Monday, December 28, 2009

Fresh Reminders of What Has Passed

It snowed here about three weeks ago. The snow stayed on the ground, fluffy and deep enough to provide some cushion over the frozen earth. There's something special about the first few snowfalls that come before the first thaw. Hacking in the snow, or during a snowfall is just about the most fun that can be had with a horse. After the first falls there's no need to worry about hidden ice until the thaw comes. There aren't any layers of crusty snow and ice to scrape the horses' legs. Just a bouncy trotting horse spraying snow into the air as he asks for a gallop.
My boy hadn't asked for a gallop for a long time, but we did a lot of hacking in the snow over his last few years. It was great exercise for his stifles. With the first snow came the reminder that I will never take him out for a hack in the snow again. He won't reach out as we pass a snow laden cedar and bend back a branch that will fling it's load all over me as it snaps back when he lets it go. We won't head out into the glow of a moonlit snowscape, or wander through a forest of bare limbed trees as snow gently falls.
First snow hack without my boy. First Christmas without my boy. I miss him still. These firsts bring back the loss, but without the tearing intensity of the first days after he was gone. It's a bittersweet sadness as the first snow, first hack, first Christmas without him remind me of the times we had together.

Friday, December 4, 2009

In Memory of my Horse

I know I will make the shadow box to hold his halter, but I've been thinking I'd like to do something else to remember my horse by. One of our friends made a donation to the charity of my choice in his memory, which is one option. I think I would like something tangible, useful and visible.
Another friend plants trees for her dogs. The tree idea appeals to me a lot. It would be alive, long standing, and cast some pleasant shade once it grows large enough. Perhaps I could plant it out at the barn in a place where shade would be nice to have. I would see it often, and it would remind me of him.
I have also been looking at horsehair jewelry and pottery sites on the internet. There are some beautiful items out there. I don't wear jewelry, and probably wouldn't even if it were my horse's hair so that seems a bit pointless. Something will catch my eye and work it's way into being the right choice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Spirit That Was My Horse

It's been a month now. The hole is filling with memories of life and I find myself drawing him back by telling people what he used to do, what he was like. Some of us were talking about our horses reactions when we go out in the field - variations on walking or turning away until we get close and then turning to us as if surprised to see us there. My boy used to watch for me at night and his distinctive whinny would come out of the darkness when he saw me take my other horse back out to a different field. As if to remind me not to forget to come down and bring him up for his dinner.
I remember more details. Things to remember for next time, for sure as I loved him I will be making the decision again for other horses. His issue caused him well hidden pain for a very long time, even before we identified the problem. His subconcious, instincts told him that a lame horse was vulnerable and I used to call him my quarter horse, three quarter chicken because he was such a chicken. I wanted him to know that this pain and the fear it caused did not define who he was. The pain and fear must be left behind. He should take his great courage and generosity for these defined the spirit that was my horse.
I still miss him dearly, but the great gaping sense of loss has eased and I now remember him in life before death.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inheritance and memory

I brought my yearling in yesterday for some training and grooming. I managed to go through my old horse's grooming kit and sort it out so I could use it for my yearling's stuff. He inherited some items from my old horse, and I put the few items he already had into the box.

I felt a bit weird bringing the box out to the crossties - somehow the box still isn't my yearling's kit yet. I still look at it and think of it as belonging to my old horse.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This morning I looked into the field and saw one of the other chestnuts at the hay feeder. He was standing broadside to me, had the same colour blanket that my old horse did, and his head mostly in the hay. The early morning sun slanted across the field and fired a wide golden highlight along the crest of his neck. For a moment, just a moment he looked like my horse as that golden highlight looked like my horse's mane the way it was always neatly arranged along the left side of his neck. I knew it wasn't my horse, but the shape and colour just vividly brought my horse back to mind instantly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tidying up

It's been well over a week, and while most things have returned to normal there are still some tidying up jobs that I need to do. I think about them almost every day I am at the barn.
His bridle is still hanging up on a hook. His grooming kit is still in my locker. His rainsheet still in the trunk of my car. I need to go through my stuff and decide what to do with his things, clean and store the ones I won't be using for a while, and give away, sell or chuck out the rest.
I can't face them yet. I can look past his things without feeling his loss fresh, but I think the act of going through them will be difficult. I need a little more time first.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who was he?

Almost no one knows who my first horse was now. I think about that, and then I think about my second horse and how I could answer the question "Who was Tommy?"

There are many answers. He was a sorrel American Quarter Horse. He was my first greenbroke horse. He was the horse with whom I entered the dressage arena for the first time - the horse that started my love of dressage. He was the horse with whom I entered the Hunter rings and learned about the hunter/jumper discipline. I wanted to try eventing with him, but his hock issue prevented that from occuring. He was the accident prone horse who came up with so many varied injuries that I became competent in recognizing and treating a wide range of issues - and knowing when to call the vet. He was the horse who kept me going out to the farm after my first horse was euthanized. He was the horse that nickered to me when I called him. He was the horse who was guinea pig for my various trials in keeping an active competition horse on pasture board. He was the horse who taught me about the importance of saddle fit as he showed white hairs from pressure spots very quickly. He was the horse that showed me what true courage was all about. He was the horse who looked after my friends when they rode him. He was my goto horse for teaching people about lateral work. He was lazy enough to not argue with a rider who was determined, but also lazy enough to give the minimum asked for. He was a worrier. He was generous. He was a great heart. He was a trier, willing to try anything if I asked it of him.

He was my student. He was my teacher. He was my partner.

Most of all he was my friend and I am richer for having had him in my life, and poorer for having lost him.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Remembering and Healing

After my first horse was euthanized I took his bridle home and dragged it about from residence to residence for several years before I finally figured out what to do with it. I always knew exactly where it was - it was never left in a box. I knew I wanted the bridle on display but it took me a long time before I worked out how to manage it. I ended up putting it in a shadow box with a laminate mounted photo, a lock of mane, a feather I'd found out hacking one day, a horse shoe and a couple of engraved plates - one with his name and dates, the other with the final verse of the poem I'd written for him.
I know I want to make a shadow box for this horse too. I have his tail and his halter. I will get a plate with his name, registration number and dates done. The photo is, as it was the first time, the most difficult task of all. Going through all the photos I can find to see which would be the best choice to put into the box. It brings back many memories of the days we shared and I think about some of the photos I really liked and go looking for them. Maybe that one? No, it's not quite right - the pose, or perhaps a cluttered background. Do I want a head shot or a full body picture? I chose a full body shot of my first horse - one that I took the day before the vet came. He was a difficult horse to photograph, but I got better at taking good pictures of him over time.
My second horse was quite photogenic and I have lots of good photos of him. Very few photos good or bad from our competitions - somehow the show photographer was always at another ring whenever we were on. I haven't yet found the photo I want, but I have time. There is no hurry to get the shadow box finished as it is a part of the healing process.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saying Thanks

Friday was just about normal and yesterday pretty good as well. I did carve my horse on a pumpkin and it turned out not too badly.
I spent a part of the evening making thank you cards for the few people who helped me out on Monday. That was difficult. Between trying to find the words to express how much their support meant to me, and not being able to set the memories of Monday aside there were a lot of tears again. But it was something I needed to do sooner than later.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Were Well Loved.

It seems like yesterday. It seems like forever
That we met, that we have been together.
The times that we shared, the lessons we learned
From one, from the other, that shape who we are now,
We carry forward on our separate ways into the future.
I can no more force enduring life upon you
Than I can ask you to endure a life of pain
Because I am not ready to see you go.
I am not ready. I will never be ready.
And so I give you the last gift I have to give.
With human logic and power of reasoning
I can see the time to help you go is now.
I can help you pass in peace with dignity
Sending my wishes that your next wheel
Brings good fortune denied upon this turn.
And when you stand before our maker
Present my heartfelt thanks for the time we shared, you and I.
When you speak of the life you just lived
Stand tall, stand proud and know with certainty
You were well loved. You will be missed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Looking for Memories

Time heals. The raw immediacy of the final moments fades and slips behind the older memories of happier times.

I pulled out some old photo albums last night and looked at pictures of our first years together. They pulled up old memories and made me smile.

I remember after my first horse went, once the tearing loss had eased I made a point of recalling some incident from his life every time the memory of his death came up. I'm not quite there yet, but soon I hope. Experience tells me it will help.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Power of a Grazing Horse

Today was harder than yesterday. I kept falling into the hole and finding the memory of his last moments. My eyes are burning.

Maybe being tired contributed, but I went to bed late for fear of waking at two am again and lying sleepless for hours. I slept well last night - if not long enough. Before I went to sleep I took the video camera and watched the silly video I shot in the last couple of weeks. My horse eating his grain. My horse drinking. My horse walking out into his pasture. My horse grazing. It was this last one that settled my mind and let me relax into sleep. Watching him graze and hearing the rip of grass and munching really must be as good as stroking a cat.

Tears came again when I got home and found a sympathy card from the vet and clinic staff. Maybe it's standard operating procedure, but it still shows they do care and it means a lot to me that someone took the time to write in the card and send it off.

My friends have emailed and called, and their support helps too. I can't talk about it yet without losing my voice, but just knowing they're there once I can talk is comforting.

In thinking so much about him I find that I have not one regret in our last days together. Nor do I feel any doubt that it was the right time to help him go. I am glad I took the silly videos and took far too many photos of not much. I do have some old video from his competition days, but I don't find myself wanting to watch it yet. I want to watch the video of him grazing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Waiting for Time

It's not over for me. My horse is free of the pain that has been his close companion for the past years, but I'm still walking carefully around the edges of the hole in my heart and keep falling into it at unexpected moments. Tears burn the raw skin on my face. I don't know how many times I fell into that hole today.

I managed to walk past the place he went down several times without noticing, but the last time I went and stopped near the scars his hooves made in the grass, remembered and allowed the tears to come.

Compulsively checking his field for him has been a part of my mornings for the last months - today I looked away.

I find myself managing to get on with things and lose myself in tasks. I even managed to ride without slipping into the hole. Then I start thinking of things I need to do, and I come round to thanking those who helped me yesterday and before I know it the tears are falling again.

I have no doubt that I let him go at the right time. There are no more questions about it. Now is waiting for time to heal. For time to let the hole fill with memories and bury the raw wound of yesterday. For time that will allow the first memories to be of his life and not of his death.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time to go

I went out really early this morning. I brought him up to the barn and groomed him before taking him out to graze. When I took his blanket off I had to think about what I ought to do with it so I wouldn't have to think about it later.

We had a good long time out in the field. At first all I could think about was the future. It occured to me after a bit that hand grazing a horse must be like stroking a cat for horsepeople - it's very calming. After a time I started remembering pieces of our past and then deliberately went searching for more memories from our earliest years and all through our fifteen years together. The tears went as I leaned against him and wandered through memory.

I talked to him a little bit. About the lessons he'd taught me, the good times we had, and that he should hold to his incredible courage and knowledge that I love him when he goes. But mostly I just watched him eat and let the memories come.

The vet was later than expected, but I am glad we had that extra time to go through the future and come back to the past. When I saw the vet's truck coming up the road I said to my horse "Come on. It's time to go."

He was ready. He didn't fight the drugs at all, and I stayed with him telling him that he could let go of the pain, he should go on now, and that I loved him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coming down to the Last Times

The last ride. The last day. The last time any given thing occurs. It's tough.

I remember how hard the final day was with my first horse, but I'd forgotten how the few days preceding were difficult in their own way. The sadness at the thought of "last time". Trying to get just one more good picture. Trying not to allow the grief through for fear of upsetting my horse.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Final days

Less than a handful of days left now. Each day offering a chance for time spent with my horse. Tears are closer to the surface now and spring up with little warning. Other parts of my life are being somewhat neglected, but this is his time now. It is limited.

When I'm with him I can mostly keep the tears at bay and just live in the moment with him. I took him out for some grass yesterday, but unfortunately the weather was unsettled and he was too on edge to enjoy it so I had to cut the time short. He doesn't need to be stressed about anything if I can prevent it.

I keep imagining what's going to happen when the vet comes. Having gone through it with my first horse I can see details that I couldn't before. I hope he goes as quickly and peacefully as my first horse.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Slow Descent

Once again this morning I watched one of my horse's pasture mates go straight from being let loose at the gate to harassing my horse, who was having a snooze. It was pretty minor harassment today, but it's been happening more often than not lately. My horse has stopped fighting back, even with the younger horses who could be easily intimidated. He's never been a really friendly or dominant horse, but usually finds a horse or two to hang out with, stayed out of the boss horse's way and didn't take crap from anyone else.

I take a little extra care now. When I put him back out and he wants a drink I will stay in the field and keep the other horses away until mine has drunk his fill. I send the other horses away if they come over when I am getting my horse to bring him in.

It's been a gradual shift in his attitude and response to the other horses in the field. More bite marks on his hide sure, but I really see how he's quit fighting the pain in how, without argument, he moves away from any pushy behaviour from the other horses. He was better for a little while after he got moved into a smaller, less rowdy herd but I can see the slide again.

"I'm done," he's saying. Though I wish it were not so, I have to listen and agree with him.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Solar Energy

I took my horse's blanket off last night as the forecast is for several rain-free days. The nights are going to be cold, but he has shelter and will fluff up his coat to keep warm. The blanket he has doesn't fit properly, is badly designed and is the backup - though at this point it's more waterproof than the "good" blanket so he has to wear it when we get rain. He'd be due for a new blanket this year, but...

Today was a beautifully sunny day. The breeze was cool, but as long as I was moving around it was quite comfortable. I saw my horse snoozing in the sun, soaking up the rays before I brought him in and groomed him carefully.

I did ride today. We just walked around the hayfields and I let him grab mouthfuls of green stuff almost as much as he wanted. We have an arrangement that allows him to eat during rides (when invited) as long as he keeps walking. By this point he is very good at it. The green is starting to wilt after several nights with frost, but it's still green and apparently tasty enough. I greatly enjoyed the meander.

I told two more people today and invited them out to say their goodbyes. Two more to go and then I think that's everyone who needs to see him before the end. I am trying very hard to not count days. To not stress about telling the last few friends. To not let anything slip when I'm out with him around the barn. And most of all to not allow a nice day to go by without spending a large chunk of time with him.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Flash of Orange

I rode two horses today. Not my boy who's time is limited, two other horses. It was sunny, windy and cool - a perfect day to get out and ride. I want to ride my guy, but I feel that as uncomfortable as he is it would be an imposition.

Instead we went way out into the hayfield and I watched him munch, and took some photos and just thought. Some of the thinking was wishing he'd strike a certain pose again, or hold still a second longer. But some was about how little time we have left together. How that flash of orange among the green has become the flame of orange in a sea of bare branches. And how it is about time I told the few remaining friends who need to know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Rush of Wings

As I was putting a horse out the other morning I heard a sound like heavy rain coming across the field, or a sudden gusting wind through leaves on the trees. It was a clear morning with still air and I looked up to see a broad stripe of songbirds passing overhead as they flew southeast. There were hundreds, if not thousands of birds flying in the mass flock.

Winter seems to be pushing in early this year. The temperatures are colder than normal, we've had more rain sooner, and we've missed the indian summer days that usually accompany the early days of October. I admit I was sort of counting on having those days to spend with my horse. On him having those days to bask, snoozing in the warm sun. The birds are deserting us, heading for warmer areas to winter. The monarchs are heading for Mexico.

I'm sure the cold damp is hard on my horse. There is little doubt that he is feeling stiff and probably somewhat pained. I was hoping to let him go before every day hurt. To let him go knowing the good days outnumber the bad.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanks Given for Good Friends

Goodbye is such a personal thing. We have our own needs to satisfy when saying goodbye to someone important in our lives, and we need to say those goodbyes in our own ways.

On Saturday one friend came out and we took my horse out to the hayfield to graze together. We talked for a long time about many things, including why it was time to send him on.

Today another friend came and spent some quiet time with him, happy to groom and then spend some alone time with him in a choice part of the hayfield. We talked a bit as well, shying away from the true reason for her visit as it was very busy at the barn today. She sent me an email later thanking me for giving her the chance to say goodbye, and for sharing him with her over the years we've known each other.

When I got my first horse I had trouble understanding why people would so often get others to ride their horses. I wanted to ride too much myself to be able to share my first horse very often. Now I think there is a progression in the journey of horse ownership, starting with keeping the horse's training on track in the early years, to later offering a few special rides to others, and then coming to where it is important to share that horse's special qualities with those who would appreciate them.

My horse is not flashy, beautifully conformed, or super talented but his generosity and heart are truly exceptional. On this Thanksgiving weekend I am supremely thankful not only to have had this horse in my life, but also to have these good friends with whom I could share my special horse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I've Been Here Before

I suddenly realized this week that there is no one in my horse life just now who knew my first horse in person. If I were to say his name in conversation no one would realize who I was talking about without the caveat "my first horse". I find this sad in a way.

I had to make the decision to not run my first horse through another winter too. The second time around isn't any easier, but the experience of then is affecting my now. I am taking silly pictures and video clips of my second horse. I am making time to spend time with him even if all I do is groom, or take him out to graze somewhere the grass is still plentiful.

Making time for nothing much is important for both of us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Memories New and Old

I took my horse for a hack around the fields yesterday. We've been getting a lot of rain lately and yesterday we had a mix of sun and cloud for part of the day. I had just brought him in to groom and feed, but once he was clean I couldn't resist hopping aboard and going for a meander around the property.

We're past the formality of saddle and bridle these days. I throw a thick saddle blanket on his back to cushion his spine (and my butt!) and tie the end of the lead rope round to form reins and off we go. He's more than happy with the arrangement as he can grab mouthfuls of alfalfa as we wander around the hayfields. For the most part he's good about waiting for me to invite him to nibble, but he's an opportunist too and looks for those moments when I'm distracted to make a dive for that particularly delicious looking stalk of alfalfa.

I did ask him to go for a little trot, okay - more of a jog these days. Sadly he's feeling sore, and was a little bit lame at the trot. But he didn't mind walking - and munching - his way around the property. I can really feel the changes in his movement and body carriage when I ride him now. It's kind of sad - I still remember when he was in his prime, muscled up and fit. He was an impressive chunk of a horse then and got lots of compliments from strangers at horse shows.

Today I stood in the hayfield for over an hour with him and watched him mow a strip through the nice green growth. He barely lifted his nose above grass level in all that time. As I stood there with him I remembered standing like that with him in other times and places. One of the best memories is of ten days we spent onsite at a national show. There was a warmup ring out back where many people warmed up, or had lessons or training sessions on their non-showing days. We spent many hours out there with him grazing and me watching the riders. We were out so much he was content to snooze when I finally did take him back to his stall in the tent.

I'm finding it a relief to have the vet appointment set. Now I don't have to think about it, and I'm free to enjoy my time with him and remember the good times we've had along this long journey together - even as I create a few new ones to hold for the coming days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sunshine and alfalfa

I am reminded that it's not all doom and gloom on this journey. Another friend came to visit. She hasn't really ridden in quite a while and was happy to see my horse, groom him and take him out to graze in the hay field.

It was sunny after a number of days of rain, and it felt warmer in the sunshine than the forecast had promised. As I had warned my friends about the gossips - and there were other boarders in the barn - we touched only very generally on how my boy was doing and had a good chat about many things as she polished and brushed.

He's not in a great deal of pain, and is mostly content with his herdmates and hay. Some of them pester him and chase him from the hay at times, or herd him around the field, but he's good at getting out of their way calmly and they tend to leave him in peace. My decision to euthanize is a pre-empting of potential disaster in the winter. He is enjoying his last days and I am making plans to spend some of my days exclusively with him, even if at times all I do is watch him snooze.

My horse enjoyed the attention and the alfalfa. He would have happily stayed out there for hours hoovering up the lovely green stuff. She plans to return several times to do the same. Hopefully she'll bring the sun with her again.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nailing down the finish line

I didn't go to the vet clinic yesterday. It was a busy day and I found excuses to do other things. Today was quiet. I didn't want to go - just wanted to go home and sleep, but I turned down that road and drove out to the clinic. I owe it to my helpers to get the date set.

The clinic assistant was great and not only set the appointment and marked it as private without question, but also called the deadstock firm for me as well. Mostly to find out what the current pickup cost is, but also set up the appointment with them and set up a personal reminder to confirm the deadstock truck a couple of days ahead. Have I mentioned my vet clinic has a great team? I dreaded calling the deadstock firm.

We have a date now, and a rough time (vet time). The truck is set for a couple of hours later than the vet, just in case there's a delay, and to give me time to leave. I managed to stand in the clinic and set the appointment, listen to the call to the deadstock and offer my thanks. The tears came before I reached the door.

In a way it's a relief to have the date set. It's one more thing I don't have to think about now. Well two now that the truck has been arranged.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Dealing with the decision to euthanize is tough enough, but when it's a horse there are an awful lot of details to look after. Horses don't go to the vet, often don't live at their owner's homes, are difficult to bury, impractical and expensive to cremate, and so on.

My horse lives at a boarding stable. There are quite a lot of other boarders and it's been difficult to find a quiet half day of the week as many of them do not have 9 to 5 type jobs. Some things should not be witnessed by anyone uninvolved. Euthanizing my horse is one of them.

I think I've worked out the best day of the week, and chosen the week of the month. Now I need to make the appointment with the vet and get the deadstock removal firm's contact details. I have been putting off making the vet appointment, because I don't think I'm going to be able to do so without breaking down. Even though the decision is made, somehow putting a definite date on it makes it more immediate. Time is rushing forward and we are almost into October already.

Call me callous, but the idea of having the deadstock truck pick up my horse afterwards doesn't bother me. I know his essential spirit will be gone, and he won't be needing the physical body anymore. But at the same time I don't want to know the details of the pickup, and I know if anyone at the barn actually witnesses it they will at some point feel compelled to talk about it. It's odd, but the idea of chopping off his tail hair afterwards bothers me more than the deadstock removal. I want to keep his tail to put in a shadow box with his halter, but I get squirmy when I think about cutting it off.

Arranging for the vet is going to be more difficult than just calling. I'm going to have to ensure that they mark it as a private appointment so it's not even mentioned to any other boarder should they call for a vet visit. The clinic is very good at adding clients onto an existing appointment where possible so we can split the call fee. This is one call fee I don't want to split.

Once the vet is set then I need to talk to my barn owner and arrange the deadstock pickup. The barn owner offered to help, to stand in for any part of the process I couldn't do. I will be there for the vet, but I'm not sticking around for the truck. I'll leave the money and get the heck out of there.

Maybe I need to arrange for someone to drive me home...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Visit from an old friend

A couple of weeks ago I sent an email to a few old friends of ours to let them know it was time to say goodbye to my horse, and that I felt it was important that those people who think he's awesome come out to make their farewells. Each of them responded and sent their sympathies and wishes to come out and say their goodbyes.

One of them came out to visit today. She hadn't received the email until a week or two after I'd sent it and while her plans had brought her near his stable, the timing was too soon for her. We talked for a while and caught up with our horse lives and various other news.

I told her all the little signs I'd seen, and the questions I've been asking myself. It's funny - to everyone I've told so far I feel the need to explain why I'm euthanizing my horse this fall. I hate that feeling. Maybe it's a subconcious thing, but it makes me feel like I'm trying to justify my decision and want the other person's approval. I didn't feel even a hint of that need to justify my decision with this friend. She gets it. She understands where I'm standing and sharing the details with her, for just a few minutes, allowed her to take part of the weight of that decision that I'm carrying.

In the end she didn't feel ready to see my horse and say goodbye. There's a little time left. Time to work through her feelings and visit again to see him. She did leave the carrots she'd brought for him.

Dear friend - Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

and so it begins...

It's not really beginning now as I made the decision a few weeks ago. I've been chewing on the decision for a while now, but it is time I let my horse go before his life becomes a living hell.

I'm blogging about it because it's a heart wrenching and difficult decision to make for any of our animals and I hope someone else can read this and know they are not alone in making this sort of decision.

I keep smacking up into the realization that I'm going to lose him sooner than later. The nebulous idea of "this fall" became "late October" and has become "about four weeks". Wait a minute! That's not right! It can't possibly be the end of September yet... But the leaves are starting to turn. A shock of orange among the green. The fading of green to yellow. It is autumn all too soon.

He's a cool horse. We've done a lot together and he's taught me more than a few lessons. I got him more than fifteen years ago - a timespan that seems like forever, but somehow at the same time seems like last year. I don't want to put out too many details right now as there are some other boarders at the barn who's greatest joy appears to be vicious, judgemental gossip. They can wait until after the fact to shred my actions. Suffice it to say that he's a pretty awesome boy to those of us who know him well.

There are times that I can forget what's coming for hours. Then the smallest thing reminds me, brings a lump into my throat and tears to my eyes. That flash of orange in the green trees. I sat on the floor in the barn and cried the day I saw his name on my board bill because I realized that I'm only going to see it one more time.

The decision is made, but the questions about whether I'm right, is this the time, could I keep him going, is that a sign he wants to hang around a while longer, and so on don't go away. I keep looking for confirmation that I'm right, or solid evidence I'm wrong. But there isn't any either way at this stage. He looks good right now - many people have said so. I remember last winter and how he had some trouble handling the weather. I see the subtle changes in him that warn of larger problems come winter.

I finally realized that while the answer to the question "could I keep him going through another winter or several?" is a definite yes, that is the wrong question. The real question needs to be "Should I?" and to that question I must reluctantly answer "no". He definitely deserves better than being forced to endure life simply because I'm not ready to let him go. I never will be ready.