When My Friend Is Sad, So Am I

You see your friend’s number pop up on your cell phone, and when you answer, you know what the call is about even before a complete sentence is spoken. The tears stream down your face as they surely are on your friend’s.  They said goodbye to their beloved horse that morning. There is nothing more to say at that moment. You share a moment of silence and say goodbye. 

What is it about these amazing creatures that make their loss so hard even when the horse is not yours?  It matters not the horse’s age or what that horse did or did not do during its life. Pedigrees become just words on a page; ribbons lose their shine.  All that matters is that your friend loved their horse and now the horse is gone. They loved their horse even when there was no ribbon from the show. They loved their horse even when another mystery wound appeared on the leg. They loved their horse as they sat in a cold barn into the wee hours of the night as the horse recovered from colic.  They saw past any flaws and just saw love in those big brown, trusting eyes.

As their friend, you wish you had some profound words to help ease the grief. You wish a hug could stop the tears.  Time appears to stand still for days on end. A card never seems to say enough.  I would give up every year end award for them to have one more day/week/month or year with their four-legged family member. 

 The loss makes you realize that each day you have together is a gift.  Hug your horses tight, tell them you love them each and every day, and never forget to be there for each other.



One of Those Hard Barn Days


Today dawned a peaceful Thursday, no snow, no wind, no wretchedly cold temperatures.  The boys were scheduled for their monthly pedicures that had been rescheduled from last week when Mother Nature dumped almost 10 inches of snow on us.  I was in the middle of a typical work day when I received one of those emails that makes you pause, “Dooda is colicking and it doesn’t look good.”  There is that word that strikes fear into every horse owner’s gut – colic.  No, no, no, I thought to myself.  This can’t be happening to Ike’s best buddy, but it was.

Dooda was Ike’s first friend when Ike came to Virginia almost 3 years ago.  Yes, Ike has his brother, but brothers have to like each other.  Doo’s stall is across the aisle in the barn and their paddocks share a fence line.  One can only imagine the conversations they would have at night when we left them alone.  It brought a smile to my face to watch them play over the fence.  Dooda has been the barn’s first alert system to let everyone know when Ike left the farm and then again when we returned.  He never cared what color ribbon his friend had earned; he was just thrilled to have his buddy safe at home.

When I arrived at the farm today, my heart skipped a beat.  I did not see Doo’s grey head staring through his window nor did I see him in his paddock.  I then spied my boys staring towards the paddock at the end of the row.  There I found Ms. C and Mr. D sitting on an overturned water trough while they kept Dooda company.  He was laying down with his legs tucked under him.  The look on Ms. C’s face said so much.  My tears welled up as I approached my buddy.  I called his name and he nickered in response.  I crouched down next to him and whispered encouraging words.  He pressed his head into my chest as I scratched his ears.  It was a beautiful moment that I will not soon forget.

Recent articles online have declared that it is time we accept that animals are sentient.  One noted, “Shouldn’t we stop bickering about whether they are conscious, feel pain and experience emotions?” [http://www.livescience.com/39481-time-to-declare-animal-sentience.html]  I can confirm that they do feel pain and experience the same emotions we do.  End of discussion.  Both my boys today were very quiet for the farrier which is not normally the case.  All the other horses on the farm were also very quiet.  When I stopped to visit with each one, there was a knowing look in their eyes as they stared at me.  I have no doubt that they knew their herd member was suffering.

I helped get all the horses into the barn before I headed home.  My grey buddy immediately lay down with no interest in dinner.  After getting my boys squared away, I went and sat with Doo for one last time.  He sat up when I entered and again pressed his head to my chest as I stroked his neck and cheek.  Was it his way of trying to ease my pain?  I told him to be brave.  I told him how much I would miss him if he was to leave.  I told him to fight, but that I understood if it was his time.  I told him that Ike and I loved him very much.  I hugged Ms. C, kissed my boys, and headed home.

The sad news from Ms. C came late this afternoon.  They had to say goodbye.  Ms. C said that Ike called to Dooda as he walked out the barn doors for the last time and that Dooda nickered back to Ike.  Two dear friends saying their final farewells.  Rest in peace my friend.  We will always remember you.

Gallop Away the Tears

Photo by High Time Photography

One of the photos of Ike and me that my Grandmother loved. Photo by High Time Photography

There are tears in my eyes as I write this post.  My grandmother has had a couple of difficult weeks, and we just received the news this morning that she passed away peacefully in her sleep last night.  I am heartbroken.  She was an amazing lady who almost made it to her 91st birthday.  Earlier this year she moved from the home where she had lived for the past 70 years, 60 of them with my grandfather who built the home.  She was a strong woman with strong opinions.  I can only hope to be half the person that she was.

She was my one of my biggest fans and always enjoyed hearing of my equine adventures.  I would send her DVDs of my rides so she could see us in action.  I recently came across a photo of Ike, myself and my husband that was taken by a friend and sent it to my grandmother to let her know I was thinking of her.  My mother told me that it brought great joy to my grandmother in her final days.

My animals have brought and will bring me great comfort as I deal with my grief.  The dogs and the horses each have their own way of putting a smile back on my face.  The dogs lick my tears from my cheeks and curl up with me on the bed.  The horses softly nicker and nudge me with their noses.  I stroke their necks and ears and share my memories.

I wrote the following a few weeks ago when I was feeling down about her failing health.  I am no Maya Angelou or Emily Dickenson, but it is written from the heart and dedicated to the memory of my Grandmother.

Gallop Away the Tears

I want to gallop away the tears

They just don’t seem to stop.

My heart is breaking and the tears are streaming

Drip, drop, drip, drop.

I escape to the barn

And there I privately cry;

The neck of my trusted steed is wet

As I tell him how hard it was to say goodbye.

He must sense my sorrow

For the only sound one hears,

As I methodically move the brush

Is the falling of the never ending tears.

I want the move with the wind

Hooves pounding the ground below

And gallop away the tears

That flow and flow and flow.

The shared moments and happy times

Are kept in my memory to stay.

I will keep you in my heart always,

It will get easier with each passing day.