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Sharing Breath and Total Trust

by George - Central States Horse Rescue & Sanctuary


shetland sharing breathHi Franklin,

I just stumbled across your website while searching for "sharing breath".  I was doing this because of a wonderful pony I rescued.

This pretty black and white pinto Shetland mare was in the slaughter pen at a horse auction about 5 years ago.  She was skinny and had sled hooves that were well over a foot long.  Her hooves were so bad that she could not walk through the sale ring without the help of the handlers, who mostly just slid her across the floor.  She was the last sale of the day.  When she entered the ring, there were moans and groans of disgust from the few remaining buyers.  Even the slaughter buyers walked away.  No one would bid on her.  I was on the edge of my seat, having very mixed feelings.  What I saw was a very pretty pony, who would always be at least partly lame, and I was unsure if I wanted to deal with one in such bad shape, and possibly have to "put down", which is something I dread.

The auctioneer was anxious to leave.  He started the bid very low, and quickly dropped to one dollar.  That's when some guy said "I'll give a buck, it will make good dog food".  I instantly yelled out, "Two dollars, and she'll get a good home".  Without hesitation, the auctioneer said "Sold, She's yours, give her a good home", and walked off the stand, with a smile, as if he knew he had given her a chance.

That was the best two dollars I have ever spent.  It was tough at first.  She had problems standing in the trailer during the two hour trip home, and fell several times, forcing me to toss hand fulls of gravel from the side of the road on the trailer floor, and put a hay bale next to her to lean against.  When we arrived, I could not get her to walk to the barn, and had to recruit help to halfway carry her in.  By this time, she was very upset, and managed to kick and bite me, almost exactly at the same time, which resulted in me showing her who is boss, in as gentle but forceful manner as I could.  The next day came the hoof trimming.  I quickly learned that she would fight the trimmer, nearly to death, and it took restraints and some drugs to finally get her trimmed.  This led me to believe that she was beaten in her past while attempting to trim her hooves.

After that was completed, there was a sudden change of attitude. She would come up and nuzzle me, and had this cute call, which she still has today, to let me know she is there.  While petting her mane a few days later, I bent down, and she put her head over my shoulder and squeezed me against her body as if it was a hug. Moments later she put one of her nostrils against my face and began to share breath with me, and did so for several minutes.  The she laid down on the stall floor and laid her head against me, and fell asleep.

Several days later, she repeated this same thing, but this time she pushed against me in a way, as if to tell me to lay down too. Making sure I was on her backside for safety reasons, I laid down next to her.  She placed her muzzle against my face, making sure her nostrils were right against my nose, and shared breath with me, almost to the point where at least I was a little light headed.  But I did not complain, and both of us took a snooze.  It was two hours later when I got up to do my chores, feeling really enlightened and refreshed.

This has become a regular thing for us over the years.  I have grown to love her more than I can say, and I believe she feels the same. I run a horse rescue, and have other horses and ponies, but this one is very, very special to me, and she will always be with me. Although she can now walk, her legs will never be right.  She can not run, but still manages to get around, with the assistance of leg wraps that I keep on her.  Whenever I do chores, she is the first to let me know she is there, and when I have a bad day, she seems to know, and makes sure she gives me lots of head hugs and breath sharing.  What a beautiful creature she is, and so intelligent too.

She often looks into my eyes with her dark brown eyes as if to share my thoughts.  She is my pacifier when I'm upset too, because I always know I'll get unconditional love and sometimes a little sassyness too, which she seems to know when I need a laugh.

While I still practice safety around her, I feel a total trust of her, and do not hesitate to fall asleep next to her on a warm summer night, some where out in her Summer pasture.  When sharing breath, she has gone so far as to make me dizzy on several occasions, but that's when I realize, I saved her life, and now she is giving it back to me.  She means everything to me, and she owns a big part of my love.

I'm a fairly elderly man, but still able to help the horses.  I help all equines, but I have to admit, there is something special about the Shetland ponies that I can't quite explain, but they are always the ones who I get the most enjoyment from.  Particularly this sweet mare.  Yet, I repeatedly hear people saying that Shetland ponies are mean and nasty, compared to other horses.  That's when I tell them that they have not really ever taken the time to know a Shetland.

Of course, I know that most of these misconceptions about them are based on childhood memories of them, and it only makes sense that any equine handled by an experienced child (or adult) is going to see what it can get away with.  At the same time, I believe that Shetland ponies are the most intelligent of all equines, and can be the most loving.   Thus, in the end, they really are the best choice for children, based on the fact that they will take care of the child, not to mention their smaller size being a better match for a young child.

Then again, for us elders, they are the ultimate pet, and I have the best of the best of them in this two dollar mare!  If there is such a thing as a "soulmate", this pony mare is mine.


George - Central States Horse Rescue & Sanctuary