Don’t most of us appear as dross instead of gold? The impurities within us cloud and distort our glimmer and glean. In so many ways the pollutants rise to our tops and expose it within and throughout our lives, often in ugly and arrogant ways. Hurting people hurt people, Kristina often says.
In horses, things are a bit different.
Often we’ll see what should otherwise be a healthy, confident, and full-bodied animal drawn in on themselves, removed and alone, intent more on their own survival (or recovering from fears of losing their lives because of some unspeakable tragedy at human hands) than becoming one with the herd and the others around.
Shadrach was such an animal. Gold buried beneath the surface. The dross covered much of him, but gold flows through him even more so now than when he first landed here.
A gelded colt of about three years, Shad came from a kill pen in Texas. Though the several-hundred-mile trip was likely hard on him, he faced certain death in his native land.
From the trailer he came with an arrogance deserving of a prize horse in far better shape. It’s no exaggeration to say that he was the worst conditioned of any horse neither Kristina nor I had ever seen.
Flesh and bone would be a generous description; Shad had no meat on his thighs, his spine crested about two inches higher than his descending ribs – all of which were clearly visible – his hips fully exposed, but worst of all, his anus receded into his body four or five inches.
He was death walking. A trailer mate, Meshack, was in slightly better shape, but his internal organ damage was too much to sustain him and he succumbed to his previous torture about a week after receiving freedom here.
Shad’s bravado likely kept him alive — it’s about all he arrived with. His bull-headed “I have arrived” trot-about expressed clear intolerance for all human kind — except when the grain came out – and he side-eyed us as we lay out the rounds of hay (more than he could ever eat in a day). But there always seemed a darkness surrounding him — a concern or distrust. a drossy weariness.
As the weeks disappeared, eventually and slowly more of the darkness that possessed his soul seemed to boil out, the dross rising to the top as the gold emerged. Along with his weight gain, he grew in spirit, peace and confidence (if it was possible to be anymore confident of himself).
While this took place, Shad began to show another side to his complexity. During Shad’s trip to the ranch — home — he bonded with a blind horse on the same trailer that was headed to a kill pen in Alabama. We bought her (Abednago) off the truck.
Once two or more horses share a trip on the trailer, they quickly bond. There’s something about the road and tight spaces that bring these creatures together.
Shad and Bedna are a pair now, long after their arrival, another sign of the gold that lies within Shad’s heart. He is now Bedna’s eyes. He quickly determined that Bedna was vulnerable. Blind in a new place with new humans, strange surroundings, and a herd of set-in-their-way horses to navigate, so the two stuck close.
He being her eyes, she being his friend — something both desperately needed among their strange and fresh lives. They remain a pair, one dross-removing, gold-revealing day at a time.
Now, the former skeleton horse is full bodied, alive, warm and peaceable. He still possesses the confident trot-about, but has added a spring in his step and a warm cockiness to his prance. His high-headed, mane-in-the-wind side-eyed “you’re not going to catch me now” prance as he ever dances about in pursuit of the endless buffet of fresh grass and grain that he’s found here is pure gold – even on the days we’re still scraping off the dross.
More days now than not, Shad seems to shine. While he might not admit it if you asked him, every sign points to a creature full of hope that’s found friendship and maybe yet will come to love the humans that love him.
Even so, if you look at him just so, you might see a bit of his gold since through.