My daughter lost her horse yesterday. From the time that she got the first frantic call that he was sick, until he was gone, only a little more than 24 hours had passed. It was sudden and unexpected, he was in the prime of his life. Everything possible was done to save him and ease his pain, and if love alone could have done it, he would be fine now. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be. A tragedy with no faults, no one to blame.
Her love of horses started early, actually, she was born with it, although we didn’t become aware of it until she could talk. From then on, that’s all we ever heard about. We indulged her when we could, pointing them out as we flew past fields in the car, her little neck strained to raise her head above the car seat to catch a glimpse of beauty. We bought her horse books and movies and read and watched them together endlessly. Her father let her climb on his back every night and transformed into a “bucking bronco.” She would clutch his shirt and hold on until they would both fall laughing into her bed and I scolded him for getting her “all riled up before bed.” She would line up the kitchen chairs and loop ropes over them for reigns. My door frames nearly always had a broom or a stick lodged in them for her to jump over, and outside, she pretended to trot and canter around in endless circles. A work friend, and fellow horse lover, gave her an old saddle when she was about four, and from that time on, my couch cushion was always on the floor, and that old saddle on the arm rest.
She begged to ride, and although I called everwhere, it was hard to find a stable that would allow a preschooler to take lessons. Eventually, at the age of four, she was given the opportunity and has never stopped, all through her school years and into adulthood. Through many broken bones, surgeries and several concussions, at least one of which gave her amnesia for two days and a poor memory for months, she never stopped. My Mother-in-law admonished me after her second serious fall. She wanted me to stop her from riding because of the obvious danger. I told her that this was her passion and her joy, and as a mother, I could never take those things away from her. I could only pray for safety, which I did, every time she rode. Eventually, we went to a different facility, with safer horses and the injuries ceased, but the life lessons didn’t.
Now at 26, the obsession never having waned, she has seen many horses come and go. All have had a lesson to teach, some more painful than others. Some have taught patience, some courage, one, how to pick yourself up after a fall. Others have shown love and forgiveness. All have taught dedication, physical and mental toughness and how to work hard. She has loved them all, but none more than Sam.
Sam was a dark bay thoroughbred with a small star on his head, who had done a little racing in his first few years, with limited success. He really wasn’t the competitive type, maybe because he had a different reason for existing. My daughter acquired him at the age of 18, after a friend spotted him for sale at a barn she was riding at. He was only a few weeks off the track but was not high-strung or anxious. He was not a show-off and didn’t prance around nervously. She was immediately drawn to his kindness and gentleness. Scraping up the money to buy him, although in college at the time, was a risk, but he was worth it.
He was a patient life coach and confidant. He saw her through hard times and never judged. He sensed when she was pregnant before she even knew for sure herself. He sniffed her belly one day and was extra gentleman-like instead of being frisky from not having been ridden recently. He was patient and sweet with Chloe, her daughter and allowed little hands to poke at him and would bend his head down so that she could brush his face.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This passage in the Bible is one of my favorites. It came to mind when I thought of Sam, and of horses everywhere. If you substituted the word love for the name of a horse, in this case Sam, it would make perfect sense, at least to horse lovers. Horses are patient and kind, they do not envy or boast or are prideful. They do not dishonor, they are not-self seeking or easily angered. They keep no record of wrongs and do not delight in evil. Most of all, horses always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. They do these things for us, frail and weak humans that we are. They allow us to boss them around, although ten times our size. They let us borrow their freedom and allow us to soar through the air with them. They let us cry on their necks and are patient with us when we are learning. Horses are love. Is it any wonder that we love them back? Even people like me, not exactly “horse people,” can appreciate the beauty, majesty and humbleness that is a horse.
One of the last times that my daughter went to the barn, she brought her four-year old daughter with her to ride. Sam patiently endured her little boots digging into his back and no doubt too tight hold on the reigns. He was completely trustworthy and would never have allowed her to fall off his back, if he could help it. What he wouldn’t do though, was go where Chloe tried to steer him. Instead he followed my daughter, everywhere she walked in the arena, much to Chloe’s dismay. “Mama!! I want to steer him!! Make him stop following you!!!” He wouldn’t though. He loved her as much as she loved him, and although he would follow her anywhere, this time he went first, to Heaven. Because as any horse lover knows, Heaven would not be Heaven without horses there. Someday she will follow him, I’m sure he will be waiting at the gate for her. Addendum: After reading this, my daughter, ever the proud mother, would like to clarify that Sam was actually a decent racehorse, and actually did make some money. My apologies to Sam and his mother!