She was born 10 years ago, just 10 short years ago.  She had what would be called an amazing pedigree, but I’m not so sure.  She had Bey El Bey and Huckleberry Bey in her lines, but she also had Affirmed, Magnum Psyche, and Padron there too.  I’m not sure, did her breeding cause her to have demons, or was it just who she was?

One of the most beautiful horses I’ve ever met.

I met Tefah when she was a year old, she took my breath away with her perfection and her beauty.  I mean, right?  She was bred to take your breath away.  Her lines spoke of beauty in the halter world, that’s what her grandsire and great grandsire were bred to do, just be pretty and be dammed about how they felt on the inside.  They are stallions bred to be afraid in the show ring because that’s what the people in the audience want.  Right?  Bring them in, terrify them and call their terror beauty because it makes them run for their lives in fear with their tail flagged, high stepping, and head held high in the air as they look for a way out.  Cool Huh?

Do I sound angry, you bet I am.  I bought Tefah when she was just a year old, she had started training as a halter horse.  She was beautiful, but terrified.  My first glimpse of her was seeing her rear up over the stall door over and over again.  She was just a baby, and she was scared.  Couldn’t anyone see that?   She touched my heart and I bought her right there. 

When we got her home, I put her in the round pen where she ran lap after lap.  Head up in the air, nostrils flared, and scared, so scared, the audience would love that, wouldn’t they?   It took me several days of sitting with her to get her to trust me enough to come to me and be haltered.  Once she realized I wasn’t going to scare her, she relaxed a bit and I turned her out and she was quickly integrated into the herd.   JJ accepted her almost right away and took her under his wing to join Sassy who became her friend and big sister.  Sassy was 2 at the time and I enjoyed watching them playing together.  I dreamed of the day that I would ride them, they would be “my girls” and we would explore the world together. 

I noticed a few differences between my girls though. Tefah worried about a lot of things.  She was afraid of changes on the ground, lead ropes, of being tied.  One day she would be fine, the next day something would trigger her, and she would pull back and flip over.  We quit tying her up when we brought her in, but she continued to pull and scramble back if I put her anywhere other than the end of the barn by the back door. 

At the age of two I started her under saddle training.  But she didn’t respond well.  One day she would lunge beautifully, the next day she would lose her mind and rear, snort, and generally be afraid of anything on the ground.  A puddle, or a wet spot in the arena would set her off, a shadow or a ground pole would guarantee a backward rush, head shaking, snorting and trembling.  So, I kicked her back out into the herd to let her just be for another year.  When she was 3, I started her again, with the same results.  Yes, there were days, and sometimes weeks where she went along with the training, I could see her intelligence and her desire to learn and be with me, but other times she was terrified.  Her energy would shoot out in all directions at once.  She couldn’t walk forward under saddle or while ground driving without feeling like she would explode.  Once again, I stopped and turned her out.  This process was repeated again when she was 4,5,6,7, and 8.  There were times her training progressed, and we did well together.  On those days I wasn’t sure where I ended, and she began.  Reins and leg aides weren’t even needed, and we would end those rides with smiles in our hearts.  I just couldn’t believe how easily she connected with me.  But other times the demon would come, I don’t know how to describe what would happen to her other than it was like seeing something become possessed.  Her eyes would open to their widest point, her breath would whistle, her body would tremble, and she really did not seem to know who she was, what she was doing, or where she was.  I’ve seen her take off in terror and run blindly over chairs, the mounting block, and anything in her path, stopping only when blood was streaming from her nostrils and from the cuts on her legs from running over things.  I thought what is this?  What am I doing wrong?  I called in people to help me.  Chiropractors, other trainers, veterinarians, body workers, more chiropractors, cranial sacral workers, animal communicators, and sent her off for training.  I’ve given her supplements, herbs, and essential oils.  I tried magnesium to help her brain, I had a saddle built for her just in case it was the saddles fault. I knew this was more than a trust thing.  I was losing her; I was seeing less of my “baby girl” and more of the demons.  I sent her to a dear friend to see if she could find a way to her.  But the demons followed Tefah there, she attacked the other horses, pulled back when she was tied, and she struggled.  My friend did make progress, and after two months I came to ride her and bring her home.  Under saddle she seemed calmer, my friend had explained things to her better than I had and it felt like she was more available, but I could still feel the demon lurking and I have to tell you, I was afraid it was still there.  We had a 6-hour drive to bring her home, and hour into the drive Tefah lost her mind.  The trailer started bucking, jumping, and swaying from side to side.  I’ve never felt anything like that.  I found a country road and we pulled off.  Joanie was with me and we looked inside.  Tefah was standing there with terror filled eyes, kicking over and over again.  And she was kicking hard.  We talked to her; it didn’t help.  There terror wouldn’t leave.  I walked to the back of the trailer and touched the door, she kicked it so hard she bruised my hand.  I looked over at Joanie and said, “we can’t open the door, we can’t help her!”.  I didn’t know what to do, the blood had started to fly from cuts in her legs, but if I opened the door I was afraid she would run us over and run herself to death, or into traffic where she would die and possibly kill others.  So, Joanie and I jumped into the truck and just started driving.  Tefah kicked like that for an hour, when she finally stopped, we pulled over at a gas station to see her.  Blood was splattered all over the interior of the trailer.  The trailer was dented in several places.  Her lead rope was hanging, the partition was now on the floor and her hay net was under it.  We checked the wounds on her legs and were thankful they had quit bleeding.  She was exhausted and standing quietly.  I called Anoka Equine and the vet on call agreed we shouldn’t try to open the door or take her out, just get home and she would meet us at the farm.  We pulled into the driveway under the cover of darkness.  Everything seemed dark, including me, Tefah, and the night.  The sadness was overwhelming, along with terrible guilt, and doubt.  We had to use a crowbar to open the trailer door, the interior of the trailer looked like a murder scene, and Tefah looked exhausted, weak, scared, and helpless.  The vet did a wonderful job stitching her up and Tefah’s wound healed, but both her heart and mine were left bleeding.

As she healed physically, I spent more time with her.  When she was up to it, I started working with her, but I knew I would never ride her again.  I tried to connect with her, to feel what she was feeling, but she locked me out.   It felt like her brain was deteriorating and I couldn’t stop it.  Was her brain deformed?  Was her brain damaged because of head injuries related to her terror?  Was it because of her halter bloodlines?  I just didn’t know, and I probably will never know.  

I’ve noticed Tefah isn’t there anymore, she doesn’t relax, her eyes don’t soften, and she holds her breath.  The other horses must notice it because they have sent her out of the herd.  She’s lonely out there, alone and afraid.  I talked to my vet and discussed what has been happening to her, the two of us agreed we should set her free. 

Yesterday, we did let her go.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever done.  As she left this world, I felt her anguish, she never has let me feel that and it overwhelmed me.  I fell to my knees at her side and let the anguish was over me, then there was a feeling of peace.  When I felt her beautiful soul leave this world, I was able to lay next to her and hug her like I’ve always wanted to, and I felt her peace.  Rest well my baby girl.  I wish I had been stronger than your demons, but I wasn’t and I’m sorry.  You will always be in my heart and thank you for that last hug and for finally letting me feel your pain.  I’m sorry you felt like you had to hide that from me.  I would have let you go sooner if I had known.  I know you were a good, good horse and I hope you feel healed and free as you run with JJ.  I just know the two of you are together.  I can’t wait to see you, and to hug you again someday.  I love you baby girl.  I always will carry you in my heart.

2 thoughts on “Setting Her Free

  1. Cheryl I know this is one of the hardest things you have ever done. You worked so hard with her and nothing helped. I think Tefah was the most beautiful horse I have ever seen and I’m so sorry she was so damaged on the inside. I always thought that one day I would ride her when I came to visit but it wasn’t to be. You are one brave soul and I know you did the right thing. I’m glad Tefah is feee! Love you, Mom

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