The summer morning was cool with sunlight, painting the grass in shadows and light. Perdu waited patiently by the gate. Anna went out to get Ellie Mae the blonde Halflinger mare and as I put Perdu’s halter on. In a few minutes we were on our way back to the barn.
Typically I have no problem leading Perdu back, her breakfast is waiting for her. Today as soon as I closed the gate to the pasture she stopped. I clicked her along. Anna and Ellie Mae fast ahead of us. Perdu walking six feet behind me stopped again. Not scared, just stopped and looked off to the left and put her head down and stood very quietly.
“Come on…what’s wrong?” She just stood. Quizzically I looked at her.
“The pony is beating us back to the barn? What up?” Again calm big eyes. I started almost dragging her behind me, it wasn’t a stubborn refusal, it was as if she was weighted down by something. Was she not feeling well?
We got closer to the barn, there were 3 of our fellow boarders outside the big doors. Katie came up to me as I went to lead Perdu in.
“Can I speak to you for a minute?” Emily stood next to her with tears in her eyes.
“Cat just died.”
“What? Gabby’s horse? When?”
“Yes, she’s up there, they have her covered it happened just a little bit ago. I wanted to let you know because you may not want to take your daughter up that way. It’s just awful…I heard Gabbi scream.”
“They were trying to load her into the trailer, she got upset, reared, flipped over backwards and hit her head on the drive, died instantly. Gabbi saw it all.”
Gabbi is 16 years old and the type of horsewoman many of us admired. She was fearless and confident, responsible, a talented rider, great seat, but most importantly she was kind. Her horse Cat was a four year old typical thoroughbred mare. A lot of fire and spunk still needing to gain the wisdom that age brings, the kind of wisdom that only comes through experience. Gabbi could handle her though, I’d watched her ride her through rearing, and all sorts of silliness, with a calm disposition and sense of humor, never getting angry; rather, calling her the “big goof”.
My heart broke for her.
“She lost it…as we all would. She laid on top of Cat and just sobbed.” Tears started to well up in my eyes, as the girls began to cry. To loose your horse is like loosing a piece of your spirit.
I’m so very sorry…I will go over in a few minutes, let me put Perdu in her stall.” I walked my dark bay mare into her stall. She ate her grain as I put her halter up and as soon as she was finished she came over to the stall gate and stood. Unusual, she typically goes right to the hay after that. I walked in and stood with her, she closed her eyes, I closed mine and we stood there forehead to forehead, grateful that we still had each other. She had known Cat was gone before I did.
The connection between horse and rider is one that if one is lucky enough to experience in their lifetime is something bordering on divine love. This is the only way I can I explain it. My horse and I have been together through heartbreak, and we have broken each other’s heart a time or two, but we never leave each other. When I purchased her I made a promise that she would never be sold. I have kept that commitment.
I often think, what if we humans committed ourselves to each other like that. No matter what, we aren’t selling each other, we are in the for the long haul.
Somehow, we are able to forgive and forget the bucks, the spooks, the times she laid me flat out on my back eating the dust of the arena, the times she was so stubborn I threw my hands up in the air and left her in the middle of the pasture, the times she humbled me and made me cry, and made me curse in frustration and anger.
Then there are the times where we have flown together, where our spines have been so connected that my legs became hers and the wind whishing against my face was like feeling the breath of God on my cheeks, when the sunset was all purple and pink against the jump field and she carried me fast and excited, happy to be running free in the grass forward as we both enjoyed the evening. The times she nickers when I enter the barn and I greet her with a kiss on the nose. The time I sat under the locust tree reading as she grazed in the paddock and we shared each other’s space quietly enjoying the sounds of summer morning. It is a physical and spiritual connection that goes beyond words, as the Koran says, the saddle is a seat of prayers up to God.
My head on her head, I knew this horse was soul of my soul. It is the same connection I have with music, love without words.
All the horses in our barn hold a special place for each boarder. We grow close to all of them, as we women chat while cleaning stalls, or simply patting one on the neck as we walked by.
I left Perdu to walk up to say goodbye to Cat. Gabbi was gone, needing a walk alone in the woods. Cat’s beautiful bay legs lay out underneath the tarp. Her shoes shinning in the light. There were five of us, all tears streaming down our faces. I placed my hand on Cat’s leg, and silently prayed for Cat as she moved on her journey.
My heaven is part rolling pastures like the pastures at my barn. And there will be all the horses I have known and loved. I hope to see Cat, grazing in the tall grass.