How wild horses deal with death and grief: A rare insight

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Two members of the wild horse herd near the Simpson ranch in the mountains of the Oregon-California border.
Two members of the wild horse herd near the Simpson ranch in the mountains of the Oregon-California border. © Laura Simpson

In today’s world of instant gratification and life as viewed through artificially colored designer glasses, some people shy away from the hard lessons and experiences that might result in experiencing very powerful emotions.

But it is exactly these emotions that drive the evolution of meaningful personal convictions, beliefs and inner strength. These lessons, if you will, are by example the heavy lifting that results in spiritual development. And as they say in gym, no pain no gain. Having a powerful sense of empathy leads to understanding, which in turn leads to compassion and ultimately love. When people deny emotion, they disconnect empathy, compassion and love.

Recently, my wife and I faced the hollowing pain of the death of dear friend. But this friend was not human and the life experience related to this death was beyond my knowledge at the time I experienced it.

Some background is needed to fully appreciate what I will explain.

Five years ago when my wife I moved on to our land in the wilderness mountains of the Oregon-California border, the first wild horses we met were an appaloosa mare we named Lucy and her cute little filly, who we named Pixie.

Lucy and Pixie.
Lucy and Pixie. © Laura Simpson

Lucy was still nursing Pixie, a little roan foal with a black mane. Lucy was underweight due to an overload of gastric parasites. Lucy was the lead mare of a small family band that held back about 100-yards away and watched our interactions. Lucy approached Laura and I with Pixie in tow as if to ask for help. Having a background in livestock production I had a sense of her problem. So we MacGyver-ed a solution by mixing some wormer (Ivermectin) with some oatmeal mix we had in the kitchen. She ate the mix as Pixie watched and then they went back down to her family.

About two weeks later Lucy and Pixie returned and this time she brought her entire family up to introduce us, including their mighty family stallion, who we named ‘Black’. Lucy had clearly benefited from the treatment and her ribs were no longer showing. Over the years, this family of wild horses as well as others adopted Laura and I as their human symbionts in this naturally balanced ecosystem. Pixie grew into a beautiful young mare; an appaloosa just like her mom, and this past spring she had a filly, having lost her foal in the previous year to predators.

And over the course of hundreds of social interactions with these and other wild horses, Laura and I have developed an empathic connection with them at a level that borders on a discrete communicative dialog. Some horse whisperers may use different terminology; I am still suffering some of the terminology learned in college physics. Another important term however is ‘coherence’ and I can say that at times we engage in coherent dialog with the wild horses. Here again some whisperers might call this reading or sensing the horse. The science of coherence is growing and more can be quickly learned by watching this 7-minute video:

In mid-June 2018, during the primary filming of our local herd in regard to a documentary about Wild Horse Fire Brigade by university film students from Colorado, we filmed Pixie and her foal we named Dove in the forest where they happily grazed and napped.

About a week later, I revisited the area this time with an Oregon Department of Forestry District Forester (Dave) who manages 1.8-million acres of forest in southwestern Oregon. Dave was interested in assessing the prodigious fine fuel loading in the area of our ranch in and around the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area due to the severe depletion of deer by predators, and which deer no longer graze off the abundant grass and brush, which creates hazardous fuel loading.

Pixie and her foal, Dove.
Pixie and her foal, Dove. © Laura Simpson

After a brief hike over mixed terrain we arrived at a family of wild horses standing near a large spring partially surrounded by juniper trees.  As we approached the family a lead mare who I recognized as ‘Shy’ came over to where we stood and checked us out; she didn’t recognize Dave’s scent.

As I explained to Dave what she was doing and the names of the horses we saw, something seemed wrong, the horses were acting a bit odd. Then as I checked out the area around the spring, I saw a white horse laying in the shade of a large juniper tree. I moved a bit closer to the tree and saw it was Pixie laying on her side. She looked right at me and a terrible feeling overcame me. It was at that very second that my eyes were drawn to her right rear leg, which had been virtually sawn off by barbed wire sometime in the past few days; she was dying.

It was a crushing sight and as the heartache filled my chest, I started looking for Dove in the shadows of the trees. After a few minutes another crushing reality hit me, being severely injured and unable to protect her foal, Pixie had lost her little filly Dove to predators.

But then I noticed something else; there were several additional families standing nearby who were slowly moving into the area. My initial thought was they were there for water, but with so many large and excellent springs very nearby (within 300 yards), why would they all converge on one particular spring? As quickly as that though went through my head, the lead stallion from Pixie’s family walked about 50 feet from where he had been standing and to Pixie’s head. She raised her head off the ground and shared breath with the mighty stallion. Then in turn, one by one, the rest of the family did the same thing. I then realized we were intruding on a hallowed ritual, each of these beautiful sentient beings were bidding Pixie goodbye. As I watched, I realized that so many humans pass away these days alone and scared.

I instructed Dave that we should move back and give them some space, as one of the younger stallions decided to move the mare who was greeting Dave back into the family group.

As we moved farther back my eyes scanned the area searching for any sign of Dove, but continued to watch as the last family members shared breath with Pixie. Then her family moved away from the spring as another family moved into the same spot and the family stallion from that band and his lead mare went to the tree where Pixie lay and lowered his head. Pixie slowly lifted her head and the powerful stallion shared breath with her as did his lead mare.

It was the single most powerful emotional experience and transcended anything I had ever seen or felt before. And at the same time because of our friendship with Pixie, it was heart wrenching. I wanted to go to her side, but in doing so I would clearly be interfering in a sacred ritual of which I had no prior knowledge or understanding.

I led Dave away from the area informing him that I needed to head down the mountain and speak with my wife about Pixie.

Laura was also devastated when she heard the news, but we both agreed that I should go back up the mountain and if the situation was right, put Pixie out of her misery. I hurried back up the mountain. On my way up the mountain I collected a friend of ours who lives on some land that adjoins ours that is bisected by the road to end of the trail. My friend (Lynn) and I hiked to the spring expecting to see a family of horses. But none were in sight, and even with her devastating injury and crushed by the obvious loss of her foal Dove as she lay dying, Pixie had the final strength and courage to drag herself into the sunlight where she passed away.

And there, standing over her was a majestic guardian, a single bachelor stallion who Laura and I had named Red Sox a few years before. He was audibly crying over her lifeless body; making a haunting sound I have never heard a horse make before; a soul-piercing sound that I will never forget. It was like a whinny but with a hallowed, sad tone. This beautiful young stallion was one of Pixie’s playmates as she grew up … now he was the sentinel over her remains, lamenting her loss. I looked at him and asked and he moved back allowing me to go to Pixie’s head to say my own goodbyes. When I was done and moved away he moved back to where he had stood, directly over her.

As Lynn and I headed down the trail away from where Red Sox stood over Pixie I was torn about taking any photos of such remarkable events; It felt like it would be a kind of violation of the sanctity of such an intimate ritual. Wanting to have something to document such a remarkable event, I compromised and took one photo when I was 50 yards away from Red Sox; here is that photo:

Red Sox says goodbye to Pixie.
Red Sox says goodbye to Pixie. © Bill Simpson

Driving down the mountain, Lynn, who had just turned 80 years old and had lived an amazing life of adventures on the high seas and in the mountains said: ‘Never seen anything like that before’. As with most wild horses, Pixie had a huge spirit and incredible will to live. And in the end, she was surrounded by all her family and friends who provided a loving send-off. We can learn a lot from wild horses; even in how to deal with death and loss.

The following day I received an email from the District Forester who was with me when we first discovered Pixie and witnessed what was clearly a sacred ritual that few human eyes have seen. I have to say that I have a whole new level of respect for Dave given his empathy and understanding via his email, and taking the time to write even with the many demands for his time. As a firefighter with many decades of fighting wildfires and seeing all the carnage from that, his email carried great weight:

“I’m saddened by the loss and offer my condolences. I really enjoyed our visit yesterday and the opportunity to see what the horses are up to. I never have seen anything like it and the social interactions amongst the horses was quite intriguing. I understand the need to remove the old legacy barbwire and I hope somehow the process to remove it can be expedited. Firefighter safety is my #1 priority and I feel the same about the horses that are working up there.”

Many American wilderness areas (including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument) are laden with the remains of long failed ranching enterprises. Legacy barbwire from the late 18th and 19th century ranching and homesteading crisscrosses many thousands of miles of remote wilderness areas, passing through forests and across grasslands, presenting a deadly and silent threat to all wildlife, including wild horses.

In the below video an elk calf was slowly dying after being caught in a barbed wire fence. Fortunately, two hunters with a little empathy happened by and freed the little elk … here, at least, is one happy ending.

William E. Simpson

William Simpson is the author of Dark Stallions - Legend of the Centaurians, proceeds from which go towards supporting wild and domestic horse rescue and sanctuary. » Read Bill's profile

59 thoughts on “How wild horses deal with death and grief: A rare insight

  • July 4, 2018 at 10:36 am
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    How sacred.. How can any one doubt animals have souls?

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    • July 5, 2018 at 2:41 am
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      Dear Barbara: You are certainly correct and Laura and I know without doubt they do. Moreover, looking to the Bible for guidance on this we this passage among several that informs us animals have souls-spirits. Matter + Time does not = life. Matter + Time + Spirit = Life:

      Job 12:7-10 King James Version (KJV)

      7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

      8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

      9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?

      10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

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        • January 31, 2020 at 2:43 am
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          Horses have more feelings for each other than we know. When one of my horses passes away we had him buried in the field with the rest of the herd. They stood together and watched and afterward they walked to the grave and stood with their noses to the ground. They stayed there for what seemed like hours and then slowly turned and walked away.

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      • May 25, 2019 at 4:01 pm
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        We can learn so much from them if we could only get out of our own way and truly see them as the senti6beings they are.
        Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this sad but beautiful story.

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      • July 31, 2019 at 9:16 pm
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        Thank you William for this beautiful piece. I’m writing a book on connecting with horses based on my own work as a ‘communicator’ and energy psychologist, my greatest teachers being the horses themselves. I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learnt and enabling others to understand that all animals are sentient so that they can respect and connect too. I would be delighted if you would give me permission to quote passages from this beautiful heart wrenching, illuminating, story. With deep gratitude for your work.

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        • January 31, 2020 at 7:22 am
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          How very very beautiful.❤❤❤

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          • February 18, 2020 at 10:11 am
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            Thank you for sharing this. I have always believed that horses, all animals, felt loss and grief. You got to see something beautiful, and shared it with the world. Thank you.

        • February 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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          Animals are the greatest healers. Horses, dogs, cats, birds and any animal around at the time, have been some of my greatest teachers in my healing work. My horses help people heal from trauma and get connected with their passion and purpose in life. It’s an amazing experience to witness and be a part of. Animals will show their greatness if we are willing to listen.

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        • February 5, 2020 at 11:47 pm
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          Such an insightful and meaningful piece. I have a horse, a mare, and firsthand am working to communicate on her level which I believe as children we have that ability and then as we age somehow we forget how. She means so much to me on a deeper level than I can articulate. She heals my soul and accepts me would be the best way to convey how I feel about her. I will always feel connected to her and thank God for allowing me to be born with a natural love for all animals but most especially horses. Such spiritual beings horses are and yet there are still people who mistreat them every day. They have no idea. Thank-you for sharing your experience, I know how amazing being with horses can feel. And you were present for such a sad yet moving and honest interaction in the wild. Peace, Penny❤

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      • January 29, 2020 at 9:03 pm
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        I was wondering if everyone can call or email Congress and senators to please outlaw the killing of wild horses. I know a lot about horses as I used to own some and took CA Horsemastership and win some championships. But last yr I was so upset. I thought the wild horses were protected because they are close to extinction. Trump signed a paper for them to shoot asl of the wild horses for $50.00 a pic. It made me sick. Since then I have found out they are still putting hirsemest in dog food and in some countries ( where they ship the meat) even the people are eating horse meat. I think this is a disgrace. Our country couldn’t of been built without the help of horses and they deserve our respect. Can everyone please call or email their senators to please stop the killing of horses for any reason? Thank you very much!! (202)2243121 This is the to call Senators!! Thank you!! Debbie

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      • February 2, 2020 at 3:32 pm
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        Thank you for sharing the scripture supporting this! It is something I have long believed, but I now feel much more reassured of its validity! Thank you also for sharing your encounters with the wild horses. God Bless you, your wife and the horses.

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    • March 9, 2019 at 11:19 am
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      This was beautiful. Thank you . I have learned to love these incredible beings. I never knew they play, tease, have humor and love. Now this too. My heart has grown three sizes.

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    • May 25, 2019 at 9:59 pm
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      I had to put my heart horse down when her colt was ten months old. He grieved and kept nipping at her to get up. I didn’t want to see her lifeless boys hang from the tractor as it carried her to her final resting spot, so I loaded Sonny, her colt, up and took him to the river to swim and play. He would occasionally return to the spot to sniff where his momma last lay and neighed a few times, but with the little herd and lots of human interaction, he was okay. Sonny is now 8 and I often still think of his mom, Gabby and wonder if he does the same. She had a good last day that included lots of treats, a bath, warm mash, and lots of hugs and tears.

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    • January 18, 2020 at 8:14 am
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      Reading this only confirmed all I have believed in the horse. They mourn and feel emotion deeper than most people ever will. Thank you so much for being so involved with these amazing animals, these wild herds are so special and few people understand the beauty they add to the world.
      I wish more people had such love and respect that you and your wife have for these horses.
      Thank you so much!!

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    • January 28, 2020 at 8:16 am
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      Very insightful , what a privilege to see this and goes to prove what any observant horse person knows. They are Truely sentient beings and deserve our love , respect and protection. I have three TWH a 25yo who taught me that I had to earn her trust as she had been used as a broodmare when I got her at 8yo , it took me about a year. If I don’t consciencely make the effort to check my energy when I approach her she will not come in to me. She also watches my facial expression and has taught her human to have a kind soft eye. They can teach us so much if we just take the time to listen. I also believe we are blessed with animals that God has given us to care for , his creations and he will provide a way for us care for them.

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    • January 30, 2020 at 4:43 am
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      I had a cow that I befriended. It was an awesome and one of many relationships I had with the rest of the herd and the bull. Most of the higher up leaders in the herd got into a battery and ended up with lead poison. I was out there with the sick cows everyday trying to help them. It was the most heart breaking situation I had every seen and never want to see again. My cow (named Horny because she had Texas style horns-just beautiful)was one of the ones that got into the battery. I thought maybe she hadn’t got into the battery but one day she went down. I covered her up, with blankets and did everything I possibly could to neutralize the poison with the her as well as the other cows. One evening I had to leave for a few hours. It was dark when I came home to check on her and found she had passed. Now the bull at that thing was a miserable one, but a great protector of the herd. He let me in eventually without putting on a show of his power to pet, give treats and scratch the cows that came up to me. We tolerated each other with respect, knowing each others boundaries, never the less, I always carried a stick with me just in case although I never did have to ever use it. On that night that I went to see how Horny was doing, I knelt down and realized she had passed. I starting crying over her and had my head on her body. When I realized she was gone, I had totally forgot about the bull. As I lay there crying on her I felt a cold nose on the back of my neck. I looked up to see the bull standing right beside me. We had never been that close to each other before and my heart not only missed a beat, it started to race. We stared at each other for what seemed like a hours, but I’m sure was only a minute or so. He then touched his nose to my face, stood there for a few more seconds then backed up and left. It was the most frightening and touching moment I had every had with cows and this bull. It was like he knew I was mourning the loss of Horny. So yes animals have compassion, empathy, love, passion and a big range of emotions and feelings. If you are around them enough you learn just how intelligent and emotionally bonded they are to each other, other species and humans. Its an incredible feeling when you learn how to express you feelings to an animal and have an animal express their feeling and wishes to you. I had another bull that was friends with me but that’s another story. And just to clarify, I say friends but you can’t really be friends with a bull, but you can have a understanding relationship, with common sense being used.

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    • February 5, 2020 at 3:37 am
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      I always knew horses are special spiritual beings but now the proof is here

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    • February 10, 2020 at 5:43 am
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      Such an incredible story. Thank you for sharing this wonderful amazing insight! I have always believed in the emotional and spiritual essence of all animals but horses are at the top of my list as incredible creatures!

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  • July 5, 2018 at 10:14 am
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    Thank you for sharing your emotionally touching experience. It’s sad, yet somehow life affirming also. This planet is one giant interactive organism.
    We need to respect and embrace all life forms.
    And indeed, animals do have souls.

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    • January 18, 2020 at 8:16 am
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      Can you update on the herd?, I see it’s been several years, I’m curious on how things are going up there with them.

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  • July 5, 2018 at 11:33 am
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    Non human animals grieve, as hard, or harder, than humans do. I have seen it in my dogs and my rats and my cats. They all love, just as we do. Treating them as less than human, only highlights our ignorance and ego.

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  • July 6, 2018 at 8:51 am
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    We had two Saddlebreds (a mare and a gelding) that although were not gotten at the same time quickly became “joined at the hip” as surely as Romeo loved Juliette. When our Sonny had to be put down due to the ravages of laminitis, my mare, Katie, was of course allowed to sniff his body in order that she could realize the situation (they were inseparable even to the fact of one not being able to be ridden without the other one in tow) but after his burial in one of the pastures they shared, she would daily go to his grave and stand when she would take her afternoon naps. We watched in awe at her period of grief until another horse was brought in as a companion. I never really doubted that our animals truly have souls but this was proof beyond a shadow of a doubt and took place before our very eyes.

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  • July 9, 2018 at 5:35 am
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    This is a touching and interesting story, but I would strongly caution people about doing things like giving dewormers or any other drugs to wild horses without specific veterinary advice from a vet who works with wild horses. Since these horses have not been exposed to drugs, they can have quite severe reactions to “harmless” things like dewormers. And, any horse with a heavy parasite load can end up in potentially life-threatening trouble if you cause a massive parasite die-off in the gut at one time, which ends up releasing toxins from the dead parasites into the horse’s body. When we deworm horses taken out of the wild, we usually start with something milder than ivermectin, and build up to that one. One old stallion I have had a bad reaction to ivermectin, even with that strategy.

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    • July 9, 2018 at 9:21 am
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      Susan: We are not newbies this sounds a lot like a lecture….
      I have personally owned and managed thousands of domestic animals and livestock animals ranging horses to cattle and sheep down to chickens, rabbits and pigs. I have saved dozens of wild animals ranging from deer to owls to snakes. I have turned (in the uterus) baby calves and saved both calf and cow from a breached calving. I have administered I.V. and I.M. and oral drugs, sutured, and set bones on many animals and many people and more… your anecdotal experience and advice might apply to someone else (emphasis ‘might’)… but your assumptions are just that… you have no idea who we are and what we know or have done… we successfully oversee over 50 wild horses in the wilderness and have done so now for the past 5-years, which is in addition to decades of managing a ranch and all that entails. There are thousands of stories of Vets prescribing meds where the animals dies or has a bad reaction… Having a Vet is good for people with no or little experience. Maybe you are one such person? AWHC also promotes the use of PZP… maybe you support them and their idea of wild horse management and the myth of ‘overpopulation’?
      And arguing with success is just obtuse… the Mare Lucy was healthier than ever after the treatment and foaled two healthy babies after Pixie.
      Lucy was however killed by a mountain Lion. And finally, Ivermectin is used extensively with many species and it has a very high therapeutic ratio and is usually well tolerated.

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      • July 10, 2018 at 10:05 am
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        William, I did not mean to lecture you, personally, and I apologize if it came off that way. I simply hoped to prevent others who don’t have your knowledge and experience from going out and giving wild horses meds they should not. You have to realize that when you post something online like this, others are going to see it as an example. We actually have a real problem in our area with well-meaning people going out and administering completely inappropriate medications to wild horses without either knowledge or permission. This can and does cause harm, and even death. We’re dealing with one right now whose injured leg (which was being monitored) got drastically worse after someone gave him a whopping dose of bute, causing him to “feel no pain” and leading him to use the leg in ways he shouldn’t have. He had been making some progress, and now he is worse than when he was first spotted. We also had a horse die after someone gave her a dewormer, causing a massive parasite die-off that led to an impaction. Deworming horses with heavy parasite loads can be a tricky proposition, and I’m sure you would agree that you don’t want random people heading out on the range and dosing horses with dewormers or any other drugs. Perhaps in future, if you are going to post about the activities you undertake to help the horses, it might be good to add a couple of sentences explaining your experience and qualifications, and that you are not advocating that people go out and do these things themselves unless they are similarly qualified. Just a suggestion. Oh, and just for the record, I am NOT a fan of the AWHC. They and their cronies have done far more harm around here than all of the well-meaning “medicators” put together.

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        • March 8, 2019 at 8:46 am
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          Susan: I do appreciate the clarification… so thank you very much!

          I wanted to mention that the BLM is seeking nominations to the WHB Advisory Board for the Humane Advocacy seat. I believe I can offer important insights that may lead to saving American wild horses, ending their plight once and for all… I have a Plan and it doesn’t require taxpayer dollars or donations… just need to socialize it a bit more… And by getting nominated to the Board, I would have the chance to do that.

          I am trying to be nominated to the ‘Humane Advocacy seat on the BLM WHB Advisory Board. Maybe you’d consider nominating me?

          1) I am the only potential candidate that has spent 5-years living among free-roaming wild horses continuously (with my wife Laura) in the wilderness and studying them up close and literally ‘speak for the herd’; and,

          2) I have over 100 published articles across an array of publications that contain the results of my 5-year study of wild horses and forest and wildlife management, which includes thousands of photographs and dozens of videos of the behavioral ecology of wild horses (one sample); and,

          3) My recent documentary video ‘Wild Horses’ won a prestigious ‘Winnie’ award at the 2018 EQUUS Film Festival in New York; and,

          4) I am the only candidate for the Humane Advocate seat who was trained as a scientist and has a command and working knowledge of chemistry, physics, botany, meteorology and biology; and,

          5) I am the only candidate with extensive executive (CEO) business experience with numerous U.S. Patents having been awarded for my work (samples); and,

          6) I am the only candidate who understands the challenges faced by all stakeholders and understand the livestock industry having spent my formative years on family’s working ranch and a member of the FFA; and,

          7) I am the only candidate with experience managing forests (currently managing 500-acre family forest of mature pines) having established a privately-owned wild horse reserve in a community that now embraces the local free-roaming wild horses for their ability to devolve catastrophic wildfire and protect forests and wildlife; and,

          8) I am the only candidate who has an empirical understanding of the challenges facing our wilderness areas from depletion of wildlife and devastation from catastrophic wildfire. Having fought wildfires, most recently on the deadly Klamathon Wildfire fire line for 9-days, and importantly, documenting how the local herd of wild horses had protected many of the trees from destruction as a result of their symbiotic mutualisms with forests and ecosystems.

          We have a tiny window of time to implement a holistic solution to SAVE our treasured wild horses and burros. If we continue down the same path with the same people leading, we can only expect more of the same and potentially more grim images as wild horses head into extinction… now it’s up to you!

          Lets get the job done and SAVE American wild horses and burros from extinction:

          Please write a short letter to the BLM stating you would like to nominate ‘William E. Simpson II’ as the ‘Humane Advocate’ to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.

          You can cite the qualifications above (copy & paste) in your letter. Send Your Letter BEFORE April 1, 2019 to:

          Division of Wild Horses and Burros, US Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
          1849 C Street NW, Room 2134 LM
          Attn: Dorothea Boothe, WO-260
          Washington, DC 20240

          Alternatively: You can email-in your nomination using a scanned letter that is signed:

          Submit nominations by e-mail to Dorothea Boothe, acting Wild Horse and Burro Program Coordinator, at dboothe@blm.gov.

          Thank you!
          Bill
          William E. Simpson II
          P.O. Box 202
          Yreka, CA 96097

          Reply
  • July 9, 2018 at 9:03 am
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    Thank you for sharing this powerful and heartfelt story. I too have been privileged to see similar deeply powerful, caring, compassionate, and spirit-filled interactions within the herds that roam through Washoe Valley, Nevada. Sitting back and observing with reverence, then moving in with permission, and connecting at a level that I have not found words to explain. I am grateful for the story you shared – WHAT A GIFT. Again, Thank you.

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  • July 9, 2018 at 9:16 am
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    Thank you for sharing this beautiful, heart-wrenching, humanity-filled story. I too have been privileged to witness similar spirit-filled interactions with herds who roam in Washoe Valley, Nv; I have not been able to find the words to express the essence of these interactions. Thank YOU for expressing so authentically. AND – MERCHANT MARINE???!!!! Did you perhaps attend Cal Maritime Academy? Blessings to you and yours and the herd that surrounds you.

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  • July 11, 2018 at 4:37 am
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    In 2010 our farm experienced a similar experience upon our first farm stallions passing. As he was dying, every horse, foals, broodmares, yearlings and our present farm stallion all came up to our first farm stallion and shared their breath with him as he was still standing in our backyard. We think our first stallion died from colitis or perhaps cancer, we don`t really know. Our founding broodmare did not have a foal for several years despite being with our present farm stallion. All the horses in our equine family moped around and acted very sad for many months after our first farm stallions passing. We of course had to call our vet and have him humanely put down as he was very thin and unable to stay standing much longer. We of course did everything we could to help him recover but to no avail. We all still miss Count Mein Too every day!! He was the kindest, most gentle thoroughbred stallion we have handled in 35+ years of working with thoroughbreds. We feel horses are very much like us and have people who work for us say the horses think were one of them!

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  • August 1, 2018 at 10:30 am
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    Thank you so much for Pixie’s story. Through you, she’ll be remembered from her birth, her life and her death. As awful as her death and that of her foal was, to witness her herd’s tribute , and that of Red Socks, was extraordinary.

    As a Hospice nurse for years, I’ve been with many people around the time of and at the point of their deaths, including our parents and family members. Most people close to passing have deathbed “visions” of departed family members who come to comfort them and to help them pass. The patients are usually awake, alert and having what appears to be one-way conversations. Afterward, some are able to describe exactly what they experienced. Witnessing such brief and sacred communications can be rare , because they happen spontaneously and are over quickly . But they are precious and can be life-changing.

    I was surprised (but not 😉 ) to see that animals have them, too.

    I’ve worked in adoption for retired racing Greyhounds for years and we’ve had 9 of these incredible dogs as family members, as well as other dogs. It has occasionally happened that they die unexpectedly , rather than by euthanasia, in my arms… in an unmedicated, and natural process. Our other Greys would gather around us, nose to nose, sharing breath , touching paws , lying close to their friend. Natural death is similar to natural birth in many ways, it happens in stages and not until the moment is perfect … but even if the dog appears to be in coma, like a person, suddenly her eyes flash open, she lifts her chin and she focuses , with rivetted, complete attention, on a point at the ceiling. You know what your girl looks like when someone comes to the door … it’s that but more intense … sometimes moving into a keen chase look , and a look much younger on her sweet face. I don’t know who or how many came, but watching this, my aching heart fills and pounds with gratitude, that she/he was being helped by someone she wanted to follow, into the next stage of life. My darling Greyhound Bonny did follow. Minutes before she breathed her last , lying on her side in her bed, she started running. She ran so fast, her legs were a blur, I’ve never seen anything like it. She was racing, competing with a Greyhound I couldn’t see, but thank God, who was there to help her move on.

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  • February 14, 2019 at 10:08 am
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    I lost my beloved mare a few weeks ago from chronic colic. She was boarded in a barn with a dozen other horses. After I made awful decision to put her down, the horse next to her who was her best friend and a calming influence on her, put his nose through the panel and touched her nose as if to say goodby. After the final act, I was heartbroken, even though I knew I’d done the right thing for my Snuggie. When I went home, my three cats took turns lying right next to me as I grieved and cried. I truly believe I’ll see Snuggie again but the love between the other horses, and the empathy my cats showed me, is more precious than I can explain. The opportunity you have had to bond with the band is something too few people have ever experienced. They and you provide a kinder and gentler world.

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  • February 16, 2019 at 6:26 am
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    Dear Readers: I wanted to share an encounter that predated this article by about 4-years.
    Laura and I ran across a colt high on a mountain slope at our ranch who had suffered an injury to a front leg and a rear leg rendering him seriously lame and unable to walk the distance to water and for adequate grazing.

    THIS VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gQ12k8z9rI exemplifies the empathic nature of wild horses…

    I hope you find it of interest and please share it with others who may benefit by the realization that wild horses are exceptionally intelligent and loving beings that certainly deserve our love and respect in return. Cheers! William Simpson – Wildhorse Ranch

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    • March 8, 2019 at 4:37 am
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      Thankyou for sharing this story, it’s so beautiful and sad at the same time. I also watched your video at youtube, also beautiful. I’m so jealous of your life! Bless you!

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    • February 7, 2020 at 5:45 pm
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      William, I had a similar experience last year when my oldest mare colicked. She asked to be led into the barn where I witnessed her saying goodbye to her daughter and full blood sister, along with another friend. It’s something I’ll never forget. She’s buried in the pasture where she’s visited often, even by the gelding I recently bought, they having met on the trail sometime ago.

      Thank you for your story.

      Gale Johnson
      Alba, Texas

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  • March 6, 2019 at 2:04 pm
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    If only our government and the Bureau of Land Management had the slightest inkling or consciousness about our precious wild herds, they could never commit the atrocities they perpetrate against them. Thank you for your story and your empathy.

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  • March 7, 2019 at 6:02 pm
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    What a heartbreaking ,but wonderful story as well as information!
    Thank you for sharing this and I am going to share it day after day on my site until more and more people become aware!!

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  • March 9, 2019 at 4:02 am
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    Next time I pet my mule, I will know him better, now.

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  • March 9, 2019 at 7:36 am
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    Thank you so much for sharing this story, as hard as I know it must have been for you. And thank you so much for taking care of these beautiful creatures as we were intended to do. When I lost 1 of my old mares (Lady Baske) and was preparing the burial site, every one of her pasture mates came and stood by us while I dug the hole. They touched her and after I had covered her up came and blew into my face very gently and slowly wandered off to graze. It is a memory I hold dear. I know people have told me that animals do not have emotions like humans but I wholly disagree. We could learn a lot from the animals about compassion.

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  • March 9, 2019 at 8:38 am
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    Very insightful. I have owned at least 2 horses at a time for the past 30yrs. On occasion I have had to put a couple down because of illness. I always let the remaining horse time to say goodbye and understand what was going on. I’m not sure who it was harder on the horse or me. Thanks for such a touching story

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  • March 9, 2019 at 9:04 am
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    Dear Readers:
    In this article I wrote: “In mid-June 2018, during the primary filming of our local herd in regard to a documentary about Wild Horse Fire Brigade by university film students from Colorado, we filmed Pixie and her foal we named Dove in the forest where they happily grazed and napped.”

    Well, the results of that effort, a film school thesis project at Colorado State, has come to fruition and a powerful new documentary will be released this month (March 2019).

    This documentary features Pulitizer Prize winner & New York Times correspondent Dave Philipps, as well as yours truly.

    Here is the teaser-reel preview for ‘Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses’:
    >>> https://vimeo.com/318897597 <<>www.WHFB.us

    Please share this information, and stay tuned for the release of the FULL documentary this month! I haven’t seen it, so I am also looking forward to seeing it myself!

    Nickers to everyone, Bill

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  • March 9, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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    Thank you! Having been raised in WY and living very close to and with several herds of wild horses, I can totally relate.

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  • March 10, 2019 at 1:43 am
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    Beautifully written piece and from the heart. Great to know there are still some great people out there even though one must realize the number is drastically declining. Keep up the great work and thanks for a lovely read with my morning cup of java
    KCY

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  • March 10, 2019 at 8:11 am
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    Thank you so much for this article. I’m so sorry for what happened to Pixie, and I understand the horror of old barbed wire all too well, having had an elderly gelding that found some buried on my property 🙁 He unfortunately did not make it, and we’ve since then gone over our property again with a fine-toothed comb and sincerely hope we have now found it all. I find it facinateing how the horses in the article said goodbye and grieved; my older lead mare was the one that led me to my poor guy’s body, and despite that fact that I had his bucket of breakfast with me (and she is very food oriented), she paid no attention to the food and stood solemly nearby while I checked my poor old guy and realized he had already passed. They are incredibly special creatures and I can’t imagine how the horses left in my herd must have felt afterwards, they would visit his gravesite on occaission for months after this (we had him buried deep under the earth and rock, the barbed fence he had found was ripped out and buried with him, a surprisingly long length of fallen down fencing mostly buried in the earth except where he had caught his leg and pulled it up). I still visit the site, and my old lead mare often comes with me, standing stoically beside me and allows me to lean on her shoulder and cry into her mane. I don’t know for sure, but I think she may still be grieving too, or perhaps she is simply supporting me in my own grief.

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  • March 10, 2019 at 8:25 am
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    It Was like truly being with you when you had the privilege of being with the wild horses. I am a horse owner of 2 rescued mares. A Friesian and a Paint. I only have been around horses for 6 years. I can’t even say I love them because love does not describe the deep connection I have developed. They seem to know it. They are boarding at a riding school ranch where there are another 21 horses. I am learning how to ride now and have so much respect for all horses. Do you have an email address. I really need to ask some questions and I would like to donate something to your cause. Also see your books and articles. I made a FB page called Equine Spot . You could join it. I live in can Canada by the way. Looks like you likely don’t have time for me but just to stay in contact would be great. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart. I add that I am not young physically but I am very young in my life ways. I turn 69 in April. I will light candles for the horses you talked about. I will tell me horses about it. I would love to hear from you two again. Gaelle W

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  • March 10, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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    It is not just the wild horses that grieve. Over the many years that I have bred and raised horses, we have had occasion to lose babies and I have witnessed the mares standing guard over the place where we buried their babies, even twice foals that had been weaned and were on their own, so to speak.

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  • March 11, 2019 at 12:21 am
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    Such a rare and beautiful insight into the natural behaviour of wild horses. We could all learn so much from them.

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  • March 12, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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    We recently lost a very treasured horse. I didn’t realize it at the time and wouldn’t have had I not read this, our other two horses came to him as he lay dying and “shared breath” with him. This comforts my heart. I’m so grateful my sister sent me this article. They do indeed grieve. My remaining two stand by his grave. It’s sweet but sad. We all miss him terribly.
    I’m sorry for your loss of Pixie & Dove. What a tribute to their memories they gave you this beautiful story to share.

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  • May 21, 2019 at 12:41 pm
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    I cried as I read this. You really had a way of bringing us to that place where you found Pixie and watching as they said their goodbyes. I am new to owning horses and my two geldings, Fynn and Fid absolutely amaze me daily and fill my heart to overflowing. From giggling at silly behavior from the younger one when he wants to pest and play with the older one, to the older one who I swear practically rolls his eyes at the younger one’s antics…we just enjoy them so much! But it’s the moments when I go up, alone. And pour my heart out to one of them (usually Fiddler, our older gelding who we had first and alone for about a year)…who quietly will dip his head in towards me, as if he knows my heart is aching. We had a mare, briefly, in before getting Fynn….and she and Fid were just not a good match (nor were she and my husband! lol). But I lamented my one-on-one time with Fid…he was one of those rare horses that actually seemed to prefer the presence of one human to a herd of horses…in any event, when our mare was still with us, I went up one windy, bitterly cold day, just needing to connect with Fiddler, missing “our” time…it seems as though he must have too. He chased her off and blocked her from me with his body, then he calmed down, faced me and became gentle, and shared breath with me! I had tears rolling down my cheeks! I was frozen solid, but didn’t want to leave his side! And didn’t until he was ready to go too. Such a special moment. They just know things. They FEEL! And they know!

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  • June 25, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    Thank you so much for the story of Pixie.

    I have met my own mortality; and my husband, 9 years my junior now has stage four prostate cancer.
    To make a reverse point, I sometimes find the rituals of animals that are still wild inspiring _ permission giving. I am not certain humans are given permission to grieve creatively, but it is obvious to me that these horses were moving around mortality in the most beautiful, healing way.

    It calmed me to read the story. Horses, through my night dreams, have carried important messages before, so maybe that combines to render me doubly attentive.

    Thank you.

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  • June 26, 2019 at 11:44 am
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    I am a Registered Veterinary Technician, certified in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care by the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (iaahpc.org). I’m working on a lecture topic for our 9th annual conference in Chicago, IL on grief and mourning in horse owners and horses. The audience will be veterinary and human social workers. I wonder how you would feel about my using the image of Red Sox and Pixie? My talk’s main points center around the unique depth and length of grief and mourning in the equine culture, both domestic and feral, and the insights available to those of us who support the horse-owning and loving community through observational and empirical data such as you have been fortunate to receive. What a convoluted sentence. Bottom line, my mission is to advocate for the horse’s right to not only a good death (as a veterinary medical professional) but to the full range of expression as their emotional and psycho-social world demands. I am happy to email further, and deeply appreciate your contribution to the welfare of all horses.

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  • August 2, 2019 at 10:37 am
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    This is so sad but beautiful. It’s the kind of thing that makes us know that animals have souls and are our equals even if we speak different languages from them.
    I witnessed a touching event last year when I had to put my mare down. After her body was removed, her best friend gelding was obviously upset. When I turned my other gelding out with him (who never paid any attention to the two friends except to occasionally lay his ears back at them-he generally kept to himself) he paused where her body had lasted laid and then promptly trotted over to the grieving friend gelding and touched noses with him kindly. No grumpiness. Just a moment of obvious compassion. If he had verbally expressed his condolences, it could not have come across clearer. Then he moved on to graze by himself as usual. It was a touching moment. I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t witnessed it.

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  • August 30, 2019 at 9:04 am
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    Having left a life where these intimate associations with nature were second nature to me about ten years ago, now, I am truly grateful that someone still able to be close to this fine veil between us and the creatures we live with is willing to take the time to dip into the sterile world to which many of us are consigned and share your experiences. People like Lynn, Laura, and yourself (and Dave, too) keep me from losing my mind in the absence of my own deep natural bond.

    So… Thank you. I wish you all happiness and hope in my heart of hearts that her blood lives on somewhere out there.

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  • January 28, 2020 at 3:13 am
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    Thank you for sharing your experiences, that the horses allowed you to see. They clearly trust you and your wife. What a huge gift. I have only just started on my journey with horses, having rescued now five from serious neglect in the last three years, from knowing nothing prior about them. It has inspired a long-range project The Peaceful Horse Project which has a GoFundMe campaign going on, to help the ones in my care now, and to eventually establish a new space where people can learn how to peacefully cohabit landscape with horses and respect the Earth. We need more people like you. Horses have such an expansive effect that all we can do is keep trying to name the nameless.

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  • January 29, 2020 at 5:09 am
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    I just read this. Thank you, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so happy that there is a group of horses near you that have you as their advocate. And I’m so glad you mentioned the spiritual connection. Our society needs to learn and be taught more about our consciousness and energy and connection to each other and all. Did you get the appointment to the BLM committee?

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  • January 30, 2020 at 1:27 am
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    Thank you for sharing this story. This is something that a lot of us horse people know. Almost 12 years ago I had to put my heart horse down – her foal was just 2 months old. When he was 6 months old I moved him to a friend’s farm where she had an old chestnut mare (his mom was chestnut) and Phin had a special “love” for her. A couple of years later one day neither she nor he came in for their breakfast like the rest of the herd…..eventually they appeared. Something was seriously wrong with the mare (we think it was a stroke) and she was having trouble coming down the hill to the barn. Phin stayed by her side step by step until they made it to the barn.
    Fast forward several years….same herd……..the patriarch/leader of our group was getting too old to really be in charge anymore and he was very proud. We had one gelding who figured this out and was trying to push him around BUT my guy (same one with the mare) and another gelding would not let that happen. They would graze by their leader and keep the other one away……thus letting the old guy to keep his dignity and keep his status. Herd dynamics are incredible to watch and this is with our domestic herd!

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    • January 31, 2020 at 9:07 pm
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      My husband and I had 5 horses at one time used for going on trail rides and just having fun. One day I went into the barn and the horses were all in their stalls with the gates open except one. Our beautiful horse coliced outside and we called the vet. We couldn’t save Indy so he was put to sleep as I cried more than I ever had in my life. I am 72 yrs.old now but then I had never experienced horses grieving before.I was around 45 yrs.old and it was devastating for me because I lost one of my best friends and he was the heard boss. The horse just under the heard boss ran out side and over a little bridge and his name was Ruckus. He went around Indy to his head and bowed and went around Indy three times and again he kept bowing at his head. Then he moved off a bit then the next horse came and he also bowed a few times as he went around to Indy’s head. This happened with all the horses except one. Dealer was relatively a new horse, he was with us for maybe 6 to 8 months were as the other ones were with us for years. So Dealer came out of the barn towards Indy and Ruckus wouldn’t let him bow at Indy’s head but he let him do his bowing at his rear. And that motion was repeated as well but only at his rear. I have never cried so hard when I saw this. We left Indy in the pasture so the other horses would know that Indy was gone. But I didn’t realize that they grieved like that, all in order to there place in the heard. They stayed out there for the longest time before they started grazing again. Then they finally came back into the barn but our oldest gelding Pete stayed out side standing side ways in relation to where we finally buried Indy. He was a sentinel guarding his friend Indy. When all the horses came in the barn for the night except for Pete. I went into the barn to feed them and floating around the inside of the barn were Orbs. I didn’t know what these things were until a friend explained them to me. They looked like beautiful clear white bubbles just slowly floating around all over the inside of the barn and around the horses. It was an amazing feeling when I was in there. I had my camera in the locker so I got it and took some pictures of what was happening. I showed family and friends the pictures when I would talk about Indy and they couldn’t believe what they saw. They were as clear as can be. For years the pictures stayed like that but one day we got talking about my friend and family member Indy and I took out the pictures to show them and the Orbs were gone totally. They never returned into the pictures after that. I wished they didn’t leave so I could show other people and they would believe me. But I eventually got to show all of the pictures to all my love ones and then I guess that was meant to be. They just disappeared !!!!!! But the people that got to see them could not believe what they saw.They were stunned to see what I saw in picture form. Thank You for reading my post about grieving horses. They do grieve if you let them. So if you loose a horse let his or her pasture mates out to do their grieving.

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  • February 3, 2020 at 3:48 am
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    Years ago, a boarder’s old gelding broke his leg while running in the pasture. My husband & I saw it happen. I ran to the horse who was still standing on three legs and chased the other horses away from him until we were able to get the owner & a vet there. The decision was made to put him down & after he was gone, we allowed the herd to approach him. Each one came over to sniff him & they also nipped him to try to wake him up. After most of the horses did this and wandered off, one in particular (who wasn’t even his buddy) continued to nip and nudge him trying to wake him up. First time I ever saw anything like that.
    When we had to put down an old, crippled mare years later, we made sure that her buddy & daughter were able to say good-bye to her. We lost the daughter (13 y.o.) only two weeks later to a strangulated intestine. I’ve always wondered if her grief had anything to do with that. She used to run interference for her mother when everyone was still in the same pasture.

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