I’m bummed. I know ‘Tis the season, and I’m supposed to be smitten with all that I have and surrounded by all that I love. But I’m not. and I’m not sorry. I’m pissed that this is the first holiday season that I won’t find myself sneaking off to the barn to feed some carrots and bury my cold hand underneath a warm mane. It bothers me that the “horsey” gifts from my family won’t say, “To: Tania and Tazzy, Love: Santa.” No quick bareback rides through the snow. No icicles on whiskers, and no bodyclipping sagas. My first christmas in over 10 years, without my favorite part of me.
But to have such a deep wound means that I loved deeply. Unselfishly. Every decision I’ve ever made had his welfare at the forefront. College decisions were made based on how far the drive to the barn would be. A semester abroad was quickly brushed off when the idea of not seeing him for 4 months brought me to tears. To quote the great Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye, so hard.”
So this season, I’m more thankful than ever before. You don’t quite know what you have, until you lose it. I’m thankful for the nonjudgemental best friend. The one who loved me even when the carrot stash ran out. The one who could be insanely cute, and ridiculously temperamental at the same time. I’m thankful for getting to see him grow, and growing with him. I’m not thankful for the ribbons, I’m thankful for the experiences. For showing up to HITS with my best friend, and being exceptionally proud of the little yellow horse laying down his best trip ever.
I’m thankful that in our long run together, he never made me lose sleep worrying. He was always level-headed, albeit stubborn. He gingerly carried small children and listened carefully as they played made-up horsey games. He threw a displeased buck when my trainer asked that he bend, but was the perfect gentleman when she rode while “in foal.” He was brave enough to lead the herd during our trail rides, and cool enough be the caboose when needed.
Sometimes, I rode him daily, spending ages at the barn, memorizing every nook and cranney on his body. He had a little pink spot on his nose, two black birthmarks on his right side, and the smallest forelock known to mankind. Other times, when boys or school or life got in the way, an hour spent at the barn was a luxury. Sometimes, a quick pat on the wither and kiss on the nose as I dropped off a board check was all that I could manage. He never judged. Never refused to talk to me because he was temporarily put on the back burner. He was patient and kind.
He wasn’t a sick horse, a colicky horse, or a lame one. I should’ve known that his first real illness in our time together, would claim his life. I ran across a video taken 3 weeks after he fell ill. He looked great. We all thought he would make it. I’m most thankful that he held on for 2 months so that I could spend every day with him before letting him go. I think he knew that he was dying. I’m thankful that he waited until I knew too.