First The Test, Then The Lesson

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Not Tonight Full Moon Presence with Orion

In my last post I began to share a bit about some of the remarkable things we’ve encountered here with the herd related to health challenges. Having been raised by a nurse for a mother, I’ve been taught to face dis-ease or incidents of health crisis head on . To stay calm and address the “situation”. This year it seems the herd is taking me to a much deeper place, a place well beyond swift and sure action. Something is come’n a call’n and isn’t going away!

After Freya’s colic I wrote about in my last post, we had some reprieve – if you can call a long winter and very wet spring a reprieve! And then in early April, as the warmer days of spring were finally arriving, another remarkable event came to pass.

Late on a Sunday afternoon I began to notice Orion was acting ‘odd’ .. pawing at the ground, randomly interested in food, and strangely arcing his head and pulling back as though his chest was sore. At first these movements were barely noticeable and soon they were forming a pattern. I tried some homeopathic remedies and talked with our animal communicator and in very short time it was clear we needed the vet immediately. Things were quickly accelerating.

By the time the vet arrived, the situation had become dyer. Orion was clearly in a lot of pain. He was very ‘neurological’ – hardly able to stand without weaving and swaying. His eyes wild. Heaving from his chest. I had separated him in the front paddock, concerned for his ability to navigate around the others.

The vet was confounded and didn’t want to give him anything until she did emergency blood work. Through the years with horses and people, I’ve had to deal with many types of medical emergencies, and, for the first time I remember, when the vet said she would need to go back to the clinic (30 minutes away) to run the blood work, I felt a surge of panic at the thought of being left “alone” with Orion in this state. She assured me I could do it and rushed off.

Dusk was leaving quickly. I brought Orion into the sand ring with the herd gathered just on the other side of the simple flex fence separating he and I and them. Orion was breathing heavily. It was hard to be present with him in his pain and not become the fear present in me. Orion went down. His legs a twisted mess. He’s dying, I thought. I could feel him leaving his body, becoming lighter and lighter. The herd, especially Pearl, stood quietly as to near us as they could on the other side of the fence. The moon came out so brightly and the night had a quality of deep peace as the frogs and wildlife in the wetland came to life. My dear friend and animal communicator, Rose, was connecting with Orion and supporting us both. She confirmed what I was feeling … Orion’s presence in his body was fading.

I crouched down with Orion, stroking his neck, whispering love songs in his ear, crying as the sorrow of the moment rose. The fear in me had passed, no rush for the vet to return. Just peace. His heavy breathing became quieter too.

The moment lasted so long that eventually I became aware that my hips and upper legs were aching from my crouched position. I stood up to give them some relief. And then … Orion stood up too. I had no idea how he managed it, but he did.

He moved closer to the fence, next to the herd and stood quietly. I felt called to go through the fence and stand with the herd. The land was so full and present. And then, one by one, the herd laid down all around me. And, so did Orion. Freya was the one who stayed standing beside me – we were standing watch together.

I could see the lights of the vet’s truck driving up. I went back to open the gate and attach a lead rope to Orion’s halter. The herd stood up. She’d run a half dozen tests and nothing showed up – no toxicity, nothing unusual. Orion’s heart rate was normal again. The vet suggested a few things but there was really nothing to do.

She was as dumbfounded as I was – no reference point for what she was seeing.

After she left I stayed with Orion for a few more hours. He walked around, staying close to Pearl and the herd, still with the fence between them. I gave him some water and hay and he happily ate. I went back inside to sleep for a few hours and then awoke to check on him again about 3:30am and he seemed to be walking fine, still grazing, the herd still quiet, sharing hay with him nose to nose with the fence in between. I opened the gate and he walked over to join the others.

In the days that followed, our vet returned several more times to run more tests – determined to figure it out but unable to find any clue. Orion felt distant, present but not quite himself even though he appeared to behave as he always had.

A friend who came to visit, and was dealing with some pretty big stuff herself, asked me why I thought all these health issues keep happening here (in addition to these events, Cohen, our dear herd member, had died the year before – he was only about 10 years old).

This triggered so many feelings of fear and inadequacy. What was I doing ‘wrong’? Was our mission wrong minded? Our intent messed up? What? My quick, default response was a position of defence.

Amazing that habit of the ego to suck us into our small self! This is why we’ve learned that cultivating the skill of Presence is so important. Without it, we will find ourselves so easily triggered and relegated to the back seat of the car of our life, being driven around by the whims and fancies of our separate self, wondering how to regain the illusion of ‘control’ (which of course, is just another battle with ego).

It took me a few days sitting with the herd, connecting with dear ones, to begin to breathe deep, be still and allow my curiosity to come out to play. How do I unconsciously relate to ill health? Hmmm … what is that relationship all about for me?

Quietly, gently, I could start to hear the still small whisper of Soul. I began to realize that I saw ill health as a problem to be solved. And not by just anyone, by me! If I could solve the ill health, I would be a “good” person. Incredible! I was holding an internal position that ill health was a fault or failure that I needed to correct and not just for myself, for others. As I sat with the herd and pondered this, I could feel my inner perspective shifting. The horses teach us this so well. Just sit and let it move, percolate, let the river of your unconscious beliefs and emotions flow through Presence and simple observation.

No need to rush into the ah-ha or solution, just watch for a while and let stuff peek out from behind the curtain.

Over the coming days a new question began to emerge … What if the movement in and out of balance is not in fact a mere problem to be solved but at the heart of how we each learn and grow?

I mused with this idea for some weeks as I sat with the herd. An image of moving up and down on a teeter totter came forward.

Spring carried on. I would catch a glimpse of Orion trotting, moving out but not in his usual playful and exuberant way. Every day with him on this land had a heightened sense of preciousness. Moments asking to be savoured and not taken without regard.

I left for a weekend workshop and Lia agreed to care for the herd. Low and behold, another out of balance! Cedar it turns out, had a very rare type of colic where his bowel became pinched in a small crevice on the inside wall of his abdominal cavity. However, this is not really my story to tell … the incident resolved in a most challenging and bizarre way and Lia, who has cared for many, many show horses experiencing colic, found a deeper connection with Cedar and a profound appreciation for his lesson for her.

Orion in the background with Cedar and Echo in the foreground.

Orion running with the herd in the newly updated field.

We redid a field and expanded it (Cedar had figured out that flex fence is indeed flexible and would slip out to savour some of the neighbour’s beautiful green backyard!), and when it was reopened, the herd celebrated and explored together running over the new land. But the joy of seeing Orion join in the energy and movement of the herd would be the last time I’d see his mane and beautiful body flowing like that in the embers of the sunset.

In early June I returned from the first of 4 trips to study with Stephen Jenkinson and a group of diverse and interesting people at his Orphan Wisdom School. Waking up the morning after returning, with the glow of 4 days of profoundly deep, soul stirring learning, I noticed that something had shifted in Orion. It would take me another day to know for sure that we were in his dying time.

What is that saying? Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

I have been present for many, many deaths. My mother, a nurse by profession and at heart, brought at least a dozen friends and family into our home as I was growing up so she could help them die a good death. And for some reason, her example has carried into my adult life as I’ve been drawn to people and animals during their dying time – some poignantly brief and others harrowingly long, from a young girl who lived almost her entire 6 years with a brutal form of cancer, to a dog who had the side of its face smashed by a car in front of me, his dying time less than 5 minutes as I whispered in his ear.

As dear as I hold every one of those connections, what Orion was about to teach me on conscious dying, well, it may take years for the meaning of the lesson to be made.

A message yet to be seen … taken the morning of our venture into Orion’s dying time.

I’ll muse over how to do justice to that part of the story for our next post. Until then, savour the moment of everything. xoxoxo


  • bonnie adlam
    August 14, 2017, 12:57 pm

    beautifully expressed

    • Tina Turner
      August 16, 2017, 1:02 pm

      Thank you dear friend!