Today, Christmas Eve, we said good-bye to a most beautiful soul who graced this farm for nearly 30 years. Belle was a Morgan Horse mare who came here in 1993 at just three years old. She was a determined youngster who made it clear to many who tried working with her that she was not here to be ridden or trained. Belle was here to do her own thing. Spring Farm CARES was approached to give her sanctuary where she could do just that and where she’d be guaranteed a place to live out her days. Otherwise, she was destined to be euthanized because her free spirit just did not fit into a life of servitude to humans (and that is just how she looked at it.)
Belle ended up living with three other horses here where they shared a small barn/run-in shed and the run of a huge hillside pasture overlooking the entire farm. The four of them all grew old together in harmony with the farm and living the life they craftily had created for themselves. In many ways, they lived the best life, living the life the way a horse was intended to live. And they thrived together. One by one, over the past 5 years, Belle watched them all leave as time took it’s natural course. She was the last of that amazing little herd. And she also was the last of our original horses. Her passing truly marks the end of an era of this farm.
Belle would not be thrilled that I’ve written this much about her already. One sentence would suffice for her. Something like: “She arrived, lived, dreamed, connected and now she has left.” Yes, that is what Belle wanted me to say. But I need to share something more. Sorry Belle.
Belle not only came and lived her life here, but she also gave a lot to this farm. She held a space. You see, Belle was not very handleable and that is how she wanted it. She wanted to experience living free and having things done “with” her but not “to” her. She participated when she chose to. Over the years, Belle chose specific people and situations to interact with. Sometimes they were her caretakers, sometimes students who came for workshops and left here with amazing heart connections with Belle. Sometimes it was her veterinarian when she needed help, or her beloved farrier who worked with her so incredibly patiently when in her final couple of years she really needed special help with her feet. Everyone who was chosen by Belle knows who they are. And we thank you for seeing her for who she was and not trying to make her who she never wanted to be. She was a free spirit and she lived her life that way here on this farm and left the same way.
As co-founder of SFC, I have known Belle since she stepped off the trailer here in 1993. We went through a lot together. Her little barn/pasture where she lived with her herd is right outside my window for the past 25 years. To wake up this morning and not see her standing there was painful. She was the first thing I looked for each morning. She also was known to come over to the fence closest to our yard when we had our dogs out late at night in the dark. I could hear the occasional gentle nicker or snort to let us know she was right there. Deep connection and relationship isn’t always about touching or owning anything. Belle taught me how to be together in the deepest sense. It wasn’t always an easy lesson for me to learn with her. But she was an amazing teacher.
Each time one of Belle’s pasture mates has died, she has done the same thing. We find her standing at alert staring up the hill to the big pasture where they once ran together and galloped in their younger days. In their elder years they could no longer do the big hill and had a smaller pasture that was easier on old bones. But as each of her friends passed, she would stand staring at high alert for hours just looking up the hill. When her last buddy Viva passed two years ago, we were worried for Belle as to how she would do by herself. For two days, she stood looking up that hill as if she were watching something moving.
“What are you looking at?” I asked her.
“Can’t you see them?” she replied. “They are all there. They are still all there.”
Chills ran down my spine. The ghost brigade. Her herd was letting her know she was not alone at all.
We brought up another mare to occupy the other part of her little barn so she wasn’t alone. Whisper was also kind of a loner but the two mares could visit over the stall door between them and they could visit over the fence of their pasture. And each morning and evening from our window, we’d watch the two mares stand where they could see one another. It reminded us of coffee time. They’d just stand and enjoy each other’s company.
Belle’s condition deteriorated more rapidly than we anticipated. She had a cancer that started filling her lungs. She didn’t respond to drugs to ease her breathing. She totally let us try to help her but nothing we had to offer brought her any peace. We knew it was time for our free spirit to fly free and join her herd. For the past two days, she spent a lot of time just staring up that hill and watching. I had a feeling they were here to get her and take her home. She knew something that we hadn’t yet discovered. Her time here with us was drawing to a close.
As we led her out of her barn one last time, Whisper gave her that soft nicker that mare friends give one another. She said good-bye and let Belle know she was there. Belle left this world facing up that hill, where she knew her friends were waiting and they could be reunited once again.
Fly free Belle. Say hello to all the others for us. And we will be watching for you all up there on that hill, lovingly standing watch over this farm forever.