Animal Wise: Remembering Whinnie

Whinnie with dahlia Aug. 2, 2017 SEC

Whinnie, the little horse that could … and did. (Photo courtesy Summit Equestrian Center)

Whinnie was the smallest horse I had ever seen, but she had one of the biggest jobs any horse could ever take on.

I first met Whinnie when a story I was working on for Fort Wayne Magazine took me to Summit Equestrian Center. The dwarf miniature horse was about the same size as a large dog and had some physical limitations which made her life a challenge. Summit offers therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults, but Whinnie’s role was that of ambassador and thriving-with-disabilities spokeshorse.

With her travel-friendly size and easy demeanor, she visited schools and worked fairs with Summit executive director Allison Wheaton. An “Awww” or “Is that really a horse?” would draw people in. Then they’d learn what Whinnie could really do — live fully in every moment and, as Emily Dickinson put it, dwell in possibility.

At the barn, she became a buddy to day campers who loved to braid her mane and dress her up. Her presence opened the way for children and adults alike to talk about the ins and outs of being different and differently abled, and to see their own limitations in a new way.

By the time I began volunteering at Summit as a member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association and as an animal communicator, Whinnie’s physical struggles had worsened, but she continued to show up and do what she could. Sure, there were horses several times her size, anxious ducks, a mischievous three-legged goat, a pig with poor impulse control, excited children, and plenty of other beings on the premises at any given time. She assured me she had it all well in hand.

One morning on my rounds at Summit this spring, I found Whinnie grazing in one of the pastures and immediately sensed some sadness on her part. I offered to share Reiki energy with her — not to cure or fix the sadness or the cause of it; that is never the practitioner’s role — but to bring that divine healing presence to her, and trust it to do whatever was needed in that moment. She agreed and moved a little closer, and I began my meditation.

After a few minutes of treatment, she stopped grazing and looked at me, intermittently licking her lips. Then she came up and brushed against my leg. I stooped down and she took some hands-on energy. I could feel her soaking it in like the sunlight that surrounded us. Several more minutes passed.

Then, with her deliberate amble, Whinnie moved past me, walked up to the pen where the other horses and ponies were hanging out, and stood by the fence. Maybe the sadness was still there and maybe it wasn’t, but she had found a different angle. I joined her, and together we shared the energy with the rest of the equine crew.

When I sensed it was time to go check on the chickens, I looked over at Whinnie. “Got this?” Affirmative. She was still there when I left.

The five Reiki precepts all begin, “Just for today,” — I will not be angry, I will not worry, I will be humble, I will do my work with integrity, I will show compassion to myself and all living things. Whinnie lived and taught them all right up until she passed into the eternal Sept. 1, 2017.

As Allison wrote in her tribute to Whinnie, “the little things really are the big things.”