Like a shooting star, abandoned foal Star was with us at Wildhorse Ranch for only a short time, but her infinite spirit touched our hearts in many ways.
It was late morning on Thursday, March 23, when on a remote mountainside in the far northern-most part of California, I met Gemini’s Star, an orphaned filly who had been born into this world at dawn that day. As I write this, it has been two days since I began wondering why God had placed that tiny filly in my path.
When I first saw Star, she laid under a Juniper tree alone, rejected and abandoned by her mother Gemini, who grazed with Star’s birth twin about 50 yards away. The rest of the family was also grazing nearby, but ignoring the tiny horse. Slowly I approached the newborn foal as she attentively watched me. I sat down on the ground about 20 feet away from the tiny filly as she studied me. Then she got up, and in a petite voice, she nickered at me, and on her wobbly little legs made her way over to me across the uneven ground. Shyly, she approached me from behind as she smelled the air … and after a few seconds, I felt the soft little whiskers of her teeny muzzle on the back of my head and neck … then she stepped to my side and continued exploring and nuzzling my face and nose with hers. She stood alongside me, as if we had known each other for years. Even after being abandoned and rejected by her own mother she still had love in her heart and a bold courageous spirit.
Knowing Gemini well, I was disheartened by the seemingly hard and cold action of this first time mother mare, so I picked-up the filly and walked over to Gemini, placing her on the ground about 10 feet away. The wobbly little girl made her way to Gemini and nickered, only to have Gemini sniff at her head and then pin her ears back at the baby. As I reached in and grabbed the baby back from Gemini, she turned away with her other foal in tow. Yet again, little Star had been rejected. It was heartbreaking to see the impact a mother’s rejection had on the newborn as the rejection was apparent in her.
Being high on the mountainside, my cellphone had reception so I called my wife Laura and I explained what had happened. We agreed on a plan to have her bring the truck to pick up the foal and I at the bottom of the mountain. As I hiked down the mountainside, the tiny filly seemed comforted in my arms even though the tiny wild (feral) horse had never been held by anyone.
After a short drive back to the ranch, we prepared a comfy place for the tiny horse. We had only just met this cute little filly, yet she had established herself within our hearts as we spent the day hugging, feeding and watching her. She had her first meal by the hand of my wife, as her bright eyes gazed-up lovingly at Laura and I, as if we were her parents. And I have to confess that we loved her too. Laura spent may hours napping at her side whenever she napped.
On Saturday morning at 2am I put my hand on her tiny head for the last time as she slipped away. There was nothing we could do. She left us as swiftly as a morning breeze, back into the hand of her creator.
Laura and I had known her for barely two days, but we couldn’t have loved her more, and the pain of her loss cannot be truly articulated beyond the tears.
She had passed beyond this world as a result of the lack of the critical antibodies in her mother’s first milk, which she was denied by her mother, leaving her vulnerable to a myriad of disease organisms which quickly took her life, even in face of a host of proactive actions being taken by many people.
Foals must get colostrum from their mothers within the first few hours of life in order to have the best chance of survival. Little Star was already six hours old and hadn’t nursed when I found her alone under the tree. But as with all life, her life was not in our hands, even though we hoped differently as we fed her the colostrum we had rushed to buy and made arrangements for a plasma-transfusion of antibodies as well.
In her two days of life on this planet, Gemini’s Star was an amazing teacher to Laura and I. Too often people turn away from things related to death, but death is as much a part of life as is birth. And in rare instances, there are important lessons offered to those of us who are willing to learn, even from a tiny filly that possessed an infinite spirit.
Like a falling star from the sky, the life of Gemini’s Star was very brief, but it was extraordinary bright at the end.
She was unprejudiced, pure and without malice. Even after being rejected and abandoned by her mother in favor of her twin, she was still glad to see her as it was made clear by the cute little nicker she made at her mom when I presented her to Gemini for the second time, hoping she might suckle the baby girl.
She did not judge and faced her short life with the courage of a great warrior and a glad heart that evidenced a belief that instilled a confidence in something far greater than what we [humans] can perceive with our dulled and distracted senses.
Star befriended Laura and I with a full heart and a love that was so fulfilling, it felt like the warmth of sunshine. She was also a proud little filly, but it was not a pride born of vanity, it was something noble. And even though she was only mere hours old, she was fully self-aware and in tune with the world around her.
As I knelt by her side with my hand on her head during her final moments on this mortal plane, there was no fear in her. As she looked into my eyes, there was a powerful calm as her beautiful spirit penetrated my grief. And in the last instant as her spirit passed I sensed only love.
At first as we grieved, we wondered why? How could God be so cold? But as I held my hand against Star’s tiny head, the answer came. God had placed her in our path so that she could experience Love before passing on, instead of dying cruelly, alone and rejected, and being torn apart by coyotes on the mountainside.
Laura prepared her grave where we laid her tiny remains to rest along with our beloved dogs. But we know her spirit lives on and she is with her creator.
March 31, 2017 – Postscript
Gemini (Star’s mom) came by to visit Laura and I yesterday with Star’s twin brother in tow, a stout little foal. Laura named him Alzirr after a star in the constellation Gemini. He’s a really sweet little guy and very inquisitive; he came up to Laura and I and shared breath, tickling our noses with his little baby whiskers!