When I was growing up, I asked my parents for a pony every Christmas or birthday for about seven years. We lived in the country and had a sufficient back yard (I thought) to accommodate such a “pet.” I knew absolutely nothing about raising a horse, it just seemed like a good idea to me. Fortunately for me, my parents did know about the costs and upkeep of horse ownership, so they ignored all those requests.
A few years ago, Matt and I began to talk about how perfect our place was for a horse. We have a barn and a fenced in meadow that would support exercise. We have the means to provide hay and oats. We both love animals. Coincidentally, Matt was working with a woman who needed a home for her childhood horse — a State Fair winner named Princess. We met Princess and I fell in love immediately.
What a beauty! She didn’t like to be ridden (although she’d allow it). What she enjoyed was being brushed, groomed, and told how gorgeous she was. I willingly obliged her by spending an hour or more every day making her golden coat gleam. I began to understand why some people swear that horses are intuitive and have a special connection to humans.
Princess would come running from the back of the meadow if she heard us approaching. She always knew which pocket to nudge to find the carrot or apple. She would stand very still and cock her one foot when being groomed and seemed to nod agreement when told she was beautiful. She adored small children and was patient with them at all times.
One morning I walked into quite a mess in the barn, more than usual. Unthinking, I said out loud, “What in the world happened here?” and this really upset Miss P. She stomped her foot, ran outside when the door was opened, and refused to let me groom her until I had apologized. She, like so many of us, did not like criticism!
After a few years, we noted with concern that she began fall often. Sometimes she struggled to get back on her feet. It started to happen more frequently and with longer down times. Finally, one day she just couldn’t get back up at all. After hours in the rain, Matt called the vet. He came out and we all tried to help her, but it was clear that she was not going to be able to get up.
I sat in the pasture in the mud and drizzle, holding her head in my lap as we watched her leave the pasture for the last time. Now when I go up to the barn, I can see her running and tossing her head. I can see her chomping the hay. I can see her cocking her foot and waiting for a carrot. But part of me will always be in the muddy meadow, holding that golden head in my lap and sobbing.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.