I put on his blanket and slowly led him into the barn paddock, away from the rest of herd, but kept him with this mother for comfort. Even though he had been weaned the previous month, her nearby presence calmed him considerably.
When the team of veterinarians determined they could do no more for him that night, short of putting him down before we were sure whether the procedures we did and the medication we gave him were working, I was advised to let nature take its course. I stayed with him, his head in my lap, gently talking to him and stroking his beautiful head and neck, wishing my love was enough to make him well. Finally, he seemed to be resting comfortably. I could stay awake no longer and just before midnight I went into the house to go to bed, knowing there was only a 50-50 chance I would see him alive in the morning.
He passed sometime during the night with his mother by his side. When I discovered his body the next morning, I realized that in the very end I could not have done anything more. The final choice was his: stay and fight or go and be free of the pain and suffering. I was the one now in extreme pain, with grief filling my whole heart for the loss of my beautiful baby foal; the first I had ever bred, raised and trained from day one. I went to his mother to put my arms around her neck seeking consolation, crying into her lovely silky coat, for the loss we both must have felt. But I was surprised when I heard a quiet, calming voice whispering in my head " It's all right. He is gone from his body, but he is still with us, always." I had the sense that this came from my mare, his mother. And strangely, as soon as I heard this I was filled with a sense of complete peace and understanding that this was just the way life evolves, but that the soul is always with us.
I opened the dividing gate between the two paddocks to let the herd come in and see that he had passed away. They each took a turn approaching and smelling the body, confirming what they already seemed to know, that he was gone. Their farewells had been given the day before. They must have known he was not going to make it through the night.
Many years after he passed, I finally found the perfect opportunity and place to scatter his ashes. I wanted to create sacred ground in the center of our farm on the morning of my first big equine experiential learning workshop. It was his death that inspired me to trust my instincts and inner voice more, taking me in this direction with my horses and putting all other riding disciplines behind me. While I quietly scattered his ashes around the inner sand circle of the center paddock, as the sun was just rising, in my heart and soul I dedicated the space where the horses and I would come to help people reconnect with their true nature. The horses were watching me carefully, sensing the importance of the moment and the ritual. Then I let them pass through the space on their way to their morning pasture. Though they passed through this paddock every day, this time each one stopped by and sniffed around the sand circle, seeming to acknowledge his presence there. His mother in fact, was so taken with the space that she rolled in the sand and lay there and sighed for a long moment before gathering herself up again and heading out to the morning grass.
All of this together makes me wonder what horses experience as the spirit world. Now I see his life played out as I had named him: Avatar; a manifestation of a released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher. He is with me still.
~Joanna Pintello DeRungs