My Teacher, Bert
We adopted an old horse named Bert. He was on a kill lot, headed to slaughter, when some kind people paid the ransom and took him to a foster home. Bert was so thin that you could count his ribs, and they didn’t know if they could save him. Three months of groceries and a quiet pasture helped a lot. But, unfortunately, Bert had an injured leg that wasn’t going to heal.
A 3-legged horse is not long for this world. The vet thought he had about 2 months to live when I adopted him. He hobbled around on his 3 legs, and sometimes he rested his rump on the wall of his stall.
I didn’t want Bert to suffer. I thought we were at the end of our story. We weren’t. Much to his frustration, I treated him like he was dying.
One day, I said out loud, something to the effect of, “Hey buddy, is it your time to go?”
And he very clearly, and with some salty language told me what I could do with myself.
That started us on an 18-month journey, where he taught me all of the ways that animals try to communicate with us. He taught me how to be present.
He taught me so much. His very clear voice was the first that I consistently heard..
Bert Passed Away in 2006
He didn’t just teach me the ins and outs of intuitive animal communication. He taught me about dedication and courage and kindness and to never treat anyone like a lost cause.
We adopted another horse, Ed who had been severely traumatized before he came to live with us. Ed was a beautiful bay, perfectly sound in body, but very mentally ill. He was skittish and reactive, unsafe to be around.
We boarded him for a year, and we thought we could fix him. We hired trainers. We tried natural horsemanship. I followed the work of Mark Rashid (who is amazing). Ed would do well for awhile, and then he’d relapse into a wild-eyed horse who didn’t recognize us and was afraid of a halter. Then we’d start again. He never got over the trauma. He remained broken for the rest of his life.
But, when we rented a farm and brought Ed home, Bert immediately made friends with him. And every day after, those two would wander the pastures together, never more than a few feet apart. Even though Bert was old and injured, he was Ed’s gentle leader. We didn’t try to train him. We just let him be. And even though he still had moments of fear and trauma, he was really happy for that year. We owe that to Bert.
But Bert couldn’t stay. Ed spent a few more peaceful years in a retirement pasture, and then he passed away too.
I owe everything to Bert, and I hope that I see him again.