It's been two years since Mo breathed his last breath, under an old oak tree in east Texas on an uncharacteristically warm October day. It had been a long time coming. I said my goodbyes and was confident that I was doing the right thing, but it still hurt.
It's never easy saying goodbye to a friend.
I've been wanting to tell Mo's story for some time now, but haven't known where to put it. I think I'll share it here.
I bought Mo when I was 18 years old. He was 5, fresh off the track, skinny, and ornery. He was $950, the cheapest in the bunch of horses that had just been "retired" from a small stable in central California. I offered the owner $900. With floppy rubber boots on her feet and a cigarette between her lips, she croaked out a firm "NO!" and $950 it was.
Over the next two years, Mo and I became great pals. He wasn't easy, but he was fun. He was a flashy mover, and a real "thinker" - an opinionated sort who bucked off my first boyfriend within seconds of him mounting and was very clear in his preferences for me over others.
A few years down the road, though, I found myself at a crossroad. I had started paying my own bills and guess what? HORSES AIN'T CHEAP. I came to the conclusion that I would need to sell Mo. And sell him, I did.
I sold him for only $1,000 - just $50 more than I had paid for him, and this with a couple of years of training and tons of trail miles under his belt. Unfortunately, though, he had done poorly on a pre-purchase exam. He was showing signs of navicular. I wasn't in a position to turn down the money when I was so comfortable with the home he was going to, and I wasn't in a position to shoe and maintain a navicular horse should I have kept him. And so, he went to a new home.
His new home was at a very large boarding and training facility in Southern California. I kept up with him. I visited every now and then and watched him flourish with daily work.
As time went by, my visits grew less frequent. And then one day, randomly, I decided to swing by and say hello and he was gone.
I asked around and no one knew who I was talking about. I assumed he'd been sold or moved.
Later that day, I mentioned my sadness to a volunteer at the Therapeutic Riding Center I worked at.
"Mo?" she asked. "A dark bay horse?"
"Yes!" I said. "Do you know him?" And know him, she did! He'd been moved to her barn when his owner had stopped paying his bills and they'd run out of room for him. He was in a box stall and had been for nearly three months. Due to liability, no one would take him out. He hadn't had his feet done in at least the three months, and the facility was at a loss for what to do with him.
Immediately, I went and found him. He knew me.
And then, I went to my mom and begged her to buy him back (I still wasn't in a position to buy a horse).
My mom saved the day. For the price of his board bills ($950!), he was ours. As soon as the check was written I took Mo out of his stall and turned him out in the arena. He ran, and rolled, and ran, and rolled some more.
Fast forward several years.
My husband and I moved to Texas. We took Mo with us, and for several years he was my riding buddy - just as he'd been all those years ago in California.
One day, I walked out to check on the horses and noticed Mo looked like he had lost control of his hind end. He looked like he was roller skating across the pasture.
The vet determined that Mo had a fracture in his neck, and that it was very old - and had been reinjured, resulting in a neurological deficit in his hind end. He would never be ridden again.
That was fine with me. He was my pal, and we had land and a pasture for him to live out his days in.
Awhile later, we learned that Mo had severe sinus issues, TMJ in his jaw, and terrible arthritis in his joints. His navicular was finally starting to flare up. But, he never complained. He was his usual ornery self.
Not long after that, he started dropping weight drastically. It turned out he had heart failure.
The vet gave him six months to live.
He was skinny and he could only walk, but he was bright-eyed and busy-tailed, still enjoyed a daily roll, and had a great appetite. There was no reason he couldn't keep on keepin' on as long as he was comfortable.
Until the day he was no longer comfortable.
I went out to feed and noticed Mo laying under the oak tree. He would stretch out on his side and then start to get up before stretching back out again. His breath was shallow and labored. For the first time, I saw pain in his eyes. I put a pile of fresh hay near his head and he picked at it as we waited for the vet to come.
I knew it was time.
It was with great sadness that I said goodbye to Mo, but it was without regret.
I knew we had given Mo the best life he could have. I felt peace knowing that he had spent most of his life knowing me and much of his life living with me - not many horses these days have one "person" to call their own for the span of their lifetime.
I miss Mo. I miss our wild gallops down dirt roads when I was a teenager and he was a young horse, and our more leisurely hacks around the arena as we both aged a bit. I miss him dearly.
Oh, Mo - may you eat unlimited alfalfa and run your fastest races in the great pasture in the sky.