Photo Challenge & Poem: Transformation


The old gelding’s eye sockets are hollow
or maybe he’s pulled his gaze inward. Once
a trumpet blast of a colt, now he rocks back
on a hip, withers peaked high. His rebar

spine exposed to the crest of his tail. He
favors that thicker knee. Is he happy?
If it matters to this stoic horse, he doesn’t
show it. Ears pinned, he defends his hay in

a solitary pen. Mid-morning he drags hooves
to open ground, neck stretched long, seeking
the warmest soil. One hind hoof steps under,
the other teeters, joining to keep balance.

The gelding turns a step as his steely back
arches, his haunches vibrating. He crouches
but takes one more turning step. The arthritic
knee can’t bear the weight, so the other takes

the extra burden. Every worn-out part of his
body compensates for something else worn-out.
For a quivering paused moment he tenses to
hold himself. He means to lower his body but

muscles have wasted away. His crouch goes
deeper and still he holds. Craving the ground
but resisting the fall, until he can’t. Dropping
hard, he releases a moan from some place gone

dark. Some place that remembers a lusty gallop.
A tick of relief in the friction of a roll but it’s
not safe on the ground. Anxious prey, he labors
back up on brittle legs. If this old gelding roamed

free, a predator would have claimed him long
ago. Instead he lives in limbo, never running
but still breathing. Lives in limbo, under the
appraising eye of a predator …who loves him.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning summer clinics in Scotland and the UK.
2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. And then I write a poem. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)


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Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Photo Challenge & Poem: Transformation”

    • It’s complicated… While this is a photo of my Grandfather Horse (gone more than a year) I have elders in my barn now. It’s a conversation that never ends: Balancing our love with their nature. Thanks, Sharon.

  1. . . . you know my Danny, Anna? Of course you do. I would only add something about the long hours spent stretched right out catching all the sun possible to warm those weary bones. Thank you. You made me cry but . . so does he at the thought of losing him. I’m listening closely.

    • Some take the relief of lying down and some don’t, for reasons of anxiety, but watching the process of laying down says a lot, too. Keep breathing, Barbara. I do know…

  2. Yes, tears and an ache in my heart for the vivid picture your words brought. So hard to let them go, but so cruel to keep them here. Before mine get to this point they are gone.

  3. Anna, again you play my heartstrings. We have such a mare wobbling around. So frail the winds could knock her over. I believe she stays for now because her owner still needs her. Thank you sharing your beautiful prose and sentiments.

    • Cathy, I hope you can have a conversation with her owner… I hate hearing of a horse so frail going into winter… Good luck, and thank you for the bittersweet comment.

  4. Give thanks for the gift of loving your friend into old age. I lost my beloved unexpectedly when she was 12. I would have loved have had more time and watch her age along side me.

  5. Is love so selfish? Or is it obsession disguised as love by self absorbed humans. Pretty amazing how you are able to broach such a painful subject in an enlightening way. Letting old horses go is so sad because of the years spent, but it’s 10x worse with a super talent young horse that’s already racked up deep 5 figures of vet bills with experts still scratching their heads. The passing of an old horse can still be celebrated with the gift of a fantastic life. I hope your post inspires the liberation of suffering!

  6. I lost my beloved Sherman in the spring of 2016. He was just over 21 ish, had been a service horse most of his life. He was a companion horse to an aging horse and rode his owner through the desert, then when his companion horse died, he was entered into a therapeutic riding program. He was the kind of horse who would over work himself to compensate for people who did not have balance. He was a part mustang, a beautiful spirit, also very whoa, hard to make him go… now I realize it was probably because going hurt. In the end he became neurologic and after my wonderful vet explaining about three times that the arthritis on his neck was pressing on his spinal cord and keeping him from feeling his back legs, I was finally able to digest the idea that he was not going to get better and the most humane thing I could do was to let him go. I made the plans and invited the people I knew would be supportive and proceeded to go quietly insane during the process. It took awhile before I could deal with the world again. I do celebrate his life of service, the last part being the best friend of this older yet new to horses lady. He was so stubborn (and wise), so hard to make move (he hurt – I am sooooo sorry I did not realize that at the time).

  7. Mine’s a mare, still looking outward and it’s a fetlock more than a knee but the time is nearing… your words touch a little too deeply this time but are perfect, nonetheless.

    • I have four in my barn that fit the description and an elder dog. It does touch deeply. Take care, Cat. Give your good mare a scratch from me.

    • The thought of what it means to a horse to have chronic lameness; for that matter what responsibilities we have when we get in the way of nature, have always fascinated me. And yes, it is really sad for us humans to lose an animal we love. I hope that we will start to think about their side of it more. I think they suffering horses go through might be worse than ours. But Susie, you aren’t new to horses; I’m not telling you anything you don’t see every day… Wishing you a gentle winter up there.

      • Yes, had to put down a lovely horse at 17 a few years ago the first week of October as it was looking so difficult to get down or back up off the ground. And winter was on our heels. Enough said. ? Thank you for writing about it.

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  9. Heartwrenching. For a horse so described, not able to run but too wary to truly rest, death seems kinder. But oh, to have to make that decision! I am so grateful that Russell, the horse in my header that I gave to a retirement home, was able to lay down and relax in the presence of his herd AND his caretaker, and when the time came (because he could no longer rise), to be held and fed carrots to the end (even though typing that out brought tears again)….

  10. It has been an honor for me to witness the grace of aging equines on several occasions. I have been lucky in that each one demonstrated quality of life until they didn’t, thereby making it very clear to me that I needed to step up and arrange for them to be freed from the earthly bonds of pain and suffering. I’m still trying to assimilate their wisdom of acceptance; being of the elder age bracket myself. Anna, your writing always conjures such vivid pictures in my mind…..thank you.

    • Wonderful comment, Laurie. I confess, sometimes I see grace and sometimes there is nothing romantic about it. The pain is obvious but I don’t think people necessarily read it well Thank you, glad your experiences have been so “postitive”.

  11. “A predator…who loves him.”

    I was able to hold back the tears…til that. I don’t know how I’ll make it when Dodger gets there.

    • Once we take them home, once we domesticate them, we become their only predator. It’s our job when the time comes. You’ll manage it if you really love him above your feelings. (I think you do…) There. I think I finally said it bluntly. Michelle, I’ll tell you how I manage it, for all the times with my animals or other people’s. I breathe. Nothing but breath and love. Take care, my friend.

      • Your repeated reminders to “breathe” have been key for me. I don’t know that breathing makes ME feel better, but I trust it makes the ANIMAL feel better, and to have something to focus on that helps THEM, helps ME. Thank-you again, Anna.

  12. Those perfect and gut-wrenching descriptors paint a scene that could only come from having been called to decide what is fair. I’ve only had to choose for a beloved Jack Russell that looked into our eyes until the end. We love them too dearly to see as clearly as we should . Thank you Anna- beautiful poem.

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