It was planned - he's been going slowly downhill over the last year, and between his choke issues, the lesions around his eyes and nose getting worse, and his hind-end coordination issues, we decided that another winter would be very, very hard on him and that the best choice was to let him go now, on a beautiful fall day, with his buddy Reddums with him. Although I wasn't able to be there (the retirement farm is over 3 hours away), the BO told me it was quick and peaceful and he was ready to go. He was 28.
I was very lucky and got to visit him one last time about two weeks ago when we made the decision. I fed him a lot of (very tiny) carrots, took some pictures, and eventually cried in his mane for a long, long time. He's never been one for emotions or hugging, but he let me do it this time. And then he let me know, in that way that he does, that he wanted his ears rubbed. This is something that he's only ever done with me... it's a special thing we have. He'll show me where he wants to be scratched, and I'll do it as long as he wants.
As I gently rubbed his forehead and stroked each ear, I cried as I talked to him about all the times I'll always remember. How we met. Some of our first rides together. Moving to Maryland together. The day he figured out he could do a medium trot and how he wanted to do it ALL THE TIME for a month. That time we went foxhunting and it was a disaster. All those amazing cross-country rides we had. Schooling prelim. Bad trail rides. How shocked I was during a lesson with a GP trainer when she asked me to do a canter half-pass and he just... did it. That time we jumped 4'9. How I could always, always trust him. Except for that time he dumped me when I was riding bareback and he saw some minis. How much he HATED the vet. Those times when he did jousting or mounted combat even though he was fairly certain I'd completely lost my mind. How many miles the two of us have logged during late-night hand walking for colic. How he would get to be with his BFF Saga again soon.
We stood together for what seemed like forever, just being together. Eventually, eventually, I stopped crying and just felt... peaceful. He could always do that for me, help me find and ground myself and be at peace with the world. He could always get me to listen a little better, to be a bit more introspective. I think that's one of the greatest gifts horses give us. It's certainly one of the greatest gifts he gave me and one I will treasure for a lifetime.
Nobody could ever possible ask for a better first horse. His very being has shaped me into the person I am today. He's been with me for my entire adult life (21 years, literally half of my life), and I have made so many life decisions in part because of him. I moved to Maryland because of him. I focused on dressage because of him. I married my husband because of him. We have Wyvern Oaks because of him. His legacy will live on with us.
Fare thee well, my friend. Thank you for a lifetime of beautiful memories. I will miss you, and I will never, ever forget you.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Mauldin