The day opened at 8am under grey skies and a strong thunderstorm as Dr Fritz and I drove the 35 miles from Marsh Harbor to The Preserve. We stopped at Abaco Foods, The Farm, to check in with Paul Baker and his construction foreman Ron Simmons who is a full bearded red headed beef of a man from Texas via Arkansas in his fifties, and who, in another life, was the crew chief of a NASCAR Truck Team. We wanted to make sure again that the front end loader and an operator were available and at the ready. We will have to take this step every time until the mission is accomplished.
Today, we didn’t even see that wily old horse, but it was a heart piercing day that opened up full of rain but then turned completely sunny and warm with a 10kt breeze from the southeast. While hunting, I had time to reflect on the past.
Hadar once was the alpha stallion of all the horses even though there was another herd under a series of stallions who changed with some regularity. Hadar never sought to have all the mares under his control. He also was different in that when his favorite Mare Hamal damaged both forelegs, he let his other mares go and stayed exclusively with her. After she died and he was brought into the Preserve with the rest, he left the herding business to the other stallions.
There still were too many fights and all the stallions but one were turned back out of the Preserve. It was a hard, hard, frustrating decision, and it still hurts. But there were no facilities for treating serious wounds which could happen at any time. There have been some terrible ones, and I could do nothing but pray. Some healed. Some didn’t.
Eventually, the inside Stallion Mimosa jumped the fence and killed Stallion Sirius who had been his former ‘assistant.’ That’s another long sociological story. That left Hadar, Capella and Achernar outside and they left the area where Sirius was killed, moving to the farthest South East reaches of the farm. Achernar succumbed to (we assume, from his symptoms) poisonous sage, and Capella was seen twice by other people in company with a totally strange horse. Neither he nor the other horse (assumed female) have been seen in over two years.
So Hadar, once King, is living practically at the end of the known horse world, all by himself. It must be specially hard, horses are social herd animals and Hadar was fiercely loyal. Now there is no one else. Even though age obviously is creeping up on him, he’s still sharp, fast, and wants nothing to do with us. I want so much for him to be with the mares again.
I reflected on all this history as Jean and I drove out to look for him. What a glorious day, a gentle, cool breeze, grasses and vines leaping up after the rain. Almost giving off their own internal light. The scent of green things floating over a rolling savannah like field surrounded on three sides by deep forest. Watching everything moving, swaying gently in a slow, eternal dance. Though the savannah once was part of the citrus groves, there was a lean, clean primeval feel to it as the tractor (an 18 year old Massy Ferguson) rumbled slowly along. Old Messy could have been a safari elephant. The sadness and disappointment of not seeing Hadar was balanced by the sheer natural joy of the day.
Jean and I looked carefully as we went. Jean spotted one of the darts that missed Hadar yesterday. This was a major expense savings, as the darts are about $40 each, but even better, the tranquilizers had not discharged and so now there is an extra dart full.
The days in the forest and in the fields and with the horses are extraordinary. Days glow with the beauty of wide open skies, tickle with birdsong, fill one’s nose with fresh sweet air. It means so much, trying to keep alive the last of the horses who overcame abandonment and a harsh climate to thrive here, once upon a time. I dream of seeing them once again in safer numbers, the rare pintos too, back and roaming thousands of acres once again.
I think too about the support we have from our Board, the financial support and expertise provided by Marshall Field and his sister, the support, medication and expertise provided by Dr Tiffany Marr, and the support and help from Dr Bob Fritz…and I am grateful and thankful.
I hope you follow the story as it develops, and stay with us on this heart filling adventure.
Next week, we will try again.