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  • Writer's pictureSandra Mendelson

From Patient To Healer: Soda Redefines Himself

A move to Florida led me to volunteer at an equine rescue called ERAF (Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation), helping the horses there with some free scanning and photopuncture services. When I first met Soda he was tethered to the ceiling, two months into a four month immobilization to rehabilitate a broken elbow. A formerly majestic and accomplished dressage horse, we knew only that he survived substantial abuse and trauma and was almost euthanized by a former owner. Supposedly unable to eat hay without choking, he was fed a liquefied feed that ended up running all over his chest daily. His spirit was seemingly broken. When I approached him, he kept repeatedly pointing towards his broken elbow with his head and I heard him say: “how can I live if I can’t work? Don’t waste your time- go help some other horse”.

I could think only of pro athletes with career-ending injuries who have to reinvent themselves and use other skill sets. Everyone at the rescue committed to speaking only in the present and ditch the talk about Soda’s former accomplishments. We talked to him about why we need him now, what he symbolizes for us, how he makes us strive through adversity by his example…and how he makes us want to be better ourselves.

After a couple of weeks, we noticed his disposition changing…he even appeared a foot taller as his body responded to the therapy, which he came to love, and typically relaxed and yawned throughout the entire session. The veterinarian even gave him the ok to discontinue traction. He began walking around the paddock with his head held high, bordering on a swagger.

But then Soda did what I could not have anticipated.

One of the volunteers had a devastating personal tragedy…and unleashed her sorrow in the safety of the barn, crying on Soda’s shoulder. He then licked her repeatedly (something he never did). When I arrived and began his therapy session he became completely agitated, pawing the ground. Then his voice, unwavering, resounded in my head: “SHE NEEDS TO BE ALONE WITH ME TO HEAL”.

Soda had made a very conscious choice; No longer a victim of circumstance, Soda had recreated himself, and began his new life.

(NOTE: Soda has since been adopted by a wonderful couple and is living out his days with his equine buddy Joey at his forever home).

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