Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cry For The Species Equus

I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. Our chestnut mare Tahoe was laying on the ground in a stall at our rescue ranch with the winter sun shining on her face. She was too weak to stand for very long periods. I was attending to her with a very heavy heart. We were in the process of making the decision to euthanize her, and I was stroking her face.

“Hey Albert,” she said with her big brown eyes. “If horses are God’s gift to man, why would man treat them so badly? Why would they take the best years that we have to offer and use us up until we are spent, and then turn us out to the auction barns to be purchased by the killers? You know, it’s alright. I am tired, and I don’t have the strength to go on. I’m ready to let go. It is time.”

The scene has replayed in my mind a thousand times, especially each time that I helped another abused or dying horse move on. The answer has never come. The question still remains imprinted into my minds eye. I search for the answer. Not long after laying Tahoe to rest, both Kathy and I re-read Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, but our broken hearts found no solace. We only found a greater unanswered question in her words. Why would man mistreat beasts of burden so poorly and carelessly?

I spent many days backside at the Finger Lakes Race Track in Western New York State in the early 1980’s. I witnessed broken down thoroughbreds from Saratoga and Belmont with their front legs in ice buckets so that they would be able to run on arthritic and sore legs. I watched the blue goose (a horse ambulance) pull up to down horses with broken and shattered legs to remove them from the track so that the next race can begin. They were all former champions, and if you ever stood backside at a race horse barn when the bell rings and the gate opens, all the thoroughbreds are lined up with their chests pressed against the stalls ready and willing to run.

Willingness in animals shouldn’t be construed as a license for abuse. If you own an animal and it makes a living for you in any genre or form, then you owe it to them to treat them with the respect that they deserve. They at least deserve a dignified procession to the grave.

There is no genre of the horse world that is immune from it. I have had to protect my wife from barrel racing horses that were so stoved up and sore that to merely touch their flank they would try and kick her head off. She would still attempt to massage them so that they could run for their pretty little barrel racer.

I vividly remember the first time that my fingers slipped over the hair ball like protrusion on the nuchal ligament of a dressage horse that had been surgically altered. The purpose of the alteration was so that he couldn’t raise his head. I thought it was a spasm until my wife informed me it was a common practice to cosmetically correct conformation in some competitive circles. You snip the ligament at the base of the skull and it prevents the animal from standing with it’s head too high. They show better!

The American Mustang is standing in pens by the thousands as I write. They have nowhere to run. They are stuffed back to back and side to side. Collected by the thousands by the BLM, they are standing in urine and feces soaked surrounds with no chance of adoption. The economy has tanked, and no one is there to adopt them. They were supposedly rounded up because of the damage they are doing to grazing lands. They should inherit the earth, not the cattle that man wants to raise on it for their bloody thirst for meat.

My only answer came from our rescue quarter horse Sage, who we found in a barn full of miniatures, in the back dark recesses with sore and arthritic knees. One warm summer day, I was standing in the middle of one of our fields. I was watching a mother eagle teach her eaglet to fly. She would let it soar and when it got just far enough away she would give a shrill whistle and it would whistle back, then return to the nest. Sage walked up to me, stood alongside of me, and wrapped her neck and her big bucket head around my neck in an embrace. As a man, I have never been touched greater by animal husbandry.

Sometimes late at night, I’m ashamed to admit, that when I’m drifting off to sleep and my mind replays all the beautiful animals that it was my mission to bring to God, I cry for the species Equus.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Life's A Beach, Not A Mountain

The sound of waves crashing on the shore has always been an elixir for me. A respite, a repose from the craziness that is my life. My high school friend “Captain Zooms” and I discovered the joy of the ocean many years ago on a vacation to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. We rented a catamaran and went sailing and wind surfing. Cruising inches off the ocean on a wind surfer, and lying out over a raised pontoon is all consuming. I have loved the ocean, and everything about it since that time.

I have learned well from mountains and the wilderness, especially at 14,000 feet in elevation. We are only temporary visitors at the summit, sometimes only for minutes at a time. Some climbers never summit at all.

Touloose, my life long ski companion and I have skied all over America, although we had never heli-skied with one another. We decided that on our last big ski vacation we would ski the Little Cottonwood Canyon of Utah including The Wasatch Powder Birds in Snowbird. On the day that we registered, it began to snow heavily and continued for the entire week. One to two feet of fresh powder fell every day. Our hopes dashed every morning by a call saying the weather was too bad for the helicopter to go up, even though the skiing was awesome on the mountain.

On our last morning at Snowbird, the sun rose over the peaks and burst across open snowfields filled to capacity with light, airy Wasatch Powder. We could here the Wumpf! Wumpf! Wumpf! of the Powder Bird helicopter heading into the pristine wilderness of the back country. The heli-ski run was never to be taken and we were only visitors there for a very short while.

Casting my fate to the wind has been a mantra of mine. I have enjoyed the freedom of going where I wanted, while living modestly. I started this pattern at a very young age and whenever I had more than a few thousand dollars saved I would spend it on an adventure.

When I hear the news today, my heart goes out to the unfortunate factory workers and civil servants who bought the dream of owning a home and retiring from their 40 year commitment with a pension. I am truly heart broken for them in their loss of the great American Dream. They gave up their youth and some of the best years of their lives. They get Na Da. Nothing, not even a job. No pension, no golden watch and fob. “Sorry, can’t extend unemployment benefits for you. We used the money to bail out the greedy bankers and to pay their bonuses for being the best and the brightest.”

I would like to lead a revolution of change. They say that if you really want to change, begin with yourself. I have both the desire and will power to make the change. We could all learn to make a change by putting more love into our hearts, a necessary self lesson for the change to begin.

Life is a Beach, not a mountain. I have always thought that Society had it figured all wrong. You should be allowed to experience life in the pursuit of your dreams for the first 1/3 of your life. The 2nd third of your life should be in pursuing financial security for the next phase. The last 1/3 should be in the pursuit of artistic endeavors that contribute to and enhance society as a whole.

I want to spend the last 1/3 of my life at the ocean. I will spend my days sailing, playing, and staying a while. The Great American Oil Spill has turned up the heat and the desire to enjoy the waters that are still around the bend from destruction. There still are pristine beaches in Oregon, and I want to go there and walk on them with Kathy, my wife, and have long talks and even longer writing sessions.

I write the best documentary of the mountains when I’m not living in them. Melville, who wrote lovingly of the sea only wrote successfully after he had left it. I want to make my final 1/3 of life the most powerful of all. I will work in the arts and bring about the change that I hope for America.

Kathy and I have begun the design of our retirement years. We have incorporated as Symposia Living Arts Inc. We will be promoting the Healing, Literary, Culinary, Visual, and Performing Arts. It simply is our time to shine. --- Albert Bianchine