Several weeks ago we had an opening here at Davenport Stables for a nice, easy going gelding to help me take care of the mares. You see, it was time to say goodbye to a wonderful soul. His name is Ditto and he has been a helpmate for me here at the barn for over 15 years. At first I didn’t realize what a special leader he would be, and what an important role he would play in my journey with horses. I guess I didn’t pay too much attention to him at first because he didn’t belong to me and he was an easy keeper, out with the other geldings and he was just “one of the boys”.
His owner was a young woman when Ditto came here to live with us, and she spent many hours with him, out on trail rides and attending an occasional gaming show. They had a special connection that would last the rest of his life. As life moved on, Molly grew up, got married, and started a family. Ditto grew older and needed extra feedings since his teeth started to wear out. Molly wasn’t able to come out twice a day to feed him, so Ditto quickly became part of the herd that needed extra help and care. Here at the barn, I like to keep an older gelding in the with mares, I’ve found it helps keep them balanced and happy. My beloved JJ had that role, he handed it over to Billy, then Billy passed away and we handed it over to Ditto. Ditto stepped into those big shoes and filled them to overflowing. He was more than a leader for the mares, he became an important teacher for me, and I would like to tell you a little about him. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee or tea and let me tell you a couple stories about his relationship with me and the mares…
I started a class to learn how to become more aware of the horses. It was a course where I had to observe the horses, enter their herd without causing disruption of the flow of their energy, and report back my thoughts, feelings, and observations. We were learning how to use energy work to help horses and ourselves and one important aspect of that is running their bladder meridian. I woke up one morning with that in mind and after chores headed out to the mare herd. Ditto and Nora were in the shelter together, they were the best of friends, the kind of friends that could hang out all day together, then go off with their owners to enjoy the day and not be anxious. They were very comfortable in their friendship, and I enjoyed observing them. So, just outside the shelter I paused and searched for their bubble, and gently asked with my intent if I could come closer to run their energy. I felt a warmth come into my hands, and a gentle push back against my ask. I was about four feet from them and knew I had to get closer. I inhaled and exhaled and leaned forward again in my ask, the push back was there again. Then I felt a thought nudge my brain, “stay there”, try from there. I leaned back again and just stood there breathing in and out slowly. I let my brain clear of all thought. I felt my body swaying in rhythm of my breath, I could hear the other horses, I could feel a gentle breeze, and I felt my heartrate slow. I sensed the energy all around me and felt my hands grow warm again. I leaned forward again, but I felt, “stay, try another way, no touch”. I closed my eyes, and felt a nudge, “open your eyes”. So, I opened my eyes and let my eyes roam over Ditto’s body as he stood there. I dopped my gaze to his left rear hoof and started to let my gaze follow his meridian. It felt so easy as my gaze ran up his leg, until I got to his hock, then I felt stuck. I kept my eyes on his hock for a few heartbeats, and then Ditto yawned and shifted his weight. I helped him release there! Just with my eyes and intent, no touch? How is that possible? Lightbulbs started going on in my head, we often talk about the fact that horses are so sensitive that they can run as a herd, wheel and turn without running into each other. They read each other at such a level that they merge as one. Why wouldn’t that be possible when doing energy work? I swear that Nora and Ditto said to each other. “She finally listened!” There also was a sense of humor in that moment. It felt like they approved of what I was doing, and I walked back to the barn with a lighter step, excited to write to my teacher.
Ditto had such a way about him that it was easy to understand exactly what he needed to take care of the girls. He was a good leader, never abusive, or demanding, but if one of the mares got out of line, she knew it! He was the kind of leader I wished we had in humankind. He got his point across quickly, then walked away and let it go. He led by example and the mares followed him because he helped keep them stable. They chose to be around him, and he was good at helping them be balanced. We knew it was getting close to time to let him go because he started to become crabby with the girls, and at feeding time he let us know that he was very hungry. We noticed all the hay he would put in his mouth, would be balled up all over the pasture. He no longer could chew his hay, and we couldn’t get weight on him even when he was getting massive amounts of grain a day. The decision was carefully and tearfully made with the vet that this fall we would put him down.
I received an email from a woman who was looking for a boarding place for her gelding. John and I made contact with her and set up a time to meet. I was nervous because adding another person and horse to our barn can be a bit jarring to both humans and horses alike. After meeting Mia, and learning more about her and her horse Remy, John and I knew it would be a great fit. I had a nudge in my heart that Remy would be the gelding that would come into the mare herd and lead. It was such a calming feeling that I was looking forward to him coming to the barn, even though it was going to be Ditto’s last days with us.
Remy was brought in on Oct 29th and when he stepped off the trailer it took my breath away because he was a big red quarter horse that looked like he could be Ditto’s brother. When we turned him out into the herd a couple days later, the mares accepted him right away, but Ditto moved him off a few times. It didn’t take long for me to notice some interesting interactions between Ditto and Remy. I truly believe that Ditto was teaching Remy how to take care of his girls, and I’m pretty sure I may have been discussed a little bit.
I walked out to the herd one evening after chores, it was a gentle night, the wind soft, the birds calling to each other as they roosted for the night, and the mare herd was quiet. I gently slipped open the gate and into the pasture, my teacher’s words from the past reminding me how to enter their space without ripples. I slowly walked towards Ditto, my heart heavy, and sadness leaking out through my eyes. I slowly approached him at his shoulder and gently let my hand slide down his ribs to right behind his elbow in his girth area, I could feel his heart beating there, the swaying of his body to the rhythm of his heartbeat and his breath. I let my head drop forward and rested my forehead just under his withers. His sweet horse scent entered my nostrils with each breath as tears slipped down my cheeks. He let me stand there a few moments, then he shifted away. “that’s enough, it’s going to be okay, I’m tired” filled my senses. I pushed back with “I will miss you” he moved further away from me, “it’s okay.” and he walked off. I stood there and felt the warmth of the breeze and watched him walk to Remy. He stood next to Remy and then the two of them walked away together. I knew in my heart they were communicating with each other. Ditto the patient teacher once again, once again helping me teach a new horse about our herd. Our herd doesn’t just include horses, it includes the humans that love them as well. I turned and slowly walked back to the barn, knowing that Ditto and I shared a special goodbye. There were many hours that I stopped what I was doing to observe Ditto with the herd in his last week here. Many things that I will hold close to my heart that I’m not sure I would share. Some things just can’t be shared.
Ditto has been gone for a few weeks now. The herd has changed a little bit. Remy now is the leader, but every once in a while, I think I see Ditto out of the corner of my eye and it’s Remy as he moves a mare over, or struts to the water for a drink. He stops what he is doing sometimes and just comes to me when I’m out in the pasture, the other day I stopped next to him at his shoulder, slowly slid my hand down along his ribs to his girth area, dropped my head down next to his withers and breathed in his wonderful horse scent. It reminded me of another big red horse and tears welled up in my eyes, “No, Ditto, you did not end, your legacy is here, right here with your herd, thank you for teaching me, for leading me, and for being such a good leader.” I lifted my head up from Remy and gazed into his eyes, “it’s good” he seemed to say, and I smiled and gently left the herd in his capable presence to reenter my human world.