Our Horse Star: A Broken Heart, A Broken Hip, A Mended Soul

Star life was a legacy of healing. 

Star life was a legacy of healing. 

It is my passion to witness horses blossom and Star certainly exists in full bloom. Star passed away this summer, but her story is not sad, but one filled with joy and demonstrates the capacity of unconditional love. As a horse I used in my practice, she brought many people joy. It was amazing to see how she could transform the fear and anxiety from the rider into confidence and reassurance. 

For me, Star was a special study in healing. She was an off-the-track Thoroughbred and was actually the first horse with whom I used herbal medicine. When we first got her, she had patches of sarcoids in her cheek. An alternative medicine veterinarian gave me some Sanguinaria extract and the sarcoids fell off to leave new, healthy skin underneath. The hair grew back and she looked as beautiful as ever. 

When I first purchased Star, I bought her as a dressage prospect for next to nothing. Little did I know, horses like her were in very vulnerable positions. Racehorses get passed around, running races until they break down. Then, they are sold as riding horses or even to slaughter. About 25% of all horses sent to slaughter houses are ex-racehorses. Now, I understand that the home my family and I provided was her winning ticket. Her original racing name was "Starterm" and people also called her "P.J." When she came to live with us, I gave her the name, Star.  

When I got her home, I noticed the pin-firing on her front legs. This was a method of blistering the legs in the hopes to resolve injuries. It is not effective and is very painful for horses. She also had a very peculiar sweating pattern on her neck on rump - right where one would give an injection. I could only surmise that she was detoxing from "something" that had been injected into her system while she was racing. 

Star loved her Kansas pasture, which is the most perfect place for animals to heal. In Burlington, my parents have a beautiful horse pasture complete with trees, a pond, and plenty of room to move. She transformed from a skinny, scared horse to a chubby, trusting friend. We would ride around in the pasture and I loved how swift she was, it was like riding a winged Pegasus. My stepdad, Tiny, loved to feed her pears from the trees and she loved to come in for some itching and nuzzle time. 

One day, a special, old stud made his way to Star's pasture and 11 months later, Star gave birth to our wonderful Lilac (a true love child). She was a loving mother to this very strong-willed little filly. In the pictures, you can see the peace in her eyes as she entered into motherhood. 

In 2009, while I was attending naturopathic medical school, I moved Star and Lilac to Portland, OR so that I could begin Lilac's training and work with Star in an equine therapy program I was starting. With it's rainy and cold climate, I kind of knew Star missed Kansas. One rainy day, she slipped in the mud and crushed her hip. With the vet giving the options, I was faced with losing her. But, I looked at Star and promised her I would do everything I could for her, which meant practicing the medicine I had been studying. 

Through the use of tissue salts, homeopathy, and herbs, as well as the amazing work of a gifted acupuncturist, we were able to help Star's crushed hip heal. When she made a full recovery, it left the veterinarian asking me, "OK, so what did you do?" It was then that I realized that if I can heal a horse with a broken hip, I must be capable of good things. 

I remember riding Star for the first time after the injury. It is indescribable to ride the horse you thought a year ago you would have to put down. What an amazing feeling. When you see a horse through a life-saving ordeal, you gain both humility and confidence in yourself. For me, the confidence was just what I needed. That animal also trusts you on a level you have never before experienced. For all the animals I meet, I like to show them that humans are friends, despite what they may have heard. 

Star continued to work as a therapy horse. I believe her days on the track were unkind, to say the least. I had to help her overcome claustrophobia, which all horses have, but Star was an extreme case - deathly afraid of aisle ways, stalls, and wash racks. She taught me a new level of patience and listening. I earned her trust and pretty soon she would follow me anywhere. I know early on in her life she had experienced unkindness from humans, but for the 11 years we looked after her, we know she knew amazing humans. 

Last year, when I moved to Los Angeles, we moved Star back to Kansas to retire. She was so excited to see her pasture, she cantered around and seemed over-joyed. She immediately showed her pasture mate, another Thoroughbred named Sparrow, around as if to say, "See, I told you it was wonderful here."

When I feel like I am not getting recognized for hard work, thanked for something I did, or just lonely, I can feel Star and immediately I know gratitude, appreciation, love, and companionship. She may have began life as witness to negativity and misfortune, but she spent the majority of her life in the presence of human love and compassion. Thank you to everyone who shared in this horse's positive human experience. We never gave up on this horse and because of that, she will never give up on us. Star will live in our hearts forever.