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.