Hey, my boy. I told you I would never forget you, so this is just one of the many fulfillments of that promise I’m going to make.
When I first met you, you were months off the racetrack, standing in that dark run-in shed. I was a twelve-year old girl who didn’t like Thoroughbreds, greys - even if you were dappled - or geldings. You were all three. Do you remember what you did when I finally got you to walk up to me? You bit me, you stinker. But I didn’t make a big deal about it, and that seemed to make you feel better. You let me scratch your forehead, you big baby, and your owner said you never let anyone do that.
You had been standing pastern deep in mud, you were a muddy, scraggly mess, with a tangled mane and tail. You had osselets and you couldn’t jump, which was the only thing I wanted to do with my life. Everyone thought you were a dud, from your cloudy eyes and low slung head. But I knew that you were mine.
Do you remember the first time you called out to me on my way to the barn? It was only a month or two after we moved you out of that mud pit and into a friend’s barn. I suspect you were looking more for the carrots in my pocket, but still, hearing you nickering to me in that low voice of yours made my day. It made my life.
When we moved you to a barn four houses down from our house, I finally got my wish fulfilled to see you every day. I would ride my bike in the summer, and sprint down the street in the winter, all bundled up in layers of coats, cutting across all the neighbors lawns even though they yelled at me. Whatever got me to you fastest.
You always loved winter. The first time you resorted back to your racehorse days, it was on Christmas afternoon, out in the back pasture. I hung on all the way back to the barn as you galloped through the snow. It was the most fun of my life. Your eyes cleared up after that, no longer dark and spaced out but bright, shiny, and full of attitude. You brat. You were always a brat. A nip on the arm for attention, that look in your eye that Mom always said was the devil in you. But you never hurt me.
You took off with me quite a few times, you chased the other horses away from me with bared teeth and flailing hooves. But you never hurt me.
Until a few days ago. How could you leave me? When I loved you like I did?
You were my baby, my soul mate, my best friend, the love of my life. You were all I talked about. My dressage horse. My knight in shining armor.
But you were hurting. Arthritis was kicking in, I know, and you hated your joint supplements. Then you started colicking.
Sunday night, I slept by your stall. When the vet came back the next morning, he said that he couldn’t believe you’d lived. That night I was more afraid than I’ve ever been. I was scared to death that you were going to leave me. But you weren’t ready to go then.
I thought we were in the clear. I thought you were going to be fine, now that you’d pulled out of it.
But you weren’t.
Tuesday, Mom picked me up from school. Said the vet was coming out. You were worse than you had been.
I was clutching that door handle for dear life as we sped along, and I’m still surprised I didn’t leave marks on it from how tight my grip was. Mom kept saying things. I remember wishing she would just stop. Decisions. It was her favorite word that day. You need to make some decisions. She didn’t bring up the E word. Euthanize. I can only thank her for that.
When we finally got to the barn, my trainer was holding you, walking you around so that you weren’t uncomfortable. I leapt out of the car and ran to you.
That day went by in a flash. The vet came out, said that you were fine. You had great gut sounds, and he couldn’t put down a horse that didn’t seem to have anything wrong with it. He knew that he would be back later that night. You couldn’t go through anything like that again.
I just told you to let me know when it got to be too much for you. Let me know when you wanted to go.
I gave you your shot of Rompun every half hour, when you started thrashing. Once at 5:07, again at 5:56. At 6:38 and then 7:20. Then I took you outside, because we were running out of drugs.
I was wishing on every star in the sky, begging that you’d make it. I knew you wouldn’t. You were trying to tell me that you were ready. You had given me my time to say goodbye, which was what you had been trying to do all along. And you were ready.
I held your head in my lap while he gave you the shot. And while he gave you the second one.
I stroked your cheek until you disappeared from me at 9:40, and I kept stroking it and crying until well past ten. I kept your tail and your halter.
I still can’t think about you without getting teary. Without beginning to bawl again. I keep thinking I’m going to run out of tears.
My three years with you weren’t nearly long enough. I wanted you for a hundred more, but I had my sights set on at least twenty. I was thinking you’d be twenty nine when you died, not nine. It felt like I’d been blind sighted, and I still can’t breathe properly. My heart still aches.
I wanted you to be there for my first kiss. I was going to get married on your back. You were going to be with me when I rode in my first three day event, even if you couldn’t compete. I planned my entire life around you.
And I know I can’t change anything, and I don’t regret anything. You are still the first love of my life, and you always will be. I don’t think I’ll ever love anything as much as I loved - love - you.
Thank you for being with me for the short time you were, because you saved my life many times over, a little more every day.
So I give you this, this meager memorial, these few words, for everything you gave me. You gave me humanity and patience and friendship and love. For all of that, I give you three red tulips, symbolizing love: one for your heart, one for your soul, and one for my heart which you stole the first moment I saw you, and which you ripped out with your last breath.
But, like I told you, I’ll see you again. And your legs will no longer be sore, you’ll be able to run forever, and I’ll ride you endlessly, neither of us ever tiring, both of us young forever.
After all, I told you that you were stuck with me.
Love forever from your mom,