Thursday, January 17, 2008

Argus Wakes Up

You know your life is boring when a horse starts getting more e-mail than you.

Argus, it seems, is starting to enjoy a bit of local ---- and not so local ---- fame.

Yesterday, a reporter from the local paper called. He wants to know about Argus. Why would someone lock up a horse like that? For non-horse-people, what would be the equivalent of that?

I had to think fast on my feet, no small feat for a housewife who mostly occupies her mind with important topics like "When should I drive to the feed store for more straw?" and "Did I get ALL the beds made this morning?" and "Are we all out of milk" and "How close is it to 2:15? I have to leave to pick up the kids."

Living in a 12 x 16 pen for nearly 16 years. What's the equivalent of that?

So I blurt out something to satisfy the reporter. "It's like taking a toddler and locking him in a closet until high school."

Oh my God, will CPS be knocking at my door later on? "Are you the sicko who thinks about locking toddlers in closets?" they will demand. I will explain. I was making a comparison with this abused horse I am fostering. They will laugh, and we will drink tea and talk about kids and horses.

How did Argus survive the madness of confinement, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year?

Clues lie in some of his odd behavior, like the long staring spells (discussed a few days ago) and his little "weaving dance."

Imagine a kind of desperation so intense that you pass the hours rocking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Did Argus dream of a day when he might leave the pen? Had he forgotten that life even existed outside his prison? Did he accept his situation?

Argus seems to have drifted through many stages while in foster care here at Watermark Farm. He arrived December 8th, 2007. It is now January 17th. He has been here for about 5 weeks.

At first, shock. Total disconnection. Anger, perhaps. We had taken him away from everything he had ever known.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct sensation that Argus was not sure if all of this was really real. Would he wake up? Was he imagining it? Should he enjoy this new life? Had he died? Was he sleeping, dreaming a dream he would eventually wake up from?

I could only touch him and reassure him that yes, it was real. No, you are not dreaming.

Every day, something changes. Over this past week, I believe Argus has transitioned into yet another phase: Acceptance. He has become more grounded, friendlier, more accepting of everything. He moves with confidence, less pain. He shakes his head with annoyance when I am late with the grain. He still flinches at the blanket, yet stands with his eyes half-closed while I buckle it on, obviously enjoying the warmth.

I think he knows now. The food, the pasture, the blanket, the Food Lady who comes three times a day, rain or shine, to feed him and clean his stall and spend long minutes just touching him. The much-anticipated tub of feed (and just about every supplement on the planet) every evening. The joyous turnout sessions in the arena with friends. Playing with the mule, obeying his mentor, Ridge. It's all real. It's not a dream.

"You can believe now," I whisper into his ear, and tuck him in for the night.


Anonymous said...

"Imagine a kind of desperation so intense that you pass the hours rocking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth."

With abused children, that is their way of self-soothing...


freezemarked said...

I've just found this blog by way of FHOTD, but just wanted to post a quick comment to thank you for the great things you're doing with this horse. I work for a major mustang rescue organization in southern California and unfortunately stories like this one are a pretty everyday thing for us, so it's always heartwarming for me to see horses coming out of this sort of background doing so well. (We actually had a very similar story a few years back, a thoroughbred mare which had survived for several years on a diet of cat food. Unfortunately she was so poorly by the time she came into our hands that she didn't make it.) We're very fortunate in that our second facility is a sanctuary... so when we get horses in who've spent a few decades locked up, we can rehabilitate them health-wise and send them back to the "wild" to live out their lives. One horse I worked with had spent 9 years alone in a 12x12 without another horse even within sight, and trying to give her any training was tough because even being moved into a round pen she'd feel so confined that she'd start weaving, pacing, completely zoning out... I've never seen anything quite so special as that horse being turned loose on 160 acres and the way she looked when she realized that she was free to run it.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. I'll be following Argus' story with interest, and I hope he finds a terrific home.

Anonymous said...

"He still flinches at the blanket, yet stands with his eyes half-closed while I buckle it on, obviously enjoying the warmth."

This definitely made me cry a little. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for him before your kindness intervened. Please keep up the good work and keep us updated!

(Sent over from FHOTD)

PaintedPromise said...

i am reading this blog backward as i was just referred to it by The Horseshoeing Housewife... i have to say again, you have me in tears. i'm so glad Argus is with you now...