It has been a week or two so since I sat and wrote something for the forum. The reason behind my lapse of creative inspiration is that my horse has died. Or rather was; ‘put to sleep’ or maybe: ‘euthanized’ or perhaps more figuratively: ‘put down’. Which ever way I describe the event, the fact is that she is now a small pile of ashes in a crematorium. My beautiful dapple grey, Irish Draught X Connemara mare lives no longer and I am only just now getting used to the idea that she breathes no more.
For much of the last few weeks I have had to be careful with whom I speak and what I speak about.
If I am not careful, the person to whom I am talking, be it friend, neighbour, acquaintance or even fellow horse lover will ask about how she is doing. And of course I have to tell them that she is dead. In fact that has been the only way I could cope before bursting into tears They would then look at me and come over all embarrassed. Retired Old Men of seventy three years of age aren’t supposed to cry. That is a thing for young women or children to do. The fact that my voice would break, my chin would pucker up and the tears would start to roll down my face somehow was incongruous. However the death of a horse is to a horse lover, a very emotional event. The need to give permission for an animal to be put down is a heavy responsibility. There was no choice, by the time I had to finally make the decision, one which at long last the vet had also reached, my pretty horse was breathing at the rate of fifty breaths per minute, occasionally rising to the rate of sixty or more breaths.
Try it for yourself. You will notice that really you need as an aid a gas bottle to suck some oxygen rich air. Moreover your chest will quickly start to ache and no doubt your heart rate will also have speeded up. Feeling short of breath is not a pleasant experience.
If I stood alongside her and fed her juicy pears and treats and then afterwards took her in hand along the verges so that she could nibble on fresh green grass then she would relax and her breathing would slow. But the slightest noise or activity around her would bring on the coughing and inevitably the heavy breathing. No doubt she also picked up on my distress because, as an Old Man, I also wheeze a bit. Maybe she thought it was she taking me for a walk to calm me down.
The horse hospital who had investigated her health issues offers a full service, I could say my ‘Good byes’ and leave her in a stable with hay and water. I would not have to take her into an execution room and hold her whilst she was injected with the powerful anaesthetic which would kill her. I would not have to be careful of standing too close whilst 550 kilos of inert horseflesh slumped to the floor with a thud. Although the cost was that she, bless her, would have to face her fate without the comforting reassurance of my presence. I felt guilty about leaving her but I hoped she would understand. I did not want my last memory of her to be her death. I hope she would have understood that any memory of her last gasp would stay with me for the rest of my life. I wanted that last memory to be of the good times which we had spent together. She seemed to know something was amiss but at the end of our good byes she had herself turned away to take a drink of water and to munch at the hay bale suspended in the corner of her stable. It only remained for me to turn and walk away without looking back.
At the time I could not talk to anybody. Physically it was impossible for me to form the words and make the sounds. I stayed in that dumb state as we drove directly back home. I could not return to her stable and clear up. Her things would be have to be collected in the days to come.
For a week afterwards the strong emotions persisted in me. I had to make a few phone calls about her and the making proved to be very difficult. Even though the people I had need to call were mostly strangers, I could not speak to them without impassion Somehow now I have to learn to remove my mare from the present and insert her into the back of my mind as a fond memory of the past. She may well meet up with the other horses who have come my way and who have themselves already moved on to pastures in the sky.
The strange thing I am well aware of is that the death of one of my horses, or dogs, impacts upon me to a far greater extent than has the death of any human I have known to date. Luckily in my life so far, I have not had to attend many funerals for humans but already funerals for five horses have been too many.