Read Part 3 of Mystico’s story here
After Cora had told me of the incident when Mystico had attacked her I began to have misgivings about him staying at her home. I had thought when I decided to trailer him from the show and I needed a boarding situation for him that Mystico would be better off in a home environment than in an anonymous horse stable handled by strangers. But I hadn’t been able to anticipate that she would try to handle him in that sort of way. Perhaps his limited access to turnout and a routine was also a factor, but he didn’t seem agitated when I was with him.
Still, there were advantages to being at her home and now that I was there I could relax and be there with him in a nice environment. I had a few more weeks before the horse trailer company would be there to pick him up so it was going to be a long stay but hopefully since I was there at least he seemed calmer now. I thought about exercising him a little by leading him down her driveway but I knew what that could be like from handling my mare Darma in a similar circumstances. Also I was usually there during the day by myself while she was at work an hour away and I didn’t know enough about his manners or my skills enough to know if I could lead him outside a fenced area. What if he escaped?
One morning I decided to walk him down the barn aisle and around the barn in the fenced area to let him greet the other horses again. It all went fine until we got to the stall of the six-month old weaned filly who was in a stall by herself. Mystico had met her before and I didn’t foresee any problem in letting him sniff noses with her again, but in the process she squealed, as fillies and mares are wont to do when meeting another horse, and she lightly kicked the wall with her rear hoof. Not being a grown horse, the sound it made didn’t seem like much of an impact, and she seemed non-plussed when she walked to the far side of the stall. Nevertheless I put Mystico back in his stall and went in her stall to check on her. I was anxious to see that the area of her rear hock was already showing signs of swelling. I was mortified at how she could have injured herself with such a seemingly small kick. But obviously she needed attending to. I called Cora at her office and told her. I assured her I couldn’t imagine it being anything significant because it had been such a minor kick. I could tell she was understandably upset.
She called the vet, a different one than the one who had seen Mystico, and he arrived at the barn when she did. She didn’t speak to me at all, she just went into action as I tried to explain. I could imagine that in her mind this was just one more crisis that Mystico and I had caused.
I was hoping that she would have the vet examine the filly in her stall, rather than in the cross tie area across from Mystico’s stall. She knew he seemed to become restless when he was confined and could see the other horses. But she put the filly in the cross ties. Almost immediately Mystico began to react. I didn’t know if it was the activity level, the filly’s presence, or Cora’s obvious emotion but he began pacing again. I asked her quietly if she could move the filly back to her well lit stall to examine her because of Mystico’s behavior and she said tersly that this was the best place to do the exam. She was too angry to feel anything for me or Mystico in that moment.
I put Mystico’s halter on as I had before and I tried my best to keep calm him and slow his pacing as I overheard the vet telling Cora that the filly had an injury that could be a great concern in the long run for her as potential show horse. Something about some joint fluid that might have ruptured and leaked out, potentially causing damage. He couldn’t be sure until more time had passed. I was astonished that the light kick could have caused such a critical injury, and I knew it was my fault it had happened. I knew that Cora had great dreams of showing her filly as the progeny of her stallion in hopes of promoting him as a breeding prospect. I could sense her anger but she said nothing as I apologized again and offered to pay the vet bills and do anything I could to help. In the meantime I could see that all of this was escalating Mystico into his previous state of rising anxiety.
By the time the vet left Mystico was again frantically pacing and sweating with the same wild look in his eye. I didn’t know what more to do to help him. We were both truly trapped. Now I couldn’t even let him out to lead him around the barn with what had just happened with the filly.
I pulled a chair over to the outside of his stall door and I shortened the lead rope to the extent that he couldn’t pace the length of the stall, only to the length of the lead rope. As Mystico turned and yanked at the rope – back and forth – again and again, I fell into despair. I felt completely helpless and I slumped down into the chair exhausted. Here we were going down the same road. The rhythm of his monotonous pacing held me in suspense as I began thinking about why he was acting this way. He was like a lion in a cage. I knew that pacing could generate endorphins, but this wasn’t just a mindless quest for relief from boredom.
After a couple of hours the night grew colder and I sat there without a coat, food, or water . I suddenly realized that Cora hadn’t even come outside to offer aid or inquire if I was ok. In her anger at my inadvertently causing her filly to injure herself, she was exhibiting no regard for me in my own crisis. I suddenly realized the irrevocable truth; Mystico’s behaviors weren’t that of an unruly horse, he was saying with all of his body, mind, and soul – GET US OUT OF HERE! From his perspective he was reacting authentically to danger; to an unpredictable woman who chased him around with a whip, to a woman who could smile sweetly and brandish a sharp pitchfork at the same time. I felt the pitchfork was now aimed at me. I suddenly realized I was no longer at the home of a friend. We needed to leave.
I wracked my brain trying to think of where we could go. The only person I knew in the state was Cora’s trainer friend Alex. She had a Paso Fino boarding facility about an hour away. I decided I would try to call her in the morning and see she would haul Mystico to her place and board him until the transport came. In addition, I needed to find a place to stay so I could be with him for the remaining weeks until he came home, because I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be trusting anyone else with his care.
Perhaps because he knew I’d received his message, Mystico began to calm down. I fed him and went back to the house. I had no idea how Cora was going to react to my news. I bucked up my courage and walked into the kitchen and told her that I needed to see if Alex would haul and board Mystico. Surprisingly, she said in a seemingly reasonable tone, “I think that’s best”. We looked at each other across the kitchen and I could feel the chasm of disconnection between us growing wider. Clearly she didn’t feel I was her friend any more either. It was late, we were both exhausted, and I didn’t want to start a confrontation. She was dealing with an injured filly and understandably felt I was to blame. I was dealing with a troubled horse and I felt she had handled things poorly. I felt that trying to talk with her would only make things worse. There was no blame, I just needed a clean exit.
I said I would call Alex in the morning. It was after midnight and I went to bed. I woke up at 7 am the next morning so I could call Alex early and ask for her help. Cora was already up and said she would call Alex. I replied, “No thanks, I’d really like to talk with her myself”. I hoped that even though she was Cora’s friend that she would be diplomatic and open minded about boarding Mystico. To my dismay when I came into the kitchen awhile later Cora said had already called Alex. Who knew what she had told her about Mystico and her injury and the incident with the filly, but she said Alex was willing and able to take Mystico and that she would be there later that morning. Obviously she was the one in charge. I wasn’t the one leaving, she was kicking us out.
I began packing. I was still not able to find a way to express how I was feeling. From her standpoint, she had offered to keep my horse out of the kindness of her heart. We had known each other for a few years and she knew I was sensitive to the emotional needs of horses. Yet I wondered if she thought in this case that I was being overly emotional and unrealistic, and that the horse she had encourage me to buy turned out to be a crazy stallion who had caused her no end of misery.
When we said goodbye it felt like the end. I told her I hoped her filly recovered. She didn’t respond. She left for work without another word. I was sorry for losing our friendshipm but I was relieved that we were going to start a new chapter in this difficult and heartbreaking saga.
Read Mystico Part 5 here