Silverado, Lucky Boy, Horse Manure, and Care of PTSD
David M. Boje, Vietnam veteran riding his horse, Silverado
I David Boje am a Vietnam Veteran of the 1969-1970 War. Somehow Silverado cared for my PTSD, something, I was unable to shake after all manner of therapy, counseling sessions, and self-help of every sort. There is something about the relationship of ‘care’ between a veteran and a horse, that is healing of old wounds.
Silverado and I the Vietnam Veteran, have this kind of Being that is “Being-in-the-world” which is neither affect, emotion, nor empathy, bur rather a “resistance” where we discover how Being “within-the world ‘matter'” in an mood of attunement among “moods [that] have outlined in advance” what I call antenarrative (Heidegger, 1962: #138).
I had this idea and volition, riding Silverado, that a ranch where horses and veterans were with one another, encountering, can be “something that matters to us” both (IBID). The antenarrative can penetrate outline in advance, can touch the resistance between Silverado and me, can ‘matter’ “if it were to penetrate to the innermost core of the Being of something ‘ready-to-hand.’
I wrote this sometime ago: “His bleeding mouth, from chomping on the morning ice and his eye slightly opens, but unseeing. He lay on the ground in his blanket. “I don’t think he wants to live anymore” I dared only say to myself. He lay down and we dug with shovels to reverse the incline of the dessert, so he might get up again. This is a change, Silverado falling to the ground, falling into my past, into the Past and now this “ex-present-to-being” all in-the-midst-of-the-desert (Sartre, 1956: 146). And it is a change that is metamorphosis of spiral, a twirl that is beyond any life-death cycle. Cycle resorts to permanence in “order to furnish the foundation for change is completely useless” Sartre, 1956: 143). This permanence in relation to change is the error Sartre sees that Kant and many others have mad e.
Antecedently there is an upsurge in Silverado’s Being, with a push of his neck, I tip the balance of his shoulders as he gets his front legs beneath the massive body, and he leaps to his feet. He seems lively, and he is pacing, no prancing, as if proud of himself. That was the morning. And when we returned in the evening, Silverado was still pacing. And he had not pooped, nor ate. And that meant something ominous, antecedently, an echo of the future, a Now-Shaping-Confirming confirming that a metamorphosis change was immanent, in the Present Being-Becoming. The Present is not unitary, it is informed by echo waves of the future and Past-Shaping Confirming waves. There are shadows everywhere that temporality has three “ekstases” past, present, and future and they are annihilating each other (Sartre, 1956: 632). This is a polymorphic Quantum Physics of Storytelling, about how time is pregnant with many shadows. By this I mean the positive is only there with its negations. Narrative picks out a monologic and tries to hide all the shadow past.
I walked Silverado around the arena, and then outside to say goodbye to his fellow horse-friends. All greeted him with a farewell nose-rub, except Nahdion, the alpha-male, who of course snarled at him, ever asserting his domination of the herd, even in this moment. The Death spiral has its negation and also its positive in terms of the past-present-future were haunting us. An echo-wave was Now coming into the Present. I walked him outside, beyond the bars of the pen. Ours was an engagement with the oncological twirl of a downward Spiral as we walked in circles in the desert night air. Grace Ann and my coach Toni had the revelation, “Silverado is already dead. His spirit and soul has left his body, and is deciding whether to return. David, he is not coming back!” I cannot believe that to be true. No!
Has he given up on life? I can see why. He was a rescue horse, and we had three wonderful years riding the desert. He never once failed me, never refused to guard my safety. He would ride even when his joints were stiff and they always were. In the first year after the rescue, he needed every sort of supplement, to bring him back to life. The previous owner, his wife had left him, and he did not feed Silverado. Had the gall to try to sell him to my neighbor Pep Gomez who said, “How about this? I take him right now, and my payment is not turning you in to the authorities for animal abuse!” And Carrie and Pep gave Silverado to me, to care for, to befriend, to ride. BY the second year, we could trot and cantor in the desert trials. He hated any patch of water, fearing he might slip and further injure his knees.
Silverado is the safest horse, the most heart-full horse I ever rode. He and I had a heart space. We rode the Life-spiral, had our emotional-volitional tone, and we were seeing what is with a two-edged Heart-Sword of Compassionate Joy. And in the third year of our relationality Silverado lost ground. It took longer to heal his joints, and I could only exercise him in the arena, on a lead line. He was so excellent. He did not need a halter, just wrap the lead line loosely about his neck, and he would walk, trot, and canter (just a little bit). It was longer between rides, this winter, and we both looked forward to the summer. But the echoes of that Future were appearing, too rapidly, in a negating that it was not going to be. “This is not that” (Sartre, 1956: 193)! He took a last sip of water, made a stab with his head at a bit of alfalfa. We walked off into the desert night into a future of negation.
The hole was dug, with a steep incline, and he and I walked straight into that grave. He did not hesitate, except to whirl about and look at the bottom, making darn sure there was no water there. We stood together there in silence.
The first purple glow shot was injected by the vet into Silverado’s neck vein. A silver metal spout, the blood pouring out, and then the tube attached, and the purple flow pushed into the vein to mix with the blood. “Be careful, he may get violent, and kick” said the vet. “No, he won’t. He is my friend. I am his friend. He is a good soldier!” Lately I called him ‘soldier’ because he just was so disciplined, not one of those whiner-complainers. I started to falter. “His legs are buckling!” I proclaimed it! He fell, for the last time, laid down, is more accurate, for the very last time. I eased him downward making sure his head came down gently to rest.
A deep fissure in my Being cannot be filled up with sand piled over a body. Yet the Nothingness of Silverado’s-Being-as-event must be made to be. His breathe expelled after the heart had stopped. The vet said, “That twitching is normal. Never-mind that!”
In the dessert grave, he once again had fallen. He fell the wrong way. His body needed to be reversed, to fit the incline of the grave, made by the tractor. His legs were in the shallow end, his head and neck reaching out the high end. “Leave the halter with him” said Grace Ann. “We can push his head and body around with the tractor” said the neighbor driving the monster machine. “No, not that way! Michael, you are a weight lifter. Together you and I will turn Silverado!” It would be disrespectful to have a machine push, break his skin, the blood ooze out mixed in purple glow. Mike pulled on his legs, and I tugged on the halter to guide his head, and together we moved Silverado. I tied the legs under him with the lead line. “I am leaving the lead line with Silverado, so his legs do not stick out, when the tractor covers him with sand.” I then turned and walked into the darkness. Silverado passed from the Present, and I could not standby watch the next whirl of the process. I heard the tractor roar, and move, as I walked away.”
Not to fret, my new horse ‘Lucky Boy is awesome! He was to become my replacement horse for Silverado, and continue the care Silverado had begun with me.
Boje Riding Lucky Boy at our Ranch in Las Cruces New Mexico
I was picking up manure for my replacement horse, ‘Lucky Boy’ this morning at 7AM, August 17 2-15. I have a two-wheel cart and a plastic tub, and a manure fork. Lucky Boy leaves his manure all about the turn out area, on our 4 acre ranch. So I have to go manure hunting.
We must recognize the existential character of horse manure, how that worldhood is resisted by me the Vietnam Veteran, with manifest human indifference, a particular mood of attunement. When I stroll about the pasture, and “tarry alongside” the “existential-ontological Constitution” of Lucky Boy’s horse manure, it is not a ‘feeling’ and ‘affect’ nor an ’empathy’ or a ‘Rhetoric’, but rather an attunement to the problematic of PTSD, its care, and the possibilities of all the moods involved (Heidegger, 1962: #138).
The problematic of PTSD is the topic of this present investigation, no the ontic of measuring manure piles, or their distance from me, or from the barn. laying about in the turn out area. By picking up Lucky Boy’s manure, I am in an encounter with my own resistance, that is constantly summoned up into the ‘world’, a spacetimemattering that Lucky Boy and I share in ways that “matter” to its “existential constitution” and my own resistance to manure (Heidegger, 1962: #139).
How does sharing the worldhood of manure constitute care for my own authentic Self? Manure-care for Lucky Boy is bringing forth an interpretation of anxiety, a mood of attunement in an “existential-ontological standpoint” I am illustrating here (Heidegger, 1962: #140).
To the extent PTSD is an anxiety disorder, a strange attunement to Being-in-the-world,then there is something about picking up manure, caring for Lucky Boy, that dissolves resistance.
Antenarrative bets-on-the-future, its possibilities arriving and ‘mattering’ for me began with Silverado, our care for one another. Silverado had experience his own PTSD, after years of abuse, by a husband, whose wife had left him, and did not know how to care for, to feed, to pick up manure. Silverado had starved, developed arthritis, his back legs had a kind of wobbly dance, when he moved. His skin became infected, hair feel out. When our neighbors rescued Silverado, the man had the arrogance to actually be trying to sell him. My neighbor, a burly Irishman, replied to his offer, “how about I take the horse and don’t report you for animal abuse!” And my neighbor offered the horse to me, since when I walked up to Silverado, in his pen, he did not back away, and instead licked my hand, came closer and had never done that with a man before, as my neighbor’s partner put it.
We hired a veterinarian to figure out the supplements and shots to bring him back from the dead, and a chiropractor realigned his bones but could not bring him back to former vitality. A farrier corrected his cracking hooves. We even had a psychic predict Silverado’s future: ‘he will be David’s horse for a few years, and then pass on.”
I had ridden other horses since I met Grace Ann Rosile, and we started our life together. But these were her horses, and she cared for them. I just rode them, go off, and went back into my man cave, to write. Silverado became my first horse, but I drew the line at picking up manure. That was not my job.
The “nursing of Silverado’s “sick body” was done in a “solicitude” of “concern” for horse “welfare work” a “factical social arrangement” between Silverado and this Vietnam Veteran, that became something grounded in “Being-with” ((Heidegger, 1962: #122). I was Being-with Silverado, riding him in the arena, and when he was healthy enough on a short trail raide, ‘yonder’ to the pond in the desert. The “factical urgency” of rescuing this veterans and rescuing this horse Silverado, was a way to bring forth awareness of “deficient modes of care”, for example the husband whose wife had left him with a horse to care for, when “‘mattering’ to one another” did not matter, and the “ways of solicitude” that were positive could not be (Heidegger, 1962: #121). The husband was indifferent to Silverado, not even willing to do the average Being-with-one-another, of throwing some feed, a little splash of water into the pen. His readiness-to-hand the basic necessities of life was deficient.
The “Indifferent modes of another” is why the Veterans Administration (VA) is having so many poor results (Heidegger, 1962: #122). there are 22 veteran suicides a day, and 21 of those have not gotten even deficient care form the VA. That is 8030 suicides a year, and in 7 years, its 56,201, which is more than have died in Afghanistan and Iraq combat theaters, combined. The 19,400 veterans who died waiting for care and concern from the VA, is relevant here because it raises the problematic, is the VA providing the kinds of care that ‘matters.’ Horses for Heroes, is authorized by the New Mexico VA, and does indeed service the Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, using equine-assisted riding therapy. However, in Southern New Mexico, there is not yet a ranch that the VA will certify to bringing horse and veteran into an encounter of resistance, that brings forth the moods of attunement.
That is why we have decided to go forward with the Legacy Ranch project, to raise several million dollars, get 200 to 300 acres in Cloudcroft, and start equine ground work, even manure work with veterans and their families (http://veteranstheater.com). It is time to replace Indifferent modes of concern with the readiness-to-hand care in ways that allow veterans and horse to ‘matter’ to one another, in positive modes of solicitude.
Type One Positive Solicitude is the kind that “takes over” “for”, “leaps in” to care in was that are “dominated and dependent”, of “the Other” (Heidegger, 1962: #122. It would have been grand fro someone to take over care of Silverado, give concern for feeding and water, and manure pickup, so that Silverado did not deteriorate.
Type Two Positive Solicitude, is what we envision at Legacy Ranch. It is not doing for the Other, taking over care that the Other can do for themselves. This only disburdens the veteran of care completely. Type Two is to not “leap in for the Other”, but rather to “leap ahead of him” in finding “potentiality-for-Being, not in order to take over, his ‘care’ but rather to give it back to him authentically, as such for the first time” (IBID.).
That is why it was important for Silverado and I to Be-with one another, to care for one another, to resist one another, for our antenarrative relationship to “become free for it” (IBID.).
I become free for care in my own “authentic Being” “with one another” with Silverado because we had common concern of “Being-with one-another” and that made us “become authentically bound together” and care he had from himself and I for myself (IBID.).
Now my everyday Being-with-Lucky Boy, maintains itself “between” experiences of possibility as I “leap forth” in “consideration” and “forbearance” and we are “freed environmentally” (Heidegger, 1962: #123). We are encounterable to one another in our “worldhood” close to one another, caring for one another (IBID.).
And that is why horse manure, picking it up, is part of caring for my Authentic Self, and Being-with Lucky Boy.
Here is a photo from another Veterans Theater Foundation board member, Mike Bonifer. The photo is of ‘Cowboy Bob’ Mike’s Father
Mike Bonifer’s father: Cowboy Bob
See more on Veterans Theater Foundation, and raising money for Legacy Racch