Read Part 4 of Mystico’s story here
After Cora left the house I had a chance to recover for an hour or so until the trainer Alex was due to arrive. Mystico was relaxed and as before, seemed like a different horse from the anxious pacing horse I had seen the night before. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, and I mused on the strange pattern of events that had gotten us to this junction. One would think that this peaceful property and its human and animal residents could all get along happily, but it had all gone wrong. What had started out as a dream of rescuing this horse, and a pleasant interlude at my friend’s house while waiting for him to be transported home had turned into a series of unfortunate events that had resulted in injuries to humans and horses and the end of a friendship.
I checked on the filly in her stall with her injured leg. I tried to convey positive healing thoughts to her and I hoped that she would fully recover. The trainer Alex arrived shortly thereafter with her trailer. I couldn’t read her mood after her phone conversation with Cora that morning other than she seemed neutral and efficient. I put Mystico’s halter on, and he let me lead him calmly out of the barn and onto the trailer without any hesitation. I got into the truck and heaved a sigh of relief.
As we drove I tried to talk with Alex about what had been going on with Mystico and Cora in order to try to explain why I was leaving Cora’s house. It was highly emotional for me to share how I was feeling but I could tell she was being diplomatic in her responses. She didn’t know me and perhaps didn’t really want to. She was just doing what she considered the right thing in helping both of us.
She ran a professional training and boarding stable for Paso Fino horses. When we arrived I saw an attractive facility neatly organized and nestled in a shallow valley surrounded by a couple of houses. Alex had told me that her mother had passed away a couple of years before and that her house was still intact but empty and I was welcome to rent it if I’d like to stay on the property. She herself lived in the other house. It seemed like a perfect solution and I was thrilled to not have to rent a car or find a hotel while I waited three more weeks for the horse transport company to come pick up Mystico.
I was disappointed to see that her stalls had bars on the sliding door and open window panel facing the interior, and no window facing to the outside. It was a kinder jail cell than most, but still not much of a chance for a horse to view his world
Alex’s horses were in wood fenced pastures, but the boarded horse’s pastures were all fenced with hotwire. I asked if we could turn Mystico out in a pasture so he could enjoy some freedom for the first time. Alex had misgivings because of the fencing and not knowing if Mystico was accustomed to respecting that kind of fence. I told her he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders, hoping she would allow me to turn him loose, and she finally acquiesced.
We turned Mystico loose and he immediately started to run, stretching his long legs out and whinnying to the wind, announcing his presence to the horses around him. For a few brief moments, I got to see him as a free spirit in all of his magnificence, and then chaos errupted. He didn’t stop at the electric fence, he just kept running and barged right through it. Fortunately we could see right away that he wasn’t tangled up or in trouble, but I knew immediately that this was the last time he would be allowed turnout.
He happily trotted to the nearby wood fence and started greeting Alex’s horses over the fence. All he wanted to do was be a horse, but in this human world, that was not going to be permitted.
I apologized to Alex and offered to pay for any damage and replacing the fence. She nodded briskly, and I knew that was that. Mystico was now considered an unruly stallion here too. Perhaps she was thinking of what Cora had told her about Mystico and putting her own take on the situation. She laid out the ground rules. I was not to allow Mystico to touch noses or greet other horses. I was only allowed to lead him around the property or take him into the round pen. I glanced at the round pen which was surrounded by 8 foot tall walls so a horse couldn’t see out. It was going to be a long three weeks for us both.
I easily caught Mystico and led him into his stall. He blithely walked in, at first he seemed to be comfortable with the accommodations. I fed him some hay, then I went up the hill to ascertain what my “stall” was going to be like for the length of our stay.
The house was one-story, attractive but anonymous. It looked out over the pastures but the curtains were drawn. The inside was cool and well kept. There was antique furniture and some artwork and décor, but it was inexorably empty. A hotel room would have been cheerier. But it was convenient and close to Mystico and had a kitchen and all I would need for my stay.
Thus began the internment for Mystico and I. Very soon I began to realize our limitations. Each day I would attempt to interact with him and get to know him. With the restriction of leading him on a halter, I was relegated to finding him patches of grass for him to nibble on the side of the roads. There was no arena to turn him out in, so the round pen was the only place I could let him loose. The walls were high so there was no way for him to see out.The weather was usually hot so it wasn’t a place we could just hang out. He would paw or roll or pace, but within a few minutes he became bored.
I tried to be creative. I discovered that he liked to play with things so I brought him cardboard boxes. This provided some entertainment. He would pick it up and shake it around, or step on it. One day it rained and there was a puddle in the round pen. This too provided some distraction as he walked in it and sipped the rainwater. Then I would run out of ideas, and I would put him back in his stall, and I would go back to the house.
The house was no respite for me. It belonged to a woman who had left the earth, and its belongings seemed just as spiritless. I thought it was strange that after this length of time that Alex didn’t clean out the house and rent it. Instead it sat as a silent sentinel on the hill without energy or purpose. I couldn’t impact that void. I could only cook with someone else’s utensils in a small kitchen, and read on the couch or sleep in the guest bedroom, whiling away the hours and the days in this strange limbo. I rented a car so I could shop for groceries or get movies at the local Blockbuster. The only grocery store was a huge Walmart. I couldn’t get used to buying food in a department store. To this day I avoid Walmart.
I didn’t see many people other than the workers who spoke Spanish and avoided eye contact. Alex was busy elsewhere and I didn’t see any active training going on. I got the impression she had done quite a bit of riding and showing over the years and had bred some of her horses, but in the time I was there not much was going on. The horses were polite but their eyes were vacant. There wasn’t a sense of any individuality or personality that made any of them stand out more than another. Even the young foals seemed subdued. As the days passed I realized that what appeared on the surface to have the trappings of domestic tranquility was actually a world built upon routine and function without joy or passion.
One day I was leading Mystico around the back of his barn and there was a heavy canvas tarp covering up a pile of shavings. He walked over to it and upon seeing it, started to paw it. At first I thought he was playing like he did with the cardboard boxes, but then he started grasping it with his teeth and pulling it, getting more and more agitated. He even knelt down on it. I finally pulled him away. I didn’t know what it meant to him but he clearly had some emotional reaction.
I tried sketching Mystico and some of Alex’s horses to alleviate some of my tension and boredom, but it was difficult to find inspiration in the horse paddocks where the horses dozed or ate without much animation. I found out that one of the foals was Alex’s favorite and I drew her for Alex as a gift. This pleased her but it didn’t provide us with a mutual experience or the closer connection I had hoped for.
As the weeks passed Mystico was clearly becoming frustrated with his confinement. If I tried to interact with him in the round pen in an attempt to get him to move around to work off his energy, he would pin his ears and move in such a way that I knew he was feeling pressured in too small of a space. In this limited routine and confinement, our previous closeness that had begun forming had vanished. I didn’t know what more to do to engender a relationship with him. I didn’t have the right environment, or tools, or skills.
As the weeks passed Mystico was clearly becoming frustrated with his confinement. If I tried to interact with him in the round pen in an attempt to get him to move around to work off his energy, he would pin his ears and move in such a way that I knew he was feeling pressured in too small of a space. In this limited routine and confinement, our previous closeness that had begun forming had vanished. I didn’t know what more to do to engender a relationship with him. I didn’t have the right environment, or tools, or skills. One day I discovered there was a large covered arena down the dirt road. It was completely enclosed and had a huge pile of shavings inside, but seemed unused. I inquired and learned that it belonged to Alex. I asked Alex if I could allow Mystico to play at liberty in this environment where he could exercise safely and in isolation from other horses. She refused. I couldn’t believe that she would restrict even that freedom for no reason I could ascertain except that she feared the liability of me being with Mystico without a trainer present
All of this began to weigh on me as I sank into a depression. It seemed there was no way out of this purgatory except to wait for the horse transport company. I missed my beautiful new farm where my horses, goats and llamas, dogs and cat all lived in happy harmony with us. Getting Mystico to that idyllic place seemed a remote dream. My loving husband’s supportive voice over the phone only reminded me how far I was from home.
When I first acquired Mystico I had asked for the help of Vera, a clairvoyant teacher I had worked with, to help me in making decisions for his wellbeing. She had advised me through the issues with Mystico at Cora’s and at the time her advice seemed to coincide with my own instincts, though I did wonder why, if she was psychic, she hadn’t foreseen the difficulty with the vet I had access to in trying to geld Mystico, the timing of which had been her suggestion. Now, when I turned to her in my time of need for emotional support, her conversation was increasingly critical. I cannot recall what the context was, but each time I hung up feeling even more depressed and my self criticism reached an all time low.
A friend who was a psychologist was so concerned about me she came to visit and stay with me for a few days. I was relieved to see her and find some emotional support. She was a sensitive horsewoman so she understood my frustrations regarding the environment and Alex’s rules. She tried to encourage me to stand up to Vera who she felt had crossed appropriate boundaries in our communication. I was confused because previously Vera had been a trusted confidant and lifeline for me in the past with my other animals and I had so invested myself in her advice and what I considered her superior knowledge of how to manifest the reality I dreamed of, that I couldn’t see that she was actually manipulating me into emotional dependence.
When we had one more week to go and I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the transport company said there would be yet one more week’s delay. This was intolerable! They explained that they had to combine trips and their schedules were always changing, but I couldn’t imagine withstanding one more week of this misery. I had to take matters into my own hands, and find a way to get us home.
Read Part 6 of Mystico here