byReader Letters| Nov 9, 2017
It’s been a week since I kissed your nose for the last time and it still doesn’t feel real. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
You were supposed to be old and gray, finally physically matching your wise, old soul. You would have a pasture in my backyard where you could wander right up to the deck in the morning while I drank my coffee. And we would sit, just the two of us, like we did so many other mornings since we decided to take on the world together 12 short years ago. I would kiss your nose, tell you how perfect you are, and give you a treat, leaving you to go on with my day. You would go for your afternoon nap in the sunshine and fall peacefully into your eternal sleep under an apple tree.
I would be expecting it, by that point, and I would have closure, knowing you went in the way that I feel such a noble creature should go after living a long, fulfilling life. But God has a funny way of changing our plans. Instead, I found myself in the pasture with you, running my hands over every inch of you, calmly and frantically memorizing how you felt and how you smelled.
Given the circumstances, you went in the way you deserved. It was a beautiful, sunny fall evening, with your mare in your pasture, surrounded by people who loved you more than you could have known. I brushed you one last time, whispering sweet nothings in your ear, and poured out my heart to you one last time. I fed you grain until you finally turned your nose away from it and I held your head in my arms while you took your last breath.
I hope that I gave you the same feeling of comfort and love that you gave me during our time together.
Unconditional love was one of the many lessons you taught me and having to say goodbye to you was the ultimate test of that lesson. I didn’t want to let you go. I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to take you to the hospital and let the doctors put you back together with plates and screws and casts. But I knew, when I looked into your eyes, that there was no fixing you this time, and you knew it too. You were at peace with your time being up, it was just a matter of me stepping up to take the responsibility I took on so many years ago.
You were always there when I needed you, and you needed me to be there for you. So I was…that’s what best friends are for, regardless of how hard it is, and how much hurt is being felt. I don’t know any horse in the world that would have stood, halter-free like you did with that catastrophic injury, but there also isn’t another horse on this planet like you. You were the Golden Boy for a reason.
I go through all of the videos and pictures of you on my phone every night before I go to sleep in the hopes that we will wander together down a quiet trail at sunset one more time in my dreams. That was our happy place, even though we both loved the rip-snorting thrill of a good coyote run while out hunting. By the way, the coyotes sang for you that night, Pants. You would have loved it. We were sitting with you, waiting for you to be placed into your final resting place in the corner of your favorite pasture, and the hunt country surrounding us lit up in a chorus of yips and howls. It was a fitting farewell for the horse who loved hunting so much that you had to be locked up in your stall on days when there was a meet nearby that we weren’t riding in, because we all worried you would hop the fence and go for a joy ride with them.
There are a lot of people hurting over you being gone; you touched a lot of lives in your 14 short years. There’s also a huge gaping hole in my soul now, and the world is a little darker without my sunshine boy. As much as I didn’t want to step into another barn again, it’s the only thing that eases the hurt a little bit. Horses are so deep in my bones that only whiskered noses and time are going to heal this for me. I’ll eventually get another horse, but I refuse to get another horse just to have a horse. I waited a long time for you to wander into my life—a little yellow pony with the courage of a lion and a heart the size of the ocean—so I will wait this time as well.
Maybe I’ll find another awkward, butt-high 2-year-old with too-big ears. He won’t replace you, but my heart will grow a little bigger with the spot he takes next to you. Until then though, I’m going to take all of this love that belongs to you, love that’s painfully building up in my chest, and pour it into every horse I cross paths with.
Thank you for everything, Ollie. You are and always will be my best friend and my first true love. You’ve always been my guardian angel, but now, instead of you carrying me, I get to carry you with me. I’ll catch you on the flip side, Mr. Perfect.
Forever your girl,
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Text by Kathryn Page. Photo credit:
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