Horses were never wrong. They always did what they did for a reason, and it was up to you to figure it out.
My first wedding anniversary was spent on an airplane, my face smashed against a small, foggy window. Typically, a Southwest flight is somewhat comical–the gregarious attendants are known for obnoxious jokes or uncanny wit to get you from point A to B. I suppose this trip was no different, I was just unable to engage as I had done so many times before. My favorite coat was seven dollars and is intended for a little boy, but I discovered it at my favorite thrift store and claimed it. That morning I draped it around me, hiding my face in subtle panic.
Crying in public is something I avoid. However, as of late I have accepted it as inevitable. Ejecting from my eyes without warning, my tears often feel involuntary. All of the painful adjustments, realizations and longing to be with my mother culminate into single liquid drops. A minuscule symbol for such tragedy.
The day after returning home–June 17, 2013–I received a call from Cottonwood Riding Club. It had been a morning intended for errands, and I answered my phone absentmindedly while at the grocery store. Any horse owner and lover knows and understands that the word ‘colic’ will stop you in your tracks, and that moment was no different. Abandoning my shopping cart, I was ripping down the highway and toward my pony within minutes. Upon arrival I met a kind, soft spoken veterinarian that had already attended to Annie and attempted to clear sand from her system. She was fairly confident that the procedure would suffice, and I thanked her as I departed to reunite with my horse.
You never forget the unique expression your horse displays upon seeing or hearing its person. Annie instantly became brighter as I approached, ears forward and tangible anticipation filling the air. She appeared to be fine, and I loved on her for some time prior to making a quick trip to the store for recommended supplements. This would be the last time spent with my horse as I knew her.
My discovery of her, paralyzed on her side and laboriously breathing, is like a still image. It is a pure recollection, but all that took place thereafter is a blur. Misery or suffering of any being is disturbing and unacceptable to me, but this is even truer for animals. Annie could not express her pain, and it was up to me to be her voice. Within two hours a decision was made, and that same veterinarian put my horse down in a secluded barn. Shell shocked and in complete disbelief, I had no option but to eventually leave. In the end, I got into my car and drove away from what had been the center of my world.
The passion and affinity that I have for horses has dwelled within me for all of my life. Had I chosen to focus on my mother’s diagnosis and Annie’s passing simultaneously, I believe I would have been unable to ride again. Something inside of me willed me forward, almost with an urgency, and I succumbed.
In many ways, Annie gave me wings. She left me with a confidence in and appreciation of my potential, and of my capability to own and care for my own horse. With her blessing, I felt it was okay to move on. I believe that she served a substantial purpose: to comfort me and to teach me of my own strength.
When I look at Lily, my young horse, I recognize that she does not yet possess the wisdom that Annie emitted. Perhaps I was meant to progress and to learn alongside her. I, too, have infinite experiences and exposures ahead that will shape me. Annie’s love and acceptance of myself and my pain will forever remain. I’m not so sure I would ever have flown without her.