Happier Endings

By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  01.01.2023

Since 2015, I have fed a Gratitude Jar with memories, cards, and expressions of appreciation. And at the end of each of those years, I have emptied it and read the hundreds of messages. Some neatly penned from home on the paper that sits by the jar, others hastily written on bits of paper while on holiday or writing trips. My jar is fed with goodness throughout the year and reading the messages has become a beautiful way to close out the year and welcome a new one.

Except for this year, I wasn’t convinced it would be enjoyable. The last week of the year had been challenging at best and I was concerned that I would welcome the new year with a heavy heart.

For months, I had driven by a lone horse in a field less than a mile from where I lived. Intuitively I was concerned that he had been neglected but I was unsure what I was seeing. As fall turned to winter and the temperatures dropped, I looked to see if he had hay. I tried to see if there were any signs of fresh water or a bucket that a caretaker would fill with grain. I never saw any sign of food, or love for that matter. When I noticed the horse was frequently lying on the frozen, snow-covered ground I felt sick to my stomach. Something was dreadfully wrong and I did not know what to do.

Finally, through the help of one friend, doors opened to a world of horse advocacy, rescue, and a Livestock Inspector. As we collectively learned more and as I increasingly came to the realization that I had spoken up too late, I struggled with a large dose of self-blame. Why hadn’t I spoken up sooner? And why was I the only person in my village who spoke up at all? It hurt me to see how easy it is for people to busy themselves away from looking or caring. It bothered me that people were surprised that I was upset about this situation – how could I not be? How could they not be? I was confused and frustrated with a culture that believes leaving a horse to starve to death is akin to “letting him live out his life.” Nothing made sense and it all hurt my heart.

Inherently sensitive and empathic, today I recognize my attributes for the strengths they are rather than the weaknesses I was raised to believe they were. As I sit writing this, the experience I’m about to share is painfully shocking yet ultimately a beautiful gift that I am still unwrapping and learning from.

I had driven by to voyeuristically see what was happening – would they release the horse to be rescued and saved? Were they trying to hide what was happening since they moved him as soon as they got word someone had spoken up? Would the horse have the happy ending I had been praying and pleading with the Universe for? And then as I sat in my car and pondered those questions and more, from my secret vantage point I watched the owner walk up to the suffering horse and shoot him in the head. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t think I can ever unsee that act.

Yet, that now unseeable act, I realize was a gift from the Universe. Later, as my body began to calm down from the uncontrollable shaking and spasms that resulted from watching, I learned that the most humane way to end the life of a horse is exactly the way I had just witnessed. Had I not seen it happen, I would have likely been tormented for a long, long time by the unknown.

Up until that point, the entire day had been gray and overcast, a fitting match for how I felt. Yet within minutes of the horse’s death, I watched the winds magically change direction. The clouds lifted and hints of blue sky peaked through directly over the place where he had died. Perhaps it wasn’t the happy ending I had wanted but I also trusted that the Universe knew best and I believe she was showing me that it was over – no more gray, already within minutes there was light.

That night, before going to bed early and emotionally exhausted, I decided to draw a message card from a deck of Angel Cards. In this case, the picture on the card told me everything I needed to know. As soon as I saw the card I laughed and I cried and I felt relief. The horse who had died was not white like the one on the card, but it is only one of two cards in the deck that has a horse on it. The message was clear. It wasn’t the happy ending I had wanted but I had to accept that ultimately it was in fact a happy ending. The horse was released from suffering and I would go to bed that night knowing, despite the months of neglect, he had died in the best possible way because I had borne witness.

Days later, with thoughts of the horse and his transition on my mind, I built a beautiful fire in my chimenea and sat outside and emptied my years’ worth of gratitude. My heart wasn’t heavy as I had anticipated. I relished the memories and more than once laughed out loud.

I am working hard to forgive myself for not speaking up and out sooner, I have cried tears of regret and apologies and struggled with anger at anyone who can mistreat any living being. I have to accept that as we welcome 2023, there is at least one being who is no longer starving in a frozen field all alone. I have to accept, despite the fact that we couldn’t save him, that this was somehow a happy ending. My wish for the new year is that we all work a little bit harder to use our voices to create happier endings for those who need us most.

If you live in Taos County and have even the slightest concern that a horse or other livestock is being neglected or abused, do not hesitate to call Livestock Investigator, Ruben Baca, 575-770-1490. For anyone who lives elsewhere, call 911 and ask who to reach for possible livestock neglect and abuse. They are required by law to respond and they will.