A little bit of Heaven

Horse heaven in the hell of war


by Hugh van Skyhawk

About a year and a half ago I found a lame pregnant mare abandoned on the roadside near Islamabad. She had been standing there eating garbage and drinking dirty water for some months. Her time was near and I couldn’t bear the idea of her foal entering this world some two to three meters away from heavy traffic. I am sure you all know that foals stand up and practice running with their long new legs about an hour and a half after birth. So, I couldn’t let the mare stand there and let the inevitable happen, i.e. foal crushed under the wheels of a lorry, mare hit by another heavy vehicle while trying to save foal. (I know all of this is hardly as interesting as the oh so important jet travels of vacuous Hillary, the camera posturings of steely ‘Obomba’ guiding the ship of state through the camera lens of a Seal storm trooper, or the ash-grey deadpan of beady-eyed McMullen looking for someone or something new to attack and destabilize.).

But, every great human conflict has a symbol which evokes its horror, like Sergei Eisenstein’s runaway baby carriage, for example, or the Serbian propaganda films of Ratko Mladic warmly interacting with Bosnian villagers assuring them that their loved ones were only being evacuated for their own safety and not being transported to their deaths a few hours later, or the news snapshot of that ARVN officer blowing out the brains of a Viet Cong suspect with his Colt 44 officers’ pistol, or that screaming Vietnamese child burning with napalm trying to run away from the horror of what is glibly called “collateral damage”.

Such images passed before my mind’s eye as I stood looking at that forlorn, crippled, abandoned, and pregnant mare. So, I took her with me and put her in a posh local stable where she was cared for like a Pakistani Sea Biscuit in training for the Belmont Stakes with brushings, combings, cooling baths, leg massages, and extra rich fodder to get her ready for the birth of her foal.  She adapted to her new role as pampered horse with great dignity, probably thinking that the humans had come to their senses and were finally treating noble equines such as herself as they deserve to be treated. After some weeks, the mare, now named “Beauty”, stopped trying to bite my hand when I fed her and even looked up from grazing when my car entered the parking lot of the stable.

In due course, almost a year ago now, she brought a wonder of creation into this world: a finely proportioned well developed little brown filly. How could this be possible, I wondered, after eating garbage and drinking dirty water for at least four months of her eleven month carrying period? “God is great.”, said one of the stable hands in a matter of fact tone. “Yes, God is great.”, I  replied, and He is always very near in a disaster area, I thought to myself.

One day not so long ago, my wife, Martina, who works with abandoned, abused, and traumatised Pakistani Christian girls, suggested that ‘Beauty’ and the girls, all victims of great cruelty, help each other in coping with their situations. Martina brought a group of twenty-six girls to the stable to meet ‘Beauty’ and her young ‘daughter’, ‘Lucky Lady’ , feed them carrots, pet them, and sit on ‘Beauty’s’ back for a minute or two. The children, the mare, and the filly got on famously and everyone, horses and children, was a little less traumatised at the end of the day.
I am attaching two photos of this therapeutic encounter.

With best wishes and my humble salaam,

Hugh van Skyhawk

2 thoughts on “A little bit of Heaven”

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