Read our latest therapeutic story!
This story, which explores themes of loss, grief and the early stages of hope and recovery, is a little different from some of our others as it features and is inspired by one of our clients at Healing Hooves. “Bella” has graciously given her consent and asked that this story be published and shared so that the messages within this story, and her own experiences, can serve to comfort and support others who may be finding it hard to process and recover from trauma or loss.
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For a short period of time we will be making the pdf version of this book available for free. More info below!
What Would Skye Say?
“Yummy!” Teddy shoved the branch away with his nose and grabbed a mouthful of grass, “I just love this time of year.” His friend Pickle trotted over and the two ponies spent the next hour searching out more treasures left behind by the melting snow. After long months of eating hay, even last year’s grass tasted pretty good.
Later, snoozing under the tree with Disa, Pickle opened half an eye. “Where’s Dubh?”
“How should I know?” grumbled Teddy, lying down for a rest after all that eating, “he’s probably hiding out being old and miserable in the shelter as usual.”
Pickle, wide awake now, turned to Disa. Disa was a pony too, but much older and wiser than either him or Teddy. She’d know why Dubh wasn’t here with them.
Disa was already staring towards the shelter. She sighed, “I think Teddy’s right.”
That night, before he fell asleep back in the shelter, Pickle looked for Dubh again. Where was he now? But finding a black pony in the dark is hard. Pickle yawned. He’d try tomorrow.
Out past the trees, away from his herd, Dubh stood all alone. A gust of wind blew some dead leaves up in his face and a coyote howled not far away. But Dubh didn’t even flinch. What was the point?
Next morning, after breakfast, Teddy charged out looking for grass again, “Race you!” he shouted to Pickle and galloped after the other ponies.
But Pickle had other plans. The farmer always fed Dubh his breakfast in a different field so Teddy couldn’t eat it, but now Teddy had left she’d opened the gate and Pickle spied Dubh behind the windbreak. Pickle wandered over and noticed the uneaten hay around the older pony’s feet. Tempting, but he had more important things on his mind.
“Hey Dubh,” Pickle tried to sound cheerful, “wanna come out with us? Teddy found a bunch of grass out in the back field, and I’m sure I could get him to share.” Pickle hoped he could, anyway.
“No thanks Pickle,” said Dubh. He turned to face the other way.
Pickle moved round to face the older pony again, “What’s wrong Dubh? Why won’t you come join us?”
“I’m fine.” Dubh closed his eyes.
Pickle wasn’t giving up that easy. “You’re obviously not fine Dubh. You need to be with your herd, or you should go do something fun, or at least tell me …”
Dubh stomped his foot, ears back, “Will you just leave me alone!”
Pickle took a step back and started to shake. Dubh had never done that before. Now he really was worried.
Out in the field, Disa watched her young friend slowly make his way to the herd. If only Skye was here, he’d know how to help both Pickle and Dubh. But Skye wasn’t here. That was the problem. Disa left the grass to meet Pickle; she’d try her best.
“Why’s he doing this?” Pickle demanded as soon as Disa got close. “I know he misses Skye, we all do. But how does pushing us all away, not eating, and refusing to even talk to me help anything?” Trembling, Pickle stomped his own little foot. It’s not like it was his fault that Skye was gone.
Disa softened her eyes a little and imagined her wise friend Skye standing close beside her. What would Skye say?
Then she realised he probably wouldn’t say anything right away. He’d just be there. So Disa moved in next to Pickle and started to nuzzle his shoulder, breathing gently and steadily. Soon Pickle’s trembling stopped and his breathing matched Disa’s slower rate. That felt better. Even if he didn’t have any answers yet.
The next day the ponies watched the farmer come out of the barn, a young girl by her side. Teddy jostled Pickle out the way in the rush to the fence. “That’s Bella – she’s so nice – I bet she picks me!” But Bella and the farmer went to see Dubh, and the rest of the ponies watched over the fence.
“Hey Dubh” Bella said softly, gently rubbing the old horse’s lowered head, “We brought you some extra breakfast.” The farmer handed Bella a bucket and Dubh took a few nibbles before turning away.
The farmer sighed, eyes sad. “He’s having such a tough time without Skye. He’s not eating much, keeping to himself all the time, and makes horrible faces at me if I even try to groom the dirt out of his coat. I just wish he’d let us help him a bit more.”
Bella stood quietly a few steps away from Dubh for a long time, saying nothing, asking nothing. She was no stranger to loss in her own life, and Skye had been her friend too.
Dubh gradually, slowly, one step at a time moved in closer; close enough for Bella to reach out and touch him. A tear traced its way down Bella’s cheek as she gently stroked Dubh’s tangled forelock out of his eyes. Dubh let out a long sigh and moved even closer, resting his head against this friend who seemed to understand.
Finally Bella spoke, so quietly Pickle only just managed to hear by leaning far over the top rail of the fence. “He needs more time, to sometimes be by himself, to feel sad. Everyone needs to stop wanting him to feel OK when he doesn’t. He just can’t.”
The farmer nodded slowly. “That makes sense. Skye was a huge part of his life for many years. Of course he feels sad, and he may feel sad for a long, long time. I wonder sometimes if he also feels a bit angry.”
Pickle swished his tail. He thought the farmer had that bit right. He snuck a quick look at Teddy who was chasing another pony away from some left over hay. Could that be true for Teddy too?
Bella hugged Dubh for a long time, Pickle watching from across the fence. Dubh had closed his eyes again but it looked different this time. Like he was resting, not shutting everyone out.
Bella looked up at the farmer. “I want to help Dubh, but I don’t know what to do.”
The farmer, like Pickle, had seen the relaxed look in Dubh’s face. A look she hadn’t seen for many weeks.
“What would Skye say?” she asked.
Disa’s ears twitched.
A little later, after Dubh woke up, Bella and the farmer brushed out the tangles in Dubh’s mane and the dirt from his coat. Dubh didn’t move away this time and he even moved around to show them where his itchy spots were. Bella’s eyes lit up when he started eating his breakfast from the bucket she held out for him.
“Skye would say that’s a good thing to do too” she told Dubh. “Missing him is horrible, I know, but he’d want you to stay healthy, and he wouldn’t want you to be alone all the time.”
Bella handed the brush back to the farmer, and caught the kind look in her eyes, “Yes I know – Skye would say the same thing to me too.”
The farmer smiled too, watching Dubh relax even further. “I’m pretty sure he’s feeling your love right now.”
Pickle listened to their laughter and closed his own eyes, leaning up against Disa’s comforting warmth that felt so like Skye’s.
What would Skye say? He’d say hang in there, give it time and be kind to each other; they were all going to be OK.
This book is in the early stages of being published in both paper and pdf versions. If you’d like a copy of either of these once they are ready let us know in the comment section below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
And for another testament to all that Skye contributed during his 24 years with Healing Hooves check out this article on the Equestrain Canada website when they selected him as their horse of the month