When I first met him, his name was Rocky. He was being boarded at the same barn where my oldest daughter rode her two horses. I had never been involved with horses much, except to watch my daughter ride. When it came time for her to go off to college, I decided it was time to get involved, so that I could keep an eye on her horses and exercise them some. That’s when I met Rocky. He was spending a good majority of his time alone and in his stall. He had gone completely blind about five or more years ago. They had tried to put him out with older horses, but one day, one of them kicked him and he ran through a wooden fence. So, from then on, he was only allowed in the indoor arena for a few hours a day by himself and then back to his stall.
I had a very hard time seeing that and asked if I could exercise him on the nights I was there with my daughter’s horses as his owner never seemed to come out. At the beginning it was hard to get him out of his stall some nights. It was his security and he had accepted it as his life, but I persisted and before long, I was going every night and on weekends to walk him. I became more and more interested in horses and how they lived and thought. I began reading everything I could about horses and learned about herd behavior and their needs.
I then asked if I could take Rocky out to graze. He was scared to go outside at first and I soon realized he hadn’t even been out of the barn for years. Never had the sun on his back – for years. It didn’t take long before he realized there was grass out there though. So every night we’d go out and walk for a little while around the gravel parking lot. He’s get so he knew when I was going to turn. I’d speed up or slow down and he was right there with me. Then we’d get to the part he really wanted, the grass. We’d spend hours every night in the field together. No agenda, no training, just hanging out – and eating. Winter, summer, rain, snow, heat. I couldn’t let him down.
Then came the day, we learned the farm was being foreclosed on and closing. I immediately went out and found another barn that had a blind horse already, that could work for Rocky. I contacted his owner, but she had decided it would be too inhumane to move a blind horse to a new home. She had even talked to a vet and he had confirmed that, so she had scheduled to euthanize him.
I am not typically a fighting person. I pretty much except things or try to quietly change them. Not this time. I begged, and pleaded for Rocky. And, as luck would have it, found the website for Refuge Farm. I contacted Sandy and asked her if it was inhumane to move this horse I loved? She confirmed it was not, and she had rehomed blind horses many times. And then said she would take him if the owner would give him up. I ran to Rocky’s owner and told her all this, armed with copies of articles from this blog, from things Sandy had said and begged her to reconsider. I begged the barn manager, and the vet. I fought.
During this time, at night, out grazing, I would run my hands over Rocky’s back, and neck, and face. I memorized every part of him and how it felt. Whatever happened to him, I wanted to be able to close my eyes and see him. In the two years, we had been together, he had showed me so much, without me even realizing it. About horses, about acceptance, about patience and most of all about trust. I had learned that it is not natural for horses to trust humans. We are predators to them and unless given a reason, we are not to be trusted. But in our time together, Rocky gave me, maybe the most special thing a horse can give a human – his trust. And when a horse gives you his complete trust, he somehow becomes a part of you.
In the end, Rocky won and came to Refuge Farms and became RockMan. It wasn’t an easy transition for him. He had lived so long in a stall without other horses. He was nervous about the freedom and about the other horses, but yet craved both. Sandy and any volunteer that worked with him, helped him transition, cared about him, nurtured him and he slowly learned and he got a life that he so truly deserved. He was always easy to love with his easy going ways and his -just put some food in front of me and I’ll do what you want personality. He may have been a little stubborn or pushy from time to time, but in the end would accept your way and be fine with it. Fences, however, were something he never quite understood. Maybe no horse really does, and one day he went through one and cut up his leg. But instead of being shoved in a stall and forgotten like last time, he was moved into the shelter area with Gracie and Shorty and that’s when he truly bonded with Gracie. That is when RockMan got everything he could ever ask for. He got the freedom to graze all night, love and attention from volunteers and visitors, and a beautiful, kind mare to love.
In his time at Refuge Farm and with Trish, I visited him on four separate occasions, and each time, saying good bye to him was very hard for me. It sometimes would take me three times of trying to leave, but going back for just one more hug or to give him one more flake of hay. One more glance before going. And when I learned of his death, I had to say one last good bye. And in doing that, I wrote this to RockMan:
There are some horses that just talk to your soul and you don’t even realize they are doing it. They come into your life and without visible effort, they teach you, they mold you, and one day you find that you’re a different person; and if you’re being honest with yourself, you realize it is because of this horse. It doesn’t happen with every horse you meet, but if you’re lucky, you someday will meet that one horse that sings to you, that opens you up, that forces you to look at the world in a different way.
If you meet that horse that quietly wraps itself around you and becomes a piece of who you are, then you can consider yourself truly blessed. Thank you RockMan. Thank you for everything.