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This is the account of a remarkable journey shared by two wounded spirits with a common destiny, one equine and the other human, a tale of healing, transformation and unconditional love.
In the beginning, it seemed highly unlikely that their paths would ever cross. One was born at a racing stud in Newmarket, England, the other into a highly dysfunctional family in post-war Germany. Yet as the story develops, it becomes clear that the Universe was unfolding exactly as intended.
The year Owen's Pride was born, Stephanie began to feel an inexplicable urge to emigrate to Britain. Leaving her job, her band and her long-term relationship behind, she obeyed that pull and made a new start in London. Still their lives were worlds apart. It was not until a decade and a half later when a serious injury sustained in a cycling accident put an end to her career as a musician and forced her to reinvent her identity that fate began to draw them closer together.
HEAVEN FOR HORSES: Copyright by Stephanie Fry
A Journey of Discovery and Never-Ending Self-Improvement
By Stephanie Fry
Stephanie had enrolled as a mature student at an agricultural college and was spending her compulsory work experience as a groom at a local riding school when she was asked if she would rescue Owen from impending euthanasia. His 11-year racing career had ended due to injury, and he had subsequently endured 3 years of being passed from person to person on the downward spiral so typical for many ex-racehorses.
The very moment they met for the first time, a rainbow appeared in the sky above them, heralding just what was to come, and how this meeting would change and enrich both their lives beyond recognition.
Owen's physical and mental rehabilitation was a steep learning curve for a first-time horse owner, to say the least. It resulted in a remarkable equine-human partnership which went way beyond "normal" equestrian pursuits. Many of those who have witnessed it say they have never seen anything like it.
Without a doubt, Owen is a horse in a million. He is a noble, wise and ancient soul who became Stephanie's best friend, confidante, and Life Coach. He taught her how much more there is to horses than meets the eye. She learned what she had long suspected, that animals are spiritual beings, with horses in particular serving humanity in ways which are immeasurably precious and yet largely unacknowledged.
She also found that she had the ability to communicate psychically with animals and nature in general. Herself a child abuse survivor, she has a powerful empathy with animals, and particularly horses, who have been neglected or abused.
Owen and Stephanie became a team who are in constant mind-to-mind contact. Over the years, they touched the lives of many horses in need in beneficial ways. Their partnership culminated in the creation of Heaven for Horses, a project dedicated to holistic equine rehabilitation and offering workshops and clinics focusing on helping people experience and learn about being with their horses in a completely different and mutually more rewarding way.
At age 30, Owen's Pride is now in his twilight years. But there is one more step to go along the way: The purchase of their neighbours' house which would enable Stephanie and her husband to set up a residential teaching centre and run a programme of Horse-and-Rider Retreats.
Taking this financial risk requires faith and courage beyond what has gone before. Will they succeed?
(An Excerpt from "Heaven for Horses: A Journey of Discovery and Never-Ending Self-Improvement" by Stephanie Fry)
The mare had "gone down" whilst on an exercise ride with the groom, "sort of gone backwards, half-reared and fallen down" on the tarmac road. No one really knew what was wrong, but the groom suspected she had suffered a seizure, and, as a result, the syndicate that owned her had passed a majority decision to have her shot. It was obvious that the groom loved her dearly, and Steve and I travelled to see her the following weekend.
Despite being slightly underweight and what looked like an odd skin condition on her face, Faerie presented herself to us as an almost ethereal vision of beauty. She was dark bay and 16.2hh tall, gentle, friendly, confident, obedient, soft as butter, sweet as honey and obviously very, very fast.
Steve voiced my thoughts exactly when he said: "If there ever was a horse in need of a home, it's this one." We decided then and there that we would take her. The groom couldn't thank us enough, with tears in her eyes, and delivered her the next day.
For 6 months or so, all was well. Faerie was consistently 100% sound and healthy and I allowed myself to hope that, maybe, it would be possible to sit on her back. Then, one day at feeding time, we heard an odd noise in the yard and came round the corner just in time to see Faerie circling backwards in her stable, half rear up and then come crashing down, stable door and all, into the yard where she fitted violently on the concrete.
Now I understood what those strange markings had been. When she got to her feet, the skin on one side of her face was gone. All that was left was a wall-to-wall abrasion and a very sore eye which was rapidly swelling shut. I gave her homoeopathic Arnica and Aconite and Hypericum and anything else I could think of. Very, very gently we turned her out again as we figured she was safer in the field.
While I nursed her back to health, Steve padded her stable walls with carpet and sacking, strengthened the door and installed a haybar rather than a net in which she might catch a foot if she fell.
With Rubik having passed away I advertised for a new companion for Owen, offering a compatible horse a home for life. Among the countless responses I had there was a desperate call from a groom who begged me to take on an ex-racehorse.
I booked Karen Ruggles, a Reiki healer and animal communicator who came to see her repeatedly. Over Faerie, Karen and I became friends. I had noticed that Faerie never seemed to fully come into season, and during one of our sessions, when Karen noted heat behind the saddle area, Faerie showed me that, in a previous incarnation, she had been incarcerated on one of the French farms where pregnant mare's urine is "harvested" for the manufacture of the human hormone replacement therapy product Premarin.
They are horrendous places where mares are intensively farmed in narrow stalls with catheters permanently placed in their bladders. They don’t lie down and never eat grass; their foals are removed immediately after birth, the colts destroyed and the fillies reared as stock replacement. The mares are then injected to bring them back into season and artificially inseminated as soon as possible, and the whole process starts again. So Faerie had decided not to have any more seasons.
To this day I don't know whether her epilepsy was hormonal or whether it was perhaps caused by a head injury sustained in a fall during racing. All I know is that, after that particular session, I saw her squat and urinate normally at another horse for the first time. Even though this was doubtlessly a major breakthrough, Steve and I decided that riding her was out of the question.
So I rang Karen and asked her to keep an eye out for a rideable horse in need of a home as she was getting around and about quite a bit on her business. After a few days, she telephoned and told me about a 10-year-old Irish ex-racehorse whom one of her clients had rescued from being destroyed.
“He’s right up your street,” said Karen. “They call him the Killer. He’s had eight homes in two years. Apparently he’s broken a farrier’s leg, and his last owner just couldn’t handle him, so she sold him to a dealer. But they couldn’t get him on the trailer. He fought so hard that he got his foot stuck and fell off the ramp, leaving a portion of his hoof behind.
The dealer decided he couldn’t sell a horse like him and pulled out, and the stable manager just wanted him gone from her yard. So the owner said to shoot him there and then, and they were about to put the gun to his head when my client stepped in and took him away.”
“Right up my street, eh? Thanks, Karen!”
We went to meet the bay thoroughbred soon after. Steve refused to go into the field with the Killer, but I went through the gate and stood quietly waiting for him. The horse approached tentatively and touched and sniffed me all over. Then he put his head on my shoulder.
Steve said, “I would not want him to go to anyone other than you.” So that decision was made. In all the years that William, as he is now known, has been with us, we have never seen any sign of aggression out of him. Anecdotally, his former racing trainer is quoted as saying: “’tis a vary sweet harse, but never won a ting.”
It was only a matter of time until that thing would be a car coming down the lane. The morning I witnessed 3 severe seizures in a row was the morning I called the vet. I had simply run out of ways of keeping Faerie safe.
The veterinarian came that afternoon and set Faerie free, liberated her from that useless body which was so cruelly entrapping one of the brightest spirits I had ever met. I cradled her head and encouraged her to let go, my tears mingling with her mane. "No more falling down, my love, I promise, no more falling down." I felt the rush of her spirit leaving with that last, great gasp of breath. Owen nickered, and William, when turned loose, approached and lay down next to her body.
The lorry was scheduled to come for her early the next morning, and Steve offered to take care of it. But he didn't want to have to move Owen and William on his own, so we put them in the adjoining paddock before we left for home.
Owen’s cry of anguish came at the usual time, about 4.30am. I got out of bed and drove to the yard just as it was getting light. Owen and William had spent the entire night standing in the same, dung-covered spot, as close to Faerie's body as they could, and Owen had whinnied himself hoarse.
I immediately realised my faux pas. How many times had he seen Faerie fall down and get up again? How many times had he followed her through trashed hedges and mangled fences to make sure she was safe? How could I not have seen how much he needed to stand watch over her body, just to make sure?
The remorse I felt was overwhelming, and I asked his forgiveness for my stupidity. Which, of course, he gave, immediately and generously. As I was leading Owen and William to their stables, out of sight of the lorry which was due at 7.00am, an image appeared before my mind's eye of Faerie silently galloping along a sunlit ridge, framed against the summer sky, her feet barely touching the ground just as they had done in life, her mane and tail flowing from her like wind-whipped flames of dark fire. "Look at me! I'm running, running free..."
When he stepped off the lorry onto our land, he resembled a little heap of misery. He was terrified of putting a foot wrong. Karen’s client had probably been the first person in ages who had treated him with kindness and decency, and William just could not understand what he had done to make her send him away again.
I had a good long talk with him, explaining that it was not because he had been bad, but that she simply could not keep him as she had no land of her own and was paying to keep two horses already. I said that he was home now and was not going anywhere ever again, no matter how long his bad foot would take to get better.
When Karen returned to give Faerie another treatment and checked in with William, she said, “I have never seen anything like it. This horse has just put all of his past behind him and made a completely new start.” And he had. He now has the brightest eyes in all our yard. The positively gleam with mischief. He has a great sense of humour and is a joy just to have around.
Owen and Faerie were a match made in heaven. Although Owen was dominant, Faerie constantly took liberties in the most disarming manner. William joined them eventually and took on a role resembling that of a child of the union. He was submissive to Owen, and deferred to Faerie about everything.
Several months passed uneventfully. Then one day I witnessed Faerie having another seizure in the field. Another day I found a fence down. Then I noticed pale clay on her rug and found the place where she had fallen and got cast in our stream. Eerily, it was only a few feet away from where Rubik had died. Faerie had managed to extricate herself, but her legs were badly cut. Gradually the frequency of her seizures increased, and so did their severity. Every fit resulted in further brain damage. And there was nothing I could do to help her.
Then came the time when the fences were down every morning. After a seizure, Faerie would be running blind for a few minutes, tottering or blasting right through whatever stood in her way, be it mature hedges or wire fences or electric tape (which I had long since disconnected).
She was a remarkable being, and it was clearly meant that I bring her and Owen together in a union of remarkable-ness. Buying our land and starting this project seems to have opened the flood gates for the Intended to manifest.
And suddenly my horses and I were one in the knowledge that all was well, and nothing was lost, but much was gained, for light and peace and serenity and love filled us till it overflowed, washing our grief clean away, lifting us up, making the birds sing more sweetly and the colours of nature look brighter.
Later, when I drove home, something tickled the nape of my neck, and then I recognized the feel of Faerie's whiskers and her dark velvety muzzle and the sweet scent of her breath... And however she managed to get into that Land Rover behind me, this is how she makes herself known to me to this day.
Faerie was one of the luckier ones having been much loved all along; it was quite impossible not to. What she had to teach was how to fully and freely let go of what I love in the interest of the Highest Good of all involved, and she sacrificed her life in so doing.
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Rest in peace, my beautiful, beautiful Faerie, until we meet again.
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