And oh how I loved him.
Several years ago, when I was fairly young, I met the love of my life. I know in many horse stories, young girls profess their undying love for their horses. Then these same girls go find a boy at 16 and give that "love" to someone else. The way I loved him wasn't coy or fickle. It wasn't the typical love between a little girl and her horse.
Dexter was very young when we met. He came to me his 2 year old year; a brazen, disheveled ball of ketchup red disaster. I was young and ill equipped for the task of making him my equine partner, and he was hell bent (or so I thought) on making my life miserable. Countless times he would take off through the miles of desert, showing me every ounce of that blue blooded speed that coursed through his muscles. Through fear, and finally exhilaration, he taught me what it meant to be free of all restriction. That was my first lesson.
Throughout the next few years, Dexter and I fought on a daily basis. I hated him for the most part, with only small glimpses of what the stereotypical "horse and his girl" moments should entail. Though he never bucked me off, I swear that gelding did everything in his power to make my life miserable. From stepping on my toes, running me over, to smashing my knees through panels, we weren't a pretty sight for quite some time. I used to cry and beg my parents to sell him; but every time my mother, who is somehow wise beyond her years, would tell me "just wait". Then of course one day, it happened.
It was like a snap. Something clicked in both of us. I stopped fighting him; I stopped trying to make him something and let him be who he was. And oh who he was; who he was, was a masterpiece. He taught me again. He taught me that day how to let go, how to trust.
We won for several years. That horse and I were the perfection of our sport in motion. He knew every move before I could even think it, I knew every placement of his iron shod feet before they struck the ground. Every inch of his crimson hide was part of me. Thinking back on what we had leaves me breathless. Together, we were known. People remembered us, admired us, respected us. He taught me again, how to be unstoppable, how to be relentless, how to win
Earlier this year, I was out of town at a horse sale, moving forward with my career in the equine industry, and stepping a little further away from the passion of horses and more towards the business sides of things, when Dexter taught me again. I got the call around noon, through the crackling of the auctioneer's call I could here the urgency, Dex was sick. I must have looked like a lunatic clambering over the mounds of people, already with tears running down my face before I knew what was happening. I burst through the doors and immediately called back, no answer. I dialed over and over again, the number of every living soul in the area until I finally got an answer. Dexter had severe colic.
Within an hour they had him head to toe in tubes, ultrasounds and x rays. All with me 1000 miles away and absolutely helpless. I had to sell a horse in the morning, and all I wanted to do was drive the hours back to his side. With the closest colic surgery available being 5 hours from Dex, it was told that he would only have a 20% chance of making the trip and possibility of him surviving the surgery was slim. Over the phone and through suppressed hysterics, I made the decision to keep him at the current vet overnight to see if he could pull through.
The next morning, minutes before I had to enter the sale ring to show off my little mare, I had to make the call to kill my Dexter. I will never put it lightly that I had to end his life. He was euthanized at 7:30 in the morning on the last Saturday of March of 2014, at 16 years of age due to sever colic, ruptured intestines, and internal bleeding. During the last few hours of Dexter's life, he was surrounded by love. My mother who was always a part of his life, my sister and cousin who were blessed to ride him, and my grandfather who initially bought him for me all took turns by his side through the wee hours of the night. My sister, bless her heart, was with him when he was up to sleep. She has told me that he was ready, and he took it with that same fiery pride he had his entire life. My man, the man, went out of this world with pride in his heart and never let them see his pain.
My world shattered that day, but as Dexter taught me; I put a sly grin on my face and put on a show. My horse sold well and within all the smiles of the sale yard, the never ended banter, I wore a grin and honored him that day. Within the trailer walls and hotel room I would fall to my knees quietly and scream silently in my head. It was like I had been shot at close range with a gun, blowing a huge hole in my soul. Though this all happened a thousand miles away, I could feel his soul leave this earth. My love for Dexter is hard to describe in words. It was more than the simple sweet love a girl and her horse, and it was more than the love between a man and a woman. My love for him ran blood deep, soul deep. When soldiers fight side by side and see the horrors of this world, when they prevail, when they fail, when they die for each other it is called being blood brothers. They would do anything for each other and have a connection so deep that time or space can never fill. I loved that horse in such a way. He was my brother, and he will forever be part of me.
Dexter wasn't in this world for as long as I prayed. God only gives us the good ones for those breathless moments to teach us about the world. There will never be another Dexter. Those size 1 hoof prints on my soul will never be filled. But, in every good one I ride, there is a sly little remark from Dexter. A little piece of him shining through that makes me smile. He taught me how to be fair, how to stand up, how to be free, how to win, how to lose, how to prevail, but most of all he taught me what it means to fly.