June 21, 2013

Too late to cry now

Late in the evening thoughts of my old horse appear out of nowhere. He has been gone for eight months now. Exactly.
How did I spend that day then? Never ever I have had to make such difficult decision in my life. How do you decide to put great animal like horse down? Or any animal for that matter? Or human?
How- I have no answer to that despite of what the horse and I went through that day.
I temporarily traveled into another reality. My escape was Valium. I remember every moment, just like I feel I should, but it is blurred and events were taking place in slow motion. I took him out of the stall. I asked him to go find my father, who passed away on 6/6/2012. I asked him to forgive me for what I was about to do.
There was no way going back once the decision had been made. The horse was the very best thing, very best that happened in my life, gift from God. I remember the very first day when I met him. He was in run pen and riding instructor J told me to go say Hi, because the horse and his owner were looking for rider and maybe new owner. White, flea-bitten, 15 something hands high horse was at once interested in me. I was carrying stirrup irons in my hand, he smelled them and thought what weird human, but I felt we both accepted each other instantly. I was recovering from thyroid cancer.
I wanted to ride him one morning. I asked the groom what time The Horse wakes up. I don't think the groom thought I was serious, but I was. It turned out that the horse could wake up at any time and be ready for a ride.
He became mine. Just mine. He was much like my unborn baby.
He was cool. He smelled like any other horse, but his smell was unique to me. I loved to blow air into his nostrils. I massaged his ears. He almost fell asleep leaning on my shoulder. He had kind expressive brown eyes, and sweet nature. He bit me once, just once, but that was my fault, because my thumb was in his mouth. He has many names: Mr S, Hiro and Shadowfax, just like the horse from the Lord of The Rings. I fell off him, when he bolted, then arrived in the yard and made a sudden stop. I was half way up there, half falling off. New sticky chaps kept me hanging on, but when gravity won, I landed next to horse, on my back. Wow, horse was looking at me from a very new angle. Had he been human, he would have been the person I would have married- and there are not many such people I know in this world, at least I had not met them yet.
He saw something that cannot be unseen once during the ride, and he was in a hurry. When I attempted to slow him down, he started bucking. If I let him run, he took off and galloped. I could not do both, so I hung on for my dear life. No matter what I said, he did not listen. I lost the reins, held on to the mane, lost the stirrups and the fact that I was on the Western saddle, may have saved me from falling. The horse must have had fun. To this day I don't know what he saw or heard and it remains mystery. Legs shaking I dismounted, close to the stable, and he took off leaving me walk home by myself. Poor guy, something scared him. Of course, in hindsight, I know exactly what I, the rider should have done. Sit back, deep in the saddle, keep calm. I leaned forward, nearly holding on to the horse's ears. I was telling him to stop in multiple languages. I was looking at the ground. I was scared too and that told the horse there was reason for running. Grooms caught him in the stable yard. I did not choose the same rout for some time after that, just in case the horse would decide to run again.

I often let him wander around and graze. I was quite happy sitting on his back. Sometimes on saddle, sometimes bareback pad. It did not even enter my mind that he would ever bolt. Our first year was trail riding, and we never had issues, no bucking, running, bolting. He was 100% reliable, but I knew he still had lively part in him and spark in his eyes. I took lessons on him. I knew he was old, so we did not jump many times, but those times when we managed some small jumps, he cantered happily across to jump. Happiness was contagious.
I remember his first colic. I called the vet, all business-like, professional, but inside I was hurting. Poor guy was in so much pain. Worry over something always gave him colic. I promised him not to have to worry about anything anymore. Never.

We had countless good rides and great moments in lessons. He and the riding instructors taught me invaluable things.

All along the horse knew what was happening. Somehow animals know. He was 25 when I got him. I was older, but in horse years he was a senior citizen.
He spoke to me in many different ways in his own horsey dialect. He listened, never judged, never told me to stop crying. He was growing old all this time.  He was quiet, at times looked depressed and wanted help. I did not know what kind of help, so I called the vet, farrier, let some other riders ride him. I brought him his favorite, water melon. I could not bear the thought of him having to leave me one day. He just looked at me straight in the eye: he knew all he needed to know. He knew me. He knew all my secrets. He had sixth sense, which warned me of what was to come one day soon. First I got sick again, and he held me and kept me going. He kept pointing at my neck each and every time I visited him, he told me to get my neck checked. Cancer had returned and had the horse just made an accurate diagnosis? I was sick with worry that I would in fact leave him and there was no one else for him. Then he was just not himself again. Spark in his eyes was gone. He still wanted to go for rides, but could not manage long strenuous rides. Neither could I. He still wanted his carrot treats, but could not chew well. It became a circle of colic and recovery, and then another one.
Did he want to go at that stage? Was he aware that life is in its final stages and death was inevitable? Would he have to die so I could carry on living?

I recovered enough so I could have that one last treatment, miracle cure, that would allegedly be the final step in healing process. I underwent the treatment- combination of many, and I was back. The horse was no longer there

The horse had lovely Stübben saddle and bridle. He had bright green-turquoise feeding bucket. He was always so keen on having his meals and treats. I bought him pink saddle pad- everyone's favorite. Never mind he was a boy. He had most amazing canter. He was always polite and well mannered. He gave me confidence in every possible way. His presence was enough to make me forget bullying and nasty colleagues at work. He gave me countless times of joy and happiness just by being there. I could go and sit with him in the stall and lose track of time. Sometime I did not even want to go home, because there was yet another carrot and kiss to give him.
I had my last riding lesson on him in June 2012.

He departed this life very much same way he came into my life. One day he was here, next moment he was gone. He was buried in the desert, next to his friends. His grave site is quiet, and I have visited it just once. At this time of the year, sun makes the desert boiling hot, and I know the horse does no longer feel cold. Nor is he alone. Good horses and animals like him go to stay with God.

The horse had no longer go through pain, stiff aching joints, difficulties chewing his food. No fear of veterinarian. I pray that he forgives me for what I had to do. I have been told it is the kindest thing to do for sick and/or senior horse. I can't stop wondering what his life would have been like, had I not made decision to euthanize him, but there is no way of returning into the past. No way of getting back the tears I cried, and no matter how many accusations I made to punish myself, he will not be back. Perhaps he has now completed his life cycles and will not return to earth. He is my guardian angel, watching over me. There are not many days when I do not think about him.

Hours later I woke up from Valium induced stupor, I realized I had missed dressage and jumping show at the stable. Husband had driven me home and put me into bed. I knew I was at home and what had happened earlier, but I was still numb with shock and denial. My horse had been euthanized, decision made by me, no one else. Sense of responsibility and accountability weighed heavily on my shoulders. Far too heavy, just like coming weeks and months would prove.

I had cancer, but I also had hope. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew he had given me an opportunity to heal by taking my illness with him.
He had gone to heaven. Good horses like him go to heaven.

Few weeks later I had to ask the riding instructor when the show would be held. He replied that the show had already taken place. Where was I? I was asleep, in another reality, where nothing was real at all.

Life took its time to get better and my healing process began so at least I could function again. To this day my challenges are variable,  anything from numb fingertips to attention deficit issues- origin of this is probably elsewhere, but it is a challenge I intend  to overcome. Sometimes I still wonder where exactly he is? Heaven is enormous- will I ever find him again? Did he find my father, my grandparents, our dogs, my aunt, who passed away when she was in her 40's? Is the horse feeling well? Can he forgive me, just like I have forgiven my father for his sins? The horse became an important and permanent part of my family when we met.

I will look for him.

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