This piece is going to run the gamut of emotions–so if you’re not prepared, go away and come back when you’re ready. From death and grief to gratitude for heroes riding in on white horses–this is what’s in my head and heart today. I don’t usually write truly heavy things here on Saratoga.com, but this is what’s on the docket for today. You may agree with me. You may disagree. Either way, we want to hear from you, so please post a comment below–your opinion is important. Sans further ado, here we go…
I have lucid dreams–that is, every time I dream, I’m cognizant that I’m asleep, and that this is a dream. And I usually direct the dream. Pose questions. Take actions to change the course of the dream. I don’t just experience it, I’m involved. It’s an interesting way to dream, and apparently only a small percentage of the population dreams lucidly. Those of us whose dreamlives are lucid are in good company: Saint Augustine of Hippo and Tibetan monks are listed among those for whom dreams are as tangible as waking life, perhaps moreso.
Several months ago, I experienced a dream that was more real than this moment, as my physical fingers hit the keyboard. The setting was a reminiscent of a Maxfield Parrish painting: an elegant, brilliantly-lit house high on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by a tightly-winding road (picture “circular ham”) following a beautiful, small river. A party of some kind was taking place at the house, which was perfectly-decorated. Lots of candles in all shapes and sizes, but also strong electric lighting of every kind.
(I’m a bit of a vampire, I’m not a big fan of lighting other than that which Mother Nature provides. So the brightness of the lights seemed excessive to me, but I came to realize that the purpose was to emphasize the contrast between the inside of the house and the scene which was about to unfold outside.)
My Mother and Grandmother were there, and my cat, Kirwan–they’re all dead in the real world, so it was a joyous reunion. A few minutes into this tender moment of realization, Mom asked me to go outside, alone, because there was something I had to know. I asked her to accompany me, but she insisted,
“No, it’s for you.”
As I stepped out of the house onto the enormous patio that hovered precariously over the winding road and river, a snowstorm came from nowhere. The tall pines began to sway in the violent wind. The snow came from every direction–it was thick, blinding and stung my face as I stood there, shocked. Looking down, I realized that the lazy river had become a raging lunatic, white caps crashing against the banks and washing onto the road below. It seemed that the mountain, itself, was actually giving birth to something–so violent was the thrashing around me.
It occurred to me that there was no way down the mountain, and no way up for anyone who may have sought shelter in the bright house. As my lucid brain processed this scene and debated whether to change it or to go with its natural direction, I realized that, from the beginning of the storm–music. From the trees themselves, which were fighting to stay erect, yet bending almost in half in the wind, I was assaulted by Lacrimosa, Mozart’s great prayer for mercy on the souls of those whose guilt should condemn them to everlasting torture. (“Lacrimosa” in Latin means, “Weeping.”)
[This is the audio portion of our article: I ask that you copy and paste this link; enter it in another window and listen to Lacrimosa as you read the rest of the dream. It will help you more-fully understand how this portion of the dream enfolded me. And it’s OK if you cry: Lacrimosa is one of the most beautiful, painful and hauntingly sad pieces of music ever written. The way in which it prepared me for the rest of the dream and orchestrated it makes me cry, too, every time I think about it.]
You can feel it, can’t you? The pain, cutting like a knife into the very core of my being–the urgency with which the music hit me in the face, stinging my soul as the snow and ice pelted my skin. Turning from this full-on visual, sensual and aural assault, I clung to the patio’s railing. Tempted to surrender and fall backwards, arms out Crucifixion-style, somehow I found the resolve to fight my way back into the building. One grueling step at a time, one hand on a railing, another on a tethered table, I knew how Sisyphus feels as he pushes that boulder up the hill. (N.B.: That is not incorrect tense: Sisyphus’ story is Present Tense, for indeed his story takes place every day, for eternity.)
The wind pushed against me, refusing to let me get near the doorknob. One wet, reddened, frozen hand managed to hold the knob for a second.
And as I began to pull, hard, against the wind’s resistance, out of the trees, themselves, came the heads, first, and then the necks and bodies of horses. Thousands of horses. Every color of
horse, every breed. Small, tall, fat, old, young, sleek, muscled, strong. Manes whipped about by the wind, these archetypes of strength, itself, these horses whispered and pleaded with me. With me–these symbols of power, for some reason, asked of me but one thing. Their urgent voices speaking as one–yet as an entire spirit community–they beseeched,
And all the while, from the first gust of wind that ushered in the storm through the horses’ impassioned request–Lacrimosa was sung with such emphasis, so much emotion, from the trees themselves that my spirit felt ripped to shreds by the horrible beauty and enormity of that which had been asked of me.
Nature Herself, conspired to underscore the horses’ plea.
I stood at the door to the brightly-lit house, the horses and the snow and the storm raging around me, weeping and knowing in my conscious mind that I was weeping in my dream. I awakened, still crying, and uttered a promise in my heart, that I would, indeed, do what I can to save them.
That dream is that which gave urgency to my commitment to save as many horses’ lives as I can. I’d been an advocate, a writer of some pro-horse, anti-evil-against-horses things in the past. But this dream steeled my resolve to take up the sword of Truth and charge headlong into the fray with the thousands–millions–of people who work every day of their lives to save all equines from slaughter, abuse and illegal roundup.
I don’t know how it’s all going to play out for the horses–both those domesticated and wild–but I do know that I have a lifelong mission, as do many other people, to assure that, from inception to natural death–all equines deserve to be loved; cared-for and provided for by people who recognize that horses are not livestock, as the Cattle Lobby would have us believe. I hope that this mission doesn’t take the rest of my Life–I’d like to think that we’ll get these things resolved, once-and-for-all, within the next year and I can have 25 years just to chill. Maybe write about bunnies an sunshine. But the human heart at its core is a cruel thing. As long as horses roam the American west or are foaled in excessive, obsessive numbers–someone, somewhere will have the “solution”–and that solution always involves equine fear; usually an excruciating death.
And, oh, yes, the “solutions” always involve some human, somewhere, making money. Big, nasty piles of cash.
(Interesting, these non-solutions help only the people for whom “making a living” depends on making death, fear or extermination of a breed of horses.)
Horses, donkeys and burros are companion animals, the same as cats and dogs. If you wouldn’t eat Tabby or Rex, you should be appalled by those who would sell Trigger to a Mexican or Canadian slaughterhouse.
So we in the thick of horse rescue and the anti-slaughter, anti-roundup community have a great deal of work ahead of us. Many good souls are up, online and in the trenches 24/7. When I am sleeping, they are fighting for our equine companions. (And yes, wild horses count as equine companions, for their ancestors are those who accompanied our human grandparents as they forged this America.)
Several official equine businesses have taken up the cause: Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts and Finger Lakes Race Track in New York were among the first. They made strong stands, and are working tirelessly to retire their racehorses. Unfortunately, many racing and other equine sport organizations hesitate to join the cause, for fear of losing money or respect or some such self-involved reason.
The cause was in need of a large, dominant force coming out for the horses. And yes, much to my joy, the good people of NYRA threw themselves fully into the fight. On December 10, 2009, New York Racing Association announced that America’s premier racing organization will not tolerate slaughter among the ranks. Trainers and owners who send their horses to slaughter will not be given stalls at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct. Their assertive statement goes as follows:
“Any owner or trainer stabled at a New York Racing Association Inc. (NYRA) track found to directly or indirectly sold a horse for slaughter will have his or her stalls permanently revoked from all NYRA tracks. NYRA requires a horseman to conduct due diligence on those buying horses and encourages them to support rescue and adoption efforts and to find humane ways of dealing with horses unable to continue racing.”
(I have always loved NYRA, and now I love them even more. The men and women I see in the administrative offices are also those I see in the early mornings, watching workouts and feeding carrots to horses. They’re not just businesspeople who happen to run an equine sporting company: they’re horsepeople who happen to work in horse business.)
Link to full story:
Ihope and pray that other racing entities and equine sport groups will follow NYRA, Suffolk Downs and Finger Lakes, and realize that those of us who love horses refuse to patronize an organization that turns a blind eye and heart to the plight of horses after their careers in racing, dressage, endurance, barrel racing, showing–and every other equine sport. It is not acceptable to use a horse to earn money, and then cast that animal into a killpen when her career is over. We who love horses will not tolerate this. One way or another, money will be lost by taking a stand for horses: ’tis far better to lose money because some people in your sport or endeavour will no longer participate–than to lose it because your audience has boycotted you and labeled you as being “killer-friendly.”
We in the trenches will continue to strive to assure that all horses in the US–and in the world–are safe, healthy and loved. We will keep up the fight against the frightening methods and residual deaths that are the product of the roundups in the American west, and to shut down the rogue agency responsible for the fear and subsequent disintegration of equine families in wild herds.
No one is safe until all are safe. And the safety of all must be assured by those of us who have the voices, the hands and the hearts to speak for those who have no voice. For the rest of my Life, I will see those horses’ faces and hear their whispered pleas of “Save us”–and I will do my level best to heed their call, to stroke those souls and calm that fear-full plea to a gentle nicker.
As always, May the Horse be with you.
Deheya, courtesy of Easy Street Horse Rescue
Faith, a/k/a, Buddy, courtesy of Easy Street Horse Rescue
Exceller, courtesy of The Exceller Fund
NYRA logo, courtesy of New York Racing Association