Cassie has been sick. It began with little things. Swellings on her face and body. Hives, I thought, a reaction to fly spray, except that they all burst open and scabbed over and then the hair started coming off her face. Then she started coughing. A summer cold, I thought, and I started her on a course of anti-biotic powders in her feed. It didn’t make any difference, instead she slowly got worse, and I watched her anxiously as her energy disappeared and she shuffled about like an old, old horse with dull eyes and no interest in anything. I could feel how depressed she was. Then her glands started swelling up, and I got the vet out, terrified her throat would swell shut, my own throat aching in sympathy.
The vet blamed the bad weather and for sure the relentless rain and the cold of this poor excuse of a summer we’re having would make anyone sick. Arrow started coughing too, but he had no other symptoms and, even though it took a long time for the cough to disappear, he remained his cheerful self. Whatever was wrong with Cassie, it had completely compromised her immune system, and even when she started to improve a bit physically, she still seemed depressed.
She spent long periods of time in her stable, standing in the back. In the evenings, I would go and sit with her to keep her company. Not wanting to impose myself upon her, I’d sit on the opposite side from her, leaning back against the stable wall with my eyes closed, trying to empty my mind and just focus on my breathing. In…. Out…. Slowly. It is not that easy to empty your mind and it is interesting to see what thoughts come up uninvited. Thoughts about lost time and lack of achievement. Of plans unfulfilled. I started wondering why these things came up. I am not ambitious, I don’t care about competing in any kind of discipline, so why do I feel under pressure to make some form of progress? I don’t need to do anything with my horse, but it feels like I should. Because you get asked, what do you do with your horse, do you hunt? Jump? Dressage then maybe? No. I don’t even ride. I just sit with my horse and breathe.
I sit with Cassie and I listen to her breathing. I can’t hear her breathe in, I can only hear her exhale, but if I breathe slowly enough she’ll synchronise with me. Cassie comes up to me and stands over me. I don’t touch her, I just sit quietly with my eyes closed, but with every breath I can feel Cassie’s head lowering until her head is resting on mine. We stay like that for a while. Then she lifts her head, yawns, and she rubs her face against mine. When she starts grooming my back, I scratch her chest. I wait for her to move away to doze in the back of the stable. Then I leave.