Horses bring a great deal of enjoyment into one’s life, no doubt. You work hard to learn about and teach each other. If you have been together long enough, you are able to anticipate each other’s thoughts and moves. Each other’s lives are enhanced, and you journey to places perhaps never thought of before. A special bond is established.
But what happens when that special bond is broken? The loss of a horse partner is difficult to experience, regardless planned for or not.
For my wife and I, it was 1968 when the horse discussion was first expressed. We had become serious enough about each other that we shared future plans and goals. I wanted a house big enough to support a racquet ball court. She wanted horses and enough land to support them.
It took 4 decades, before some of those plans and goals were met. The racquet ball court has not nor, at this point in my life, will ever come to fruition. However, two horses entered our lives. Both of them Arabians. One is registered, the other adopted.
My wife and I undertook the responsibility of working around horses later in life than many may think is the appropriate time. We were not spring chickens when we started. She was sixty when she began, and I followed her shortly after I retired. Riding gave us the opportunity to spend more time together which we were unable to do while we both worked.
Our horse adventures started when I bought my wife a coupon for a trail ride. A month or so after receiving her gift, she and a friend used the coupon. Two months later they both were taking riding lessons. A year later they both owned horses. Occasionally I would take a day off work to watch my wife. There was always that smile. Two years later, I became a horse owner and smiled more.
Now, we find ourselves planning trail rides around our vacations. As an added benefit many new friendships have formed.
It is important to be active as one gets older. Being in the company of horses is certainly a good way to insure an active life. They provide companionship, physical and mental exercise, and an active social life.
Caring for horses allows us to maintain a pretty good exercise regimen. They have to be fed, groomed, and ridden. Carrying the tack and saddle to and from the tack room certainly helps with the cardio and strengthening exercises. Implementing the lessons taught by the riding instructors keeps the mental acuity sharp.
Activity with our horses insures we don’t lose contact with humans. We ride with other humans and afterwards frequently dine with them. Occasionally we take our horses and accompany friends to various equestrian events away from where we board our horses. This gives us the opportunity to meet even more like-minded people.
I adopted my horse, Aztec, in March of 2015 from Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union, Missouri. Aztec was fifteen when I adopted him. I was sixty-five. Aztec and I became fast buddies.
Aztec’s life with the previous owner was harsh. He and the herd of horses he was with were severely neglected. Fortunately, his herd was rescued from that life by the Humane Society of Missouri. It was one year later when I came into Aztec’s life.
Before becoming a horse person, though, I had a different opinion of horses. I respected them but found myself intimidated by them. For that reason, I did not have much need or desire to include them in my life. They are big animals who live outdoors. To get involved with one on a regular basis, I believed, would be burdensome. One would need acreage to house them and I have no desire to live a rural life. So, I did not see horses fitting into my lifestyle.
I have since overcome those inhibitors. I set many goals for Aztec and me. Together we surpassed many of them. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time together to complete them. Aztec’s sudden death was a very hard pill to swallow. I was not prepared. He and I were going to experience many adventures for years to come. I believed we would retire from active equestrian activities at the same time. And now I am left only with memories of what was and what could have been.
Those of us who have allowed a horse to enter our lives knows the difficulty of losing one. It equates to losing a member of the family.
For me, it was the knot in my belly leaving him the night before he passed away and suspecting it would be our last goodbye. The knot tightened the next day when receiving the unpleasant phone call confirming his death. The day of his death, I was terribly hurt. And then came sadness. Then realization set in. There is no more tomorrow for the two of us. Death is final.
Many emotions and thoughts have to be dealt with:
The “What ifs” even though everything possible was done.
The “I wish I hadn’t” or the “I wish I had” thoughts.
“Could I have done anything different to prevent this?”
How to react when your buddy doesn’t come to you when called?
What do I do with the stuff, tack, saddle, etc?
What do I do now? Keep riding (another horse) or give it all up?
There is, of course, comfort in knowing joy was brought to both of us. And that helps. He was a good dude!!
The future? Only time will tell!