Before the ending, there is always a beginning.
Barney’s beginning with our family started over 5 years ago, in November 2015. I believe he was called to join us, to heal and be healed. He died January 6, 2020.
His angels along the way included Christine of Freedom Valley Horse Rescue who saved Barney from the slaughter. We then found him through the help of Manuela Stefan, of Graceful Horses Photography. Both women bonded quickly with Barney, and helped him find his new home with us. Manuela has kept in touch over the years and even looked after the herd while we’ve been away. Her last stay here, she along with our kind neighbours, helped save Barney when he fell and couldn’t get up.
It’s been quite a journey for me, learning and growing alongside Barney. He had many ailments, and as I look back, I think many of them bothered me more than him! He had an annual ‘outbreak’ or reaction every New Year’s, and he’d start rubbing and itching up against anything he could find. Large bare patches would be worn in his sides, face and tummy. We tried everything to alleviate the itching - a biopsy to eliminate any mites or other creatures, de-lousing, antihistamines, taking him off all commercial feeds, oils, homeopathy, essential oils and more.
But Barney’s worst ailment, what eventually caused us to let him go this week was his back legs. He had an accident of some sort while he was a competitive pulling horse (the ones you see at fairs pulling heavy weights across a line), and this had led him to be sold to the meat market. Sadly, his owners only saw him as a means to an end, and sold him once he was no longer useful to them. Christine at Freedom Valley found him and took him to her farm in Omemee. We had seen a gradual decline in his mobility over the years. Hoping that nutritional supplements and an easy retirement would be all he needed, we kept on.
This May, he suddenly became incontinent. His bladder could no longer drain properly, but the vet found him in no pain and thought as long as he was kept clean, he could go on. We hoped a horse chiropractor could help, and although he adjusted his tilted pelvis, it made no difference and he felt it was too late to correct whatever nerve damage was done.Determined to keep him clean and dry this winter, we had a couple pairs of leggings made. They were similar to ski pants, with ‘garters’ that attached to his winter coat. This worked temporarily, but not for long and kept coming off.
There was another sudden decline in his legs where he appeared to only be able to shift his back legs, not lift them. He was incredibly tippy and we feared he would fall and hurt himself. We all said our goodbyes and as we walked down the aisle to the back pasture one last time, he seemed to quicken his steps. I believe he was ready to be free of pain, to join the horse ancestors, to continue healing others from the spirit realm. As with anyone we love, it was hard to say goodbye to his earthly presence. The other horses knew and were quick to come over and sniff him and realize he was gone. What was surprising was about 20 minutes after, the wind picked up, and they all ran in a circle, bucking and kicking. It looked like a bit of a celebration. They have since been walking up the aisle to look over at his grave, returning to the barn and calmly resuming life as a herd of four.
Zorro, the mini, seems to be grieving the most. He has lost two buddies within a year. The first was the only horse he’d ever known, Beau, and Barney is the second. Both horses took the role of his protector, allowing him hay and space from the rest of the herd, to which he is the lowest in the order.
As I fed and groomed the herd today, it occurred to me the weight I’ve been carrying in caring for Barney. I think I may have worried a little more than necessary, unable to just let his old age take over. There is an ease now in the chores; lesser time overall, no worries of anyone falling, having a new outbreak or not eating all their feed, losing their leggings...little worries that all add up. I enjoyed caring for Barney and believe he felt the love from all of us. My husband Paul was always there to give him a manly pat on the shoulder, mend the fences, fix the waterer, mow the pastures. Barney especially loved kids.
Luke and Foster would play basketball or trucks in the barnyard and Barney would watch, always sticking his head over the fence for a pat. Barney connected with so many others too. In Horse Discovery sessions, if he wasn’t the main teacher, he was the Guardian. He’d often place himself where he could feel the energy of the whole herd and the client. He’d close his eyes almost fully and breathe loudly. I don’t entirely understand what he was doing, but I know he was shifting energy, helping people to see things differently, feel what they hadn’t before, and to heal. People would often say they saw Barney in their dreams.
I’ll continue to look for his spirit to help out, as I have looked to our other horse teachers who have passed. Barney has left this earthly role, and taken up a new one in the spirit world. A new beginning.
Many of you loved and learned from Barney. A few suggestions if you’re looking for ways to honour him:
1. Consider making a donation to Freedom Valley Horse Rescue. All funds donated go to saving and re-homing horses, donkeys and even goats!
2. Read Barney’s story as captured by photographer Manuela Stefan.
3. Come and visit again, and ‘feel’ for Barney when you’re here.