A Second Life for Beau

Part Two

Thankfully, the answer to whether Beau could ever be ridden was YES! We kept the initial rides short and easy and he had no problems whatsoever. These were the most joyful rides of my life, as I know they were for Beau. A lovely surprise was finding that he single-footed. Beau was one of those horses who come alive under saddle. He gathered himself together and pranced with raised tail and arched neck. Even the most avid purebred enthusiast was quick to comment that this mixed breed was a very impressive horse to watch.

Because of his former pony horse life, Beau was well-trained, but it became apparent that his training had been basic and cursory. He wasn't familiar with subtle cues. Given the opportunity to learn them, he did so quickly, brilliantly and with nothing but appreciation for the chance to be so patiently treated.

He had been trained to ground tie and I'm sure he always did so dependably. In his second life, however, it was just too hard for him to remain in place while watching me walk away. So we broke that rule in order that he could follow me...and follow me he did. The moment I dismounted, he would accompany me in any pattern, at any speed, his head always alongside my arm.

I never took his soundness for granted but always kept our activity a few notches below the norm. So he didn't often break a sweat, but when he did and needed to be cooled down, no lead or even a halter was necessary. I'd simply walk around the field with Beau freely walking with me, matching me stride-for-stride.  

It also became apparent that at least some of his training had been cruel. I was saddened to find in the first few days together that he had been ear-twitched. Whenever my hand came near his ears, he immediately became terrified. Who would do something so barbaric to such a sweet soul. It took almost a year for Beau to let me touch his ears. Once he truly believed that soothing massage would always replace painful touch, he would almost fell asleep as his ears were gently handled. I told Beau that we should find whoever did that to him and see how they liked to have their ears twitched.

He was also terrified of electric clippers. In spite of my very slow attempts at desensitizing him, he never entirely lost his fear of them. No problem, I just always trimmed his fetlocks, ears, bridle path and mane by hand.

As the years passed, I couldn't ignore the fact that Beau was obviously older then my original guess. He was developing arthritis in his legs, perhaps in part due to the years of concussive pounding on the race tracks. So we changd our rides to nothing faster then therapeutic walking. In time, riding had to come to an end altogether. We were so blessed to have had those years of riding, but now it was necessary to spend that time massaging Beau's legs and rubbing soothing liniment into them.

For the duration of his life, Beau needed his corrective shoes. Once again I am so thankful for Lance, Beau's shoer. I know without a doubt that if it weren't for him, Beau wouldn't have had the sound years he did, and his life would have been cut short in spite of my best efforts. Proof of Lance's skill was how quickly Beau would resume pointing just during the few moments between removing an old shoe and nailing on a new one. Once all four shoes were back on, Beau was immediately comfortable again.

The last time Beau was shod turned out to be only a month before he died. Lance had always told me that Beau wasn't as young as I thought (hoped) but I didn't want to hear that. So I stubbornly stuck to the age I had decided upon, which would then have put him at around twenty-five years old. Lance was sure he had to be close to, if not over, thirty. In my heart I knew he was right. I just wasn't ready to acknowledge that the day was increasingly approaching when this wonderful horse's life on earth would end. I couldn't have known then we would only have one more month.

In all our years together, Beau didn't have one sick day. Not one. Until the day he died. Twelve and a half years to the day that I found him, I lost him. In the space of only a few hours, he was fine and then he was gone. It's the hardest death of any of my animal companions because it was so unexpected and totally devastating because for those brief hours, my big, beautiful Beau was in pain.

In order to subdue Beau's pain, the vet had to sedate him to the extent that Beau was almost unaware of what was going on around him. I was sitting on the ground with Beau's head in my lap. I only had about five minutes to decide what to do before he would become aware enough to once again feel the pain. As I tearfully bombarded the vet with questions as how to save my sweet Beau, I knew there was only one decision to be made.

I spent all the years I had with Beau working to keep him healthy, pain-free and happy. We had won that constant battle, in spite of everyone's doubt, but this one we couldn't win. And now, when Beau needed to trust in me the most, as much as I couldn't bear the thought of letting him go, as shocked and unprepared as I was, I could not, would not, let my cherished friend leave this world feeling pain or fear.

Beau's head was still in my lap as the sedative began to wear off and he opened his eyes. Just as he had done all those years before when he first saw me at the horse sale, he locked his eyes on mine. Those big, liquid, kind eyes, so full of love and gratitude for his second life, for the dozen additional years during which he had known only love, kindness, rest and peace. But now those eyes were also very tired and surrendering. And they asked me to please do this last thing for him. I honored my boy's wish. With his head in my lap, Beau took his last breath, his eyes still locked with mine until he was released to be young again.

While I so wish he had not experienced those last few hours of pain, I do know he left this earth in peace knowing how much he was loved. He's buried in his favorite field. I still see him when I look out the window. I hear him when he groaned and moaned in joy as he rolled from side to side. I hear his hoofbeats as he ran through the fields, rejoicing in his freedom from pain. I hear that glorious "all's right in the world" sound of him rhythmically eating his hay. I hear every variation of his whinnies and nickers. I still feel what it was like when we rode, how a horse and a person become one. And I can feel that soft, warm nose nuzzling in the crook of my arm and his breath kissing my face, always grateful, always thankful.

I felt such overwhelming pain and emptiness at his loss. But I also felt, and always will feel, ever-lasting gratitude that I met, and loved, my beautiful Beau.  My boy's spirit lives everywhere...but mostly it lives within my heart.
Run free, dear Beau.

Return To Part One of Beau's Story

Beau inspired me to create "Hoofbeats In Heaven", a horse loss support resource. This 1000+ page site includes our Support Group with over 550 members, memorial tribute to your heavenly horse, candle lightings and more.


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