From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

A Procession for Kohen

Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks, without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Ambrose Bierce

As with most of our horse rescues, this one began with a phone call. An ex-race horse, winning nearly a million dollars but no longer able to breed was now considered useless by his owner and being readied for slaughter. The call came from an employee of the stable who had grown attached to the horse and was hysterical at the thought of his fate.Would we please accept him? Two weeks later, Kohen would arrive at our facility.

I placed Kohen in isolation until the vet could examine and geld him. The surgery was a miracle in itself as it would prove, due to massive infection, the horse was lucky to be alive. Life had not been easy for this big, beautiful stallion. His legs showed signs of pin firing and he had been nerve blocked—both legal procedures performed to permit a horse to continue racing with injuries but without being aware of his pain. Definitely not the miracle fix it appears to be. Kohen could no longer feel the lower part of his legs, causing him to walk with a stiff, robotic gait. Unable to feel a touch, in order to lift his front feet, he had to be thrown off balance. Over the years, the effect of these procedures would cause unimaginable damage to his back.

Kohen was an easygoing horse. He loved people and got along well with all the other horses. In fact, they had developed a deep-seated bond that even I wasn’t aware of.

Several years had passed when one afternoon I noticed Kohen and another horse, a mare, romping and playing in the field. Fascinated by their antics, I watched them for awhile. They were having such great fun when suddenly the little mare bumped Kohen off balance and he fell. Try as he might, he was unable to get up. I ran to him and with much maneuvering and an adrenaline rush, I positioned myself under his back end and lifted him to his feet. Still struggling, he was up but I didn’t know for how long. I telephoned the vet.

The vet arrived, checked Kohen thoroughly and told me that I had done everything possible. He explained that the many years of added stress on Kohen’s back, due to his compensating for his front legs, had caused his spine to give out. He said the humane solution would be to euthanize Kohen.

Horses normally run from illness or death of another horse, but to our amazement as the vet prepared to release Kohen from his pain, all the other horses gathered around him. As I tried to hurry them off, they pressed tighter and tighter against Kohen, as if to embrace him. As Kohen passed away, I watched in awe as the horses very slowly and evenly parted, easing his lifeless body to the ground.

I covered him and waited for my husband to come home from work. When we returned to the field, Kohen was uncovered. Scuff marks and patches of missing hair were evidence that his devoted pasture mates had tried to wake him, to get him to rejoin the herd.

As we raised Kohen to move him to the back ridge we beheld a sight we had never seen before. Eighteen horses, one following immediately behind the next and with their noses to the ground, formed a procession and followed directly behind us to Kohen’s gravesite two fields away. Total silence from all except, at the very end of the procession, our little donkey mournfully braying.

When Kohen was placed in his grave and covered, his loyal companions returned to their fields. The little donkey would cry until the chimes of midnight.

What was this special bond and why with this horse? Maybe the others realized that, other than my husband and me, Kohen had no one. After the hundreds of thousands of dollars he won and the many, many top race winners he produced, he was callously discarded. Not seen fit for anything but slaughter by anyone but one determined employee who thought he deserved more in life.

I’ll never forget and probably never again see, eighteen horses and a little donkey in a proud procession to lovingly say good-bye to their forever friend.

Sissy Burggraf

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