I brought this little horse into my life with so many grand plans.
When we started, I had a reserved horse who didn’t seem to have a whole lot of faith in his human counterparts. I can’t believe how quickly it came, but we built a bond stronger than I could have imagined in a very short period of time. I was greeted with a nicker as I walked up to the fence this morning (which is something he has not done since the day I brought him home). His eyes were soft, his ears were pricked, and when I went to get him, he lowered his head into the halter. I stood with him for an hour or so before the vet came, running my hands over his coat and scratching all his favorite itchy places. I sat in the aisle in front of him, and he did his best to get as close to me as possible. He alternated between nosing the ground for any lost crumbs from the granola bars I was feeding him, resting his muzzle in my lap as I rubbed his head and ears, and wiggling his top lip all over my head and face, pausing only to prick his ears at the sound of my laughter. His sense of humor never failed to delight me and his slow transformation into this lovey, mush of a horse was one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced.
When we started, I was sure that we had a bright riding future ahead of us. Trail rides and hunter paces and swimming in the river and bareback strolls down the road and beach rides and maybe even some CTR if the opportunity presented itself. It only took a second to bring that crashing down around my feet…but it also only took a second to turn that around and fully enjoy our relationship for what it was. I took a lot of pleasure in simply turning him out on the lawn and letting him graze, watching him happily stuffing his face with as much grass as he could get. I spent more time scratching his itchy places to get happy pony faces out of him. I allowed him to get away with things that I wouldn’t have ever allowed otherwise (he loved to rub his head on my hip, for example, and thats usually grounds for a quick reprimand). He made me laugh with his sense of humor and his patented head tilt. He made me love him more when he sighed heavily and leaned his head into my chest, just because. He made me become a better horsewoman and animal owner by forcing me to think outside of the box during this last month to make sure we could still enjoy our time together.
When we started, I was still a little broken from losing GP. I still miss my old man horse, but Image’s quiet and consistent presence in my life helped me repair the last few cracks. Those cracks will always be visible, as things that get repaired are never truly the same, but that’s okay. Those cracks have knitted enough to where they no longer cause the same acute pain they once did. I know now there are a few more that will take time to heal. It won’t be today, and it won’t be tomorrow, but in time, those cracks will fuse too, and I will be stronger for it all.
When we started, I hadn’t ever fathomed that the end to our story was going to come so quickly. But, life is life and here we are. I held his grain bucket in my lap last night while he ate, my forehead pressed against his, tears streaming down my face, trying to commit his scent to memory as best I could. I took him down to the field to let him graze, and laughed my head off when he flagged his tail and let out the biggest buck I’ve ever seen when he realized he was “free” (on the end of a lunge line). His glee was glorious and heartbreaking in the same breath. My beautiful, wonderful little black horse whose body had betrayed him…the indignity of it all was stifling.
Love Me In Focus, aka Image, a 2001 Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, was laid to rest peacefully at 10 AM this morning. He was told over and over again just how much he is loved, by so many people on this planet. I was in his eyeline until his very last breath. It is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever done, and for those that know me, my list of “heartbreaking things” is longer than it should be. I miss him so much already, and it makes my breath catch in my throat when I realize I won’t go to the barn tomorrow and see him. Just as I wasn’t prepared for life without my crazy red horse, I’m not prepared for life without my silly little black horse either.
The lessons learned here could fill an entire book. The most important one that I can pinpoint right now, amid heartache and tears and the fog of exhaustion, is to never, ever regret a decision that brings happiness into your life. Our story was so short, but in all of my sadness, none of it stems from regretting bringing him home. I was so scared that I was going to fail this horse in one way or another that it never occurred to me that something completely out of my control would separate us. I am so, so, so happy I put aside all of my reservations and became his person. Instead of paying attention to the clouds of doubt and insecurity, I chose to chase after the sun that hid behind all the negativity. There is no getting around the fact that the way things have gone sucks. That’s the simple, ineloquent truth. However, the sum of all of the parts is so much more beautiful than the epilogue.
I got to own an incredible horse who brightened up my life. I shared my heart with him, and, I hope, he shared his with me. That, in itself, is amazing.
Rest easy, my sweet, silly little black horse. Here’s to chasing the sun.