By: Yongkai Ow
Imagine yourself in the hooves of a little foal less than 6 weeks old – born into a large expanse of rolling hilly pastures where he and his family roamed free. Suddenly, he is separated from his herd, and he never sees his mother and father again, and he is then herded onto a trailer and taken from the only home he has ever known. It was Monday when he was taken from his home and on Tuesday, he is in a Reach Out to Horses (ROTH) Foal Gentling Clinic, with 10 other foals, all older than him by several months. He was rescued by the Warm Springs Horse Network and brought to the clinic to gentle and make his transition into the world of humans easier so that he can find his forever home.
He is overwhelmed and despondent, and does not know if he wants to live. His kind rescuers offer him milk, but he does not know how to drink milk from a bucket, so he does not touch it. Instead, he mechanically puts his head down to graze on the hay, chewing with his two little baby teeth, and moving obediently away from it when the other foals drive him off. There are a couple of older foals that allow him to feed near them, but when he tries to suckle on them, they too drive him off.
He spent the first day glued to the side of a larger filly, hiding from anyone who approached them in their pen. Terrified at any human approach, he pressed himself into the corner between the pen wall and the filly. The ROTH approach is a very gentle one, and because he was too traumatized to be separated from his filly friend, we let them stay together that first day, and I ended working more with his friend than with him. But that was ok, because he got to see how gentle our approach was, and understand that our contract with him was to never hurt him, and our intention was always to listen him, and give him a voice.
The next two days, he hid in a different way. Without any other horse in the pen with him, he decided to hide his head in a corner, and vacate his body, dissociation being the only way the little colt could handle the overwhelm. Despite being surrounded by his herdmates, most of whom were coming around to really enjoying being with humans, and having all his needs catered to as much as we could, our little colt was not comfortable, and kept going into the freeze mode. He stood in the corner, and endured our interactions with little enthusiasm, and slowly he started accepting touch, but only on his left side, and yet even with touch he would respond to it initially, then he would tense up, wrinkling his little nostrils and pursing his lips, then he would completely dissociate, standing still with that glazed eye and droopy head, spooking into a spin or a bolt when sudden movements startled him. He held everything within himself, only exploding when it all became too much for him! Despite being tired (although we let him rest as much as possible, taking into account his tender age) he was nervous, and stayed on his feet for most of the day, and only on day 3 did he actually lie down for a real rest, only to jump up at the slightest indication of anyone approaching the pens.
We supported him with essential oils, energy healing, and T-touch, all of which he seemed to enjoy, only for it to suddenly become too much for him, and then he would dissociate and then spook himself, spinning and bolting, which made him unpredictable and potentially dangerous when he grew older and bigger. To keep him out of the freeze mode, and ask him to stay more present with us, we started to ask him to soften his footfall as he moved around the pen. He was always given the choice to move or to stand, and we communicated with him through the ROTH methods of visualization, energy, and then body language, so he could innately understand us, since we were speaking his language, the language of Equus.
I felt he was starting to come around a little, but he was still either catatonic or explosive in his responses at the end of day 3. So I resolved to change my approach slightly, and instead of going into the pen to work with him, I stayed outside and engaged him in conversation. Using my intuition and guidance from the Horse Ancestors, I decided to tell the little foal that I could feel his pain and empathize for I too missed my mother, and my home. It was really heartwarming to see him turn and look directly at me for the very first time, and even though his glance was brief, it was a tearjerker how much sadness you could read in those young eyes. I tend asked him what he would like to be called, and with the aid of my trusty pendulum, I was able to discern that all the suggestions I had for his name were summarily dismissed. I got the feeling that he wanted a grand name to match him, and suddenly Diamond popped into my head, and when I said “Diamond” out loud, it did not need the pendulum to really confirm my hunch, because once again Diamond turned to look at me.
And despite this promising start to the day, he reverted to the behavior of freezing and spooking, and it was obvious that he was not yet sure he was willing to stay around, since he was still dissociating as much as he could. We could see tantalizing glimpses of that little soul that wanted the grand name Diamond, and yet it was as though we could not really reach him!
After watching me work with him for a while, Anna Twinney offered to come in and get a feel of him. This was the second time Anna worked with him, and despite the little monkey’s (as Anna affectionately addressed him) anxiety, Anna was able to keep him present for slightly longer periods, and in these brief moments, we saw more of why Diamond is such a gem, being so intelligent that he outwitted Anna briefly, only to have his ploy seen through the very next time he tried it on!
Through her magic, Anna got him to face up, not just with the left eye, but with both eyes. After his longest session in 4 days, Anna had him looking towards the gate, and I hear her say, “Kai, meet Diamond” and for the very first time, I saw a little spark in Diamond’s eyes. It was breathtaking and heartwarming all at the same time!
The little monkey was so tired after that session with Anna that he curled up like the baby he was and laid down to sleep, and for the first time in 4 days, did not even get up when people went close to his pen. Watching him snooze gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, that feeling that it will be ok, and Diamond has decided to stay with us after all.
The next day gave proof to that sentiment, when I could approach him from his right without causing a spook or a glazed eye. He was able to look at me, and I could see that he still held that spark in his eye. And lo and behold, he finally was drinking his milk. Granted, it could be his neighbor, Crunchy’s, obnoxious enthusiasm for the milk (he kept sticking his head through the fence to steal some) that interested Diamond enough to try it, but nevertheless, for the last four days, no matter how much the other foals did a dance of joy when the milk buckets were delivered, Diamond never even looked up! So this change, this shift in attitude, which started yesterday, must have been because of Anna’s final session with him. What is it about facing up from both sides, and seeing the world from both eyes, that makes a despondent horse change his mind, and want to live? Is the change physiological, perhaps facing up causing some hormonal or neuronal shift in little Diamond that gave him comfort, and the will to live? I do not know! All I know is: whatever shifted the baby was the eye contact between two beings, one horse-whispering human and one equine. Perhaps, as windows to the soul, this was a direct path that showed Diamond the beauty of both of their souls and gave him hope. To say the change was startling is truly an understatement. In one fell swoop, Diamond decided to make up lost ground and caught up to all his older peers in the last two days of gentling, and is so lovable that the owner of the facility adopted him that very last day and gave him a forever home.