In my years of working with horses, I have witnessed some who passed on from this world to cross the rainbow bridge, the hardest part of owning a horse. The one that changed my life forever was the passing of my first horse Elmo a little more than two years ago. Since then I have noticed some bizarre incidents.
Four days after Christmas (December 29, 2010), I found my dark bay almost black Thoroughbred gelding sweating and in intense pain when I arrived to feed in the morning. The vet was out about an hour later and referred us to a nearby equine hospital, MidAtlantic. Upon our arrival at the facility, they took him in right away. It was a really bad colic as his colon was impacted. They tried to keep him comfortable in a large stall as he was hooked up to IV fluids. I spent the day by his side, praying for some good news, but as the day progressed it wasn’t meant to be. His heart was racing too hard for too long, and I had to make the hardest decision of my life. It was like a part of me died with him as I collapsed to the ground when he lay down after given the needle.
Life just wasn’t the same anymore without him as he was my best friend, teacher and confidant. I continued to work at the same farm as I had another horse, a Thoroughbred mare Spicer, who was also broken hearted by his passing. Exactly six months, June 29th, I found that the light bulb in Elmo’s stall had gone out. I thought that was very coincidental. Another six months later, which was a year from that dreadful day, the light bulb in his stall had gone out yet again. Obviously this wasn’t a random occurrence since it happened twice.
This past December, two years later, I was away on the 29th and nothing happened that day. About a month later I was outside at the farm when I heard a strange noise in the sky. I looked up and observed a lone pure white swan fly over the property long enough for me to see him. It was unusual as it was very cold outside and they usually don’t come around. The next day I caught sight of the same swan flying over again. When the light bulb went out the following day (January 29th), I realized that I was visited by an angel!
Most recently, we lost my mare’s dam Spicy this past Saturday. She lived to be twenty-nine, fifteen years after she almost didn’t make it because of a really bad injury to her ankle in a paddock accident. But she made it this far, although her ankle often flared up and was managed with antibiotics. This winter was very hard on her as she was limping around quite often so the vet tried some new antibiotics on her. She looked good for about a week before getting worse again. Then we knew the best thing for her was to let her go. I spent a few hours with her, grooming her and giving her as many carrots as she could eat. It was raining outside so I had kept all the horses inside.
We stood by her stall waiting for the vet to arrive. I left her door open so she could do whatever she wanted, and she slowly inched out into the aisle. When the vet’s truck pulled up, she gathered herself together and walked down the aisle, stopping to see every horse in his or her stall. Last but not least, she stopped the longest at her baby girl’s stall. My tears started flowing upon witnessing this. She knew her time had come and she was ready to go so she said goodbye to her friends before walking outside one last time. Spicer and Scotty, their pasture mate, called to her when she didn’t come back into the barn.
Reality started to sink in for me the next morning. I watched sadly as Spicer ran back and forth from her stall door to the window in the back, frantically calling for her mom. She seemed to settle down once they were outside, but they were all missing their longtime friend. Nearby in a tree, two red-tailed hawks were sitting side by side. It somewhat comforted me knowing that Spicy was reunited with her best friend Dillon who had left us three years ago. Not long after that I heard and saw three noisy blue jays flying around the barn. Obviously Elmo and Dillon were fighting over Spicy as they used to do years ago when they were still at the farm.
Deciding to let a horse go because of pain, injury or sickness is the hardest decision any horse owner eventually has to make. From my experiences, I truly believe that horses often revisit in various ways.
“To place your horse’s need for you to let him leave his failing body above your need to keep him with you - that – is the greatest and purest love.”
“When we think of those companions who traveled by our side down life’s road, let us not say with sadness that they left us behind, but rather say with gentle gratitude that they were once with us.”