Cute As A Button, or Buttons, was an indescribable horse. He was a faithful
school horse right into his last month and could always be trusted with the
very beginning students. Buttons taught many people valuable lessons about
riding and remained a patient teacher throughout all of his life.
I met Buttons almost 8
years ago when I began riding. Like so many others, he was the horse to whom
I was first assigned. I gradually moved on to other mounts, but something
about Button's personality appealed to me, and I found myself drawn to him.
He became my favored lesson horse and taught me more about life and love
than I can ever describe.
Buttons was a challenge
to ride, and an even greater challenge to care for. He'd often buck before
proceeding to the trot, and no one could get him to do a flying lead change.
He hated to stand on the cross ties and detested the saddle even more - he
would pin his ears back, lash out with his tail, and make a general stink
about the whole process. I gradually learned of his behaviors and through
trial and error found ways of making the experience less of a hassle - putting
the saddle pad on first without the saddle, and waiting a few minutes before
putting the girth on.
There were moments when
I was sure Buttons had been sent from Heaven. The first time I fell off of
him was headfirst over a jump when he took a huge spot. I landed beneath
his feet, but he arched himself over me, spun around and came to a halt standing
directly over me. On a hot summer day toward the end of a lesson we set out
for one more course of jumps. The heat was too much for me and as we were
cantering towards the first jump everything froze and blackness began to
enclose my vision. I could feel Buttons beneath me but couldn't move my hands
or legs to tell him to stop. I choked out a barely audible "ho," and immediately
Buttons came out of his canter to a walk and then a halt. The thing is, instead
of slouching down and falling onto his front end as he usually did, Buttons
moved his back end downward and slowed down as if on his tip toes - something
I've never seen him do elsewhere. I stayed in the saddle through his awareness
of my distress.
Through our 7 years together
our bond only grew. When walking out to the paddocks I only had to whistle
and Buttons would come running. He would follow me anywhere with a slack
lead rope - I often thought that I didn't need the rope at all, though I
never tried it! We took dozens of trail rides and Buttons surprised me by
pulling off numerous flying lead changes out there. His canter was a wonderful
rolling gait and passing alongside fields of wildflowers on him felt like
sheer magic. He flew.
This special boy saw me through many of my teenage years. I had begun riding
at age 10, and he was the one I ran to when the world collapsed around me.
For many hours he stood patiently in his stall while I wrapped my arms around
his neck and cried. He would press his chin into my back in a "horsey hug"
and I felt like the luckiest person alive.
When I had to have surgery
on my wrist, I couldn't ride for a few months. I groomed him with one hand
for weeks, then my instructor suggested that I get on Buttons and just neck-rein
around. No one knew if Buttons would neck-rein - he'd been trained in English
- but I soon discovered that he would respond to the slightest movement of
my good hand. During this time Buttons never tossed at the reins or pulled
away from me - he was absolutely perfect.
I still remember a day towards
the end when I turned Buttons out after a trail ride. He started bucking
and playing, then began galloping around and around his paddock for sheer
joy. I took a picture and not until I developed it did I realize that the
sunlight behind him made him appear to be descending from Heaven. In it he
appears young and joyful, just as I want to remember him.
Buttons died on July 7,
2003. That day I had come down to the barn in a rush, and it wasn't until
I went to clean his stall did I realize how sick Buttons was. He had been
off for 2 weeks, and the vet had been called down a few times. Going into
his stall he shied from me and I realized that he couldn't put weight on
his front feet and was leaning against his stall wall uncomfortable. He gradually
came to recognize me but wouldn't take the treats that I offered him. I pet
his neck and spoke to him for a while, then sat outside his stall
Once my instructor arrived
I had to leave. I hurried to my tack box, got my things, and walked out of
the barn - I never said goodbye. To this day I regret that. Somehow it never
occurred to me that Buttons wouldn't make it through.
My friend, Amy, came over
at 8:30 the next morning to give me the news. It had always been agreed that
if anything were to ever happen to Buddy, she would be the one to tell me.
After his death I stopped riding for almost a year. It was too painful -
I'd walk outside to the paddocks and whistle, out of habit. I'm hoping to
go back soon.
Buttons gave me so many memories and so much love during those 7 years. I
never had papers to him, but it was known that he was my boy. I think of
him now, galloping around in Heaven, and am reminded of his grace and
unbelievable heart. Three years ago we entered a costume class as Pegasus
and Hercules. I'd made large cardboard wings which I hung over his shoulders.
As he pranced into the ring his movements made them flap up and down - it
was perfect. The wings now hang on my wall - he has no need for them now.
He's more than earned his real wings.
Below is a poem that I
wrote for Buttons a few years before his death.
Together We Fly
The very sight of you
is enough to make my day.
You always heal my heart, but you need no words to say.
You have never hugged me; I've never held your hand,
But your quiet presence lets me know you understand.
I never have to ask for help - you pay it no heed.
This is why I run to you in my times of need.
We take our walks together as the day comes to a close
And I whisper to you secrets that nobody else knows.
I lean upon your shoulder,
so much stronger than my own,
And if I'm lost within the world you'll carry me back home.
Even as you know me so, you don't know my name,
But still you listen as I talk, lacing flowers through your
I owe you all my happiness
- you're everything I know!
I'm not sure I could carry on - please, promise you won't go!
No one else knows of this bond - it's something they don't feel,
But you're what I depend on - you teach my heart to heal.
The times I spend with
you are when I know I'm truly blessed.
Of all the rides we've had together, the ones I enjoy best
Are our sunset rides along the trail, passing beauty by.
On your back you give me wings. Together we shall fly.
Dedicated to Buttons.
You are loved so much.
You gave me my wings and taught me to fly.
I'll never forget.