as horse high school with all its brutal politics and social hierarchies. It was with a very heavy heart that I turned him loose on the farm, knowing that for the next few days he would be bullied, abused and maybe even shunned by Sumi’s makeshift herd. His mistrust of my friend and I didn’t make it easier and for a week neither of us could really touch him, much less coach him into his stall so that we could tend to the scrapes and cuts that his new herd had given him. I was getting particularly frustrated, mentally congratulating myself on buying a horse I would never be able to ride. Something had to give and I knew in my heart that it had to come from me, as he had given up so much.

So, one day, as I once again found myself walking after a snorting and nervous Basjan, I finally gave up and sat down in the middle of field. It was a warm day, and I was very aware that I had not put on enough sunblock but I didn’t care. Basjan was ahead of me and had turned around to see what I was going to do, confused by my change of tactics. I took a carrot from the bag that I was trying to tempt him with, crunched on it loudly, and threw the rest out beside me before lying down in the dirt, staring up at the clear African sky and wondering if I would ever love it as much as the blue Scottish heaven that I had walked under for two years. Minutes passed as I lay there, boiling and burning, but I didn’t move and neither – to my silent pleasure, did Basjan. He stared at me and the carrots, the temptation clearly driving him mad. Besides being nervous and sensitive, I had learned something else about him and that was his love for food was often stronger than his distrust of us. The minutes accumulated to a point where I was starting to reconsider the intelligence of my decision and was about to get up when I heard a shift next to me. Basjan had moved to stand just a couple of inches from my feet, supposedly grazing, but really watching the carrots that was just out of reach. I stilled my breathing and closed my eyes, resting my hand closer to the carrots. I didn’t know where he was and only realized that he had finally moved in beside me when I felt his warm breath on his hands seconds before I heard him pick up a carrot and slowly started eating it. I opened my eyes and watched him as he watched me, his ears alert and his eyes wide with mistrust. I shifted slowly, inching my hand closer to him until I could stroke his nose and finally, enclose my hand around his halter. He jerked back, pulling me to my feet, but I held onto him and talked to him softly until he relaxed and ate the rest of the carrots that was left. I stood with him for a long time, talking to him, rubbing him down, allowing him to smell me and get to know me until I felt him relax under my touch and listen to my voice instead of listening for any signs of attack. I let him go then after one last pat and walked back to my car, praying that my sunburn had not been in vain.

It wasn’t.

Things slowly started changing after that. I could catch Basjan and slowly started working with him. It was slow going, and it still is. To borrow the theme from the movie Seabiscuit, Basjan had forgotten what it was to be a horse, and it took a lot of time to remind him what it was like and that it could actually be quite a lot of fun. The trick with him was not to be over eager but rather to let him do things at his own pace. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t have my doubts when I worked with him in the beginning, thinking that I had made a costly mistake. But, he proved himself to be open to change, open to new experiences and…

Open to me.

He gave me back a part of myself that I had lost and now that I had it back, I wasn’t going to give up on him or myself.