I wanted to live my entire life and never have to write this post, but the best horse I’ve ever had died on early in the morning on December 20th.
While I was 2,000 miles away visiting family in Mississippi, he started colicing. When he didn’t come around quickly at the barn, my trainer and I agreed he should go to the clinic. There the original prognosis was good, and I want to bed at midnight my time concerned but knowing he was in the best care possible. Two hours later, the vet called me back and said he took a turn for the worse. He was trembling, sweating and it was time to go into surgery to figure out what exactly was happening.
I, of course, agreed and waited for hours for the call.
When it came, the first words out of his mouth were the stomach had ruptured. When I teach creative writing, I always put red slashes through clichés like my heart was beating out of my chest, but that’s exactly what my did. When he said ruptured, I felt it grow twice its size and thud as the vet kept went on to describe the large impaction behind the stomach.
I knew what ruptured meant, but I also didn’t. I pressed my palm down under my heart and kept listening for the phrase that was going to save this nightmare, but it didn’t come and I finally squeaked, “So you had to euthanize him?”
“Not yet, but there’s nothing we can do.”
He said he was sorry. I thanked him, hung up the phone and fell apart.
I’ve only had Simon for six and a half years, but I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. I’ll be honest — life without nerd horse seems a little impossible right now. Since Tim died, he’s been the brightest and most reliable thing in my life.
I have great friends, I know on paper my life looks like I’m living the dream. This becomes extra clear to me when people (often well meaning blog readers) suggest I shouldn’t be sad, because I have so many great things in my life. And it’s true, I have a lot to be thankful for, but that doesn’t begin to fix the giant, weeping holes in my heart.
Simon was more than a horse to me. He was my partner, my friend. He was the personification of every equestrian dream I ever had as a kid, or really even as an adult. In our last show together, which I started to blog about, we got 3rd in a hunter derby field of almost 3rd and we won our 2’6″ medal finals. I promise y’all I didn’t win because of my exceptional riding talents. I won because I had a teammate who loved to show more than I did, covered up my mistakes and was proud of his extremely mediocre mother. It’s not even been 24 hours, and I already miss the feel of cantering him up to an oxer. If I had my leg on and my hands up, Simon would have done anything for me.
Life isn’t fair. Horses doubly so. I think my beloved nerd horse was more sensitive and fragile than I ever realized. The worst part of this grieving is that I wasn’t with him at the clinic before he went under. Three weeks ago, I put my hand through the bars of his stall and scratched under his chin a little. I told him I was going on a long trip. Told him to be a good boy and listen to his trainers, which I know he did. Quickly tapped my hand on his shoulder as he turned to eat his hay, said I loved him and I’d see him in a month.
Although I wasn’t at the clinic, I know exactly what he looked like when he was sick and trembling before surgery. I’ve seen it. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t there to tell him everything he meant to me.
After everything I’ve lost, I don’t believe in much anymore. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. There is no master plan. I don’t believe in heaven. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t believe I’ll ever swing a leg over him again or lean on his broad shoulder for a quiet moment. Humans and animals are organic bodies filled with energy. I think that energy sticks around. With Tim, I was lucky enough to acutely hold it some after he died. Now almost four years later, it feels farther away. Not gone, but not as with me as before.
Simon was a quirky horse. He had a bit of a spook at the strangest things. If I had to guess, his energy is terrified of where I’m sitting right now. It probably wouldn’t make it past the driveway, but I hope I feel him again some day. Probably in an empty ring full of jumps, because that was his favorite place.
After Tim died, I felt like I had to tell everyone I was okay. I’m really not okay right now. I’m taking small steps to get there, but I will tell you about one more thing.
At the last horse show when I realized we were getting called back for the handy round at the hunter derby, I got back on Simon to wait for our turn. It was at least the fourth or fifth time me or the trainer climbed on him that day, and I know he was tired. It was dark, with just a few street lights shining down outside the arena. The temperature dropped, and I draped the fleece cooler Tim got me for Christmas over his haunches and my legs. While we waited, I stared down on his braids and scratched his withers where he was always itchy. The cooler warmed us up as we walked slow circles around the parking lot, and I was flooded by this warmth. Tim would have been so proud of us, zipping around all the high options confidently and getting called back for the handy. I was proud of us too, but mostly I was incredibly thankful to be competing at a night class at a finals horse show with the best horse I would probably ever have. Anything else was a bonus.
Because really, that’s how it was with Simon. He was the first horse who ever truly loved me. Everything else was a bonus.
Simon. Something So Right, JC “Williebered”
March 14th, 2006 – December 30th, 2018