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Full House Farm: Harmony With Horses

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"The lasting revolution comes from deep change in ourselves."
Anais Nin
 
A Tribute to Brannon
Click photos to enlarge. Back to return.
Brannon demonstrates being shod
Christine with Brannon on the trail
Brannon with her buds
Brannon teaching Sophia (4)

 

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Meeting in Deep Places, A Tribute to Brannon

click to enlargeOn June 21, 2005, I had just come in from sitting with my 31 year old mare, Brannon, having let all the horses out into the pasture, including her, at around 5:00. During the summer, they spend the heat of the day inside the barn. Then I let them out to graze during the evening and throughout the night into the morning. Brannon looked very stiff and slow that evening. Her old legs were giving out on her. I went into the house at around 6:00 and when I looked out the window I could see she was already lying down. An hour and a half later she was still lying down. I was concerned and went out to check on her. She sat up when I approached, but when I sat down in the grass behind her she laid her great head in my lap and sighed. The thought entered my mind, “I do not think she can live much longer.”

I loved this mare very much and I hated the thought of having to say good-bye to her. I stroked her neck and kissed her ear and brushed the flies away from her eyes. The evening fog was drifting in and getting tangled in the tall pines surrounding the pasture. Wisps of cool air swirled softly around us, lifting the tips of her auburn mane where it lay on her neck. The smell of crushed grass and earth rose from beneath us. We breathed together. We felt together. The other horses eventually saw me sitting with Brannon and came running over to find out what I was doing. Their arrival coaxed her to rise, but it was very hard for her. I stood for a long time next to her, my fingers stroking her coat where the sun-baked ground had caused her to sweat. I tried to feel what it was she would like me to do for her and I struggled with what she suggested.

Brannon died on Monday, July 25, 2005 at 4:30 in the afternoon. Over the weekend, she was visited by many who loved her, including my friend and animal-intuitive, Katherine Sefton. Katherine told me that Brannon's final message was "Life is good" and "Don't forget". I know this is, indeed, how she felt. She always saw the very best ways to feel good and never dwelled on the stuff that felt bad. “Food is good!” she would always say. If she had to establish clarity in any given situation, she did so rapidly and with enough focus to get the job done and that was all. “What’s the big deal?” was another of her mainstays. Peace reigned in her presence.

I had the pleasure of sharing my life with Brannon for nearly ten years. She was not a young filly even then. She was stoic and self-assured; the best leader I have ever known. When I took her down to my mother's place in Los Altos Hills, with the intention of having her work as a school horse there, she ran up and down the 3-acre valley non-stop until her nose bled and her legs were giving out. Even then, she did not stop. She insisted on leaving! Although, it is only in retrospect that I can see why (the energy there was enormously unbalanced at the time,) I did at least "hear" her demand and promptly brought her up here to Sebastopol, totally unsure of what the heck I was going to do with her. I had not started teaching here yet, focusing all my attention on the business in LAH. As it turned out, she knew better than I what was up. I closed the 20-year old business in LAH only six months later!

From the time she started helping me teach here, she showed me a way of being that far surpassed that of any human I knew. She was a quiet rock, a gentle home to which I could return, a pillow of calm. She let toddlers brush her legs, kiss her nose and wobble around on her back. She stood still while adults who had never had the experience of sitting on a horse, and had craved the experience for a lifetime, beamed with joy at doing so in such a safe way. If she was confronted with an unusual experience or something startled her, she would merely plant her four hooves, hold her space and determine how to keep it hers. She held many who carried memories of past injuries, both emotional and physical, silently absorbing their tears with her soul to soul connection. In fact, her greatest gift to me and to everyone was her gentle coaching of the language of the soul.

Perhaps her most devoted fan was Lyric, a 23 year old mare who has been with me since her birth. Lyric followed Brannon's every suggestion, stuck close to her everywhere she went and fretted if Brannon was out of sight. Brannon always confidently ambled her way around the pasture and left it to Lyric to make sure the rest of the herd kept up. As Brannon ventured out less and less, Lyric would stay within sight of Brannon even as the rest of the herd browsed in the farther reaches of the pasture. If the group went too far away for Lyric to feel congruency, she would run back and forth, calling out until the entire herd would run back to be with Brannon. Even though the upper regions of the pasture had better grazing, Lyric insisted on this togetherness so most of the grazing was done near Brannon.

At 31 years old, Brannon's chestnut coat was glossy and dappled. She loved food and needed very little of it to keep her weight. Although her back had dropped a bit, she held a profile that could take your breath away. Her eyes were deep, kind and thoughtful. Like an old sage, she had a long beard that would halo her soft muzzle in the morning light and tickle your cheek when she gave kisses or searched your palm for treats. Her mane was long, straight and graying near her withers. In fact, she was graying considerably on her face.

On Monday, the day she left, I let her roam where she pleased after lunch and she chose to lie down in a soft bed of shavings just outside the tack room. The forest canopy shaded her, rippling dappled light over her coat. She breathed easily and held her space with quiet knowing. I sat by her head, my fingers absently playing in her mane, tracing the graceful curve of her ear or brushing flies off the paper-thin skin on the side of her old muzzle. Looking into the woods from where we were, I was struck by the awesome beauty of our surroundings. Light filtered down in beams and birds fluttered like leaves from the branches to the ground seeking seeds and bugs. Layer upon layer of green danced away from us into infinity. Brannon and I were in transition and I was lovingly reminded, “The dance is never over.”

For several nights I tossed and turned, struggling with the thought that I made the decision to put her to sleep. Thanks to the lessons so consistently offered to me by the horses, Brannon included, I began to consider what desire this sense of pain in my heart was creating. I concluded I want to develop relationships with younger horses so I can be with them for many, many years. I understand more thoroughly the necessity of caring immaculately for their legs and general physical health so the chance of their death being natural is increased. And most importantly, I will continue to strengthen my connection with them on a vibrational level so I feel comfortable with how I am with them, whether they are in a body or not.

Just the same, my uncertainty about the belief that I had “played God” by calling the vet and having him put Brannon to sleep gnawed at me. That is, until a few mornings ago. Just before sunrise, when the roosters had not even begun to crow yet, I lay in bed, hovering between sleep and awake. I was "watching" all the herd browsing on loose hay. I could only "see" their noses. All their noses were together, like they often are when they are sharing food, and I was enjoying sharing the moment with them. Suddenly, I realized one of the noses was Brannon's. As soon as I realized this I got the sensation she was laughing and saying, "I was wondering when you would notice!"

The next instant, I got a picture of her with a student on her back. We were in the gravel parking lot at the head of the trail and I was on the ground by her left side. She did something she often did; she pushed her nose against the halter, sliding the reins out of the rider's hands to go where she wanted. This graceful, strong-intentioned move was distinctly Brannon’s and I recognized her instantly for that picture. Of course she would show up to me eating food, so I would know she was fine and happy! Of course she would remind me that she only goes where she wants to go, so I would know the decision was hers to leave, not mine! For all the connectedness I have with her and with all my horses, I forgot that sometimes ideas and subsequent actions come from deep places. I realized my decision to put Brannon to sleep was in response to her asking long before the actual physical action was taken. I believe that Brannon’s asking was complete on June 21, 2005 when she laid her head in my lap. I had felt her and in this feeling of us together I had agreed on a plan with her. What a generous, loving gift Brannon offered me in those two brief images. How smart she was to make the offering at a time I was most likely to be receptive, in that limbo state of light sleep just before dawn. How I love her for her generosity and knowingness!


The following is a letter to Brannon written by Gail Hamlin, one of Brannon’s many students, when she heard Brannon had left.


Dear Brannon,

Yes life is good...thank you Brannon for the reminder ---I want to always keep track of that fact. And "Food is good", too, remember? And "What's the big deal?". Those two almost famous "Brannonisms" have pooped, Whoops!, I mean popped, into my head on at the appropriate moments. I have to say though, that "Don't forget" is the message that rocks my world. What first comes to mind is what does this really mean??? Then a stream of responses:

Don't Forget:

Who You Are

Only You Are

We're All Connected

Love Is Leadership

Leadership Is Love

Honor All That Is

Be Grateful

Appreciate All Offerings

You Are Source Energy

All You Need Is Love

There Is Much, Much More---but you get the idea!

I am very grateful to have known you Brannon for these two years--- such a giant, loving spirit and wonderful teacher of great leadership. I WILL REMEMBER.

With love and gratitude,

Gail

 
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