Many people have tried to put into words what it is to love and have been loved by a horse. It’s something I truly believe only “horse people” can understand, and that makes grieving the loss of one so much more difficult for non-horse people to understand. But I’ll try to do it justice. Try to convey just how much my horse changed my life and taught me lessons no human could ever teach.
Scout knew my deepest secrets and fears and dreams, and loved me in spite of my shortcomings. When I told him what I wanted out of life there was no judgment or questioning. He witnessed the bruising of my pride on more than one occasion, and his sleek neck dried many tears. He was there for me at my most broken and he heard all of the good things I had going in my life. He listened to me pray all the time. He heard when I was praising God, thanking God, beseeching God, and even angry at God. He showed me what it means to love unconditionally and opened my eyes to that aspect of Christ. I trusted him with my life – trusted him to safely navigate steep or muddy trails, and he never once betrayed that trust. That faith I had in him challenged me to show that same faith in my creator. I knew him better than I know myself I think, and I could tell just by a look or by the way he walked what kind of a ride we were going to have.
While he was so wonderful, he could be a sassy brat and he made me laugh. So much. It might not seem it, but horses have such personalities, and a flick of an ear or a sideways glance can convey so much. He laid down on me twice, once when he wanted to play in a pond and once when I was on the phone, not paying him enough attention. For many years I wanted to be a jockey, and he was such a champ when I would shorten my stirrups and we’d race cars along the road. After a horrible horseback riding accident, he gave me the confidence I needed to keep riding. We would walk until I was comfortable, trot until I was comfortable, and finally got to a place where I could canter him bareback with my arms outstretched.
Scout loved me. He respected me. He responded to me. He could read my moods and became what I needed him to be. He helped heal so many wounds. High School years are hard on girls, and there was a time when he was my only friend. And you know what? He was enough. Hanging out with him made me happy. People will ask how you know you horse loves you. Admittedly, it’s harder to see affection from horses because animals like dogs are so over the top about it. But he loved me. I could hear it in his whinny, I could see it in his big, brown eyes. I could feel it in how he responded when I rode him. I could see it in his choosing to trust me and not freak out when I presented him with “scary” situations. He listened to me. He trusted me. He was jealous of me. Country is more outwardly affectionate, but if I were to give him attention, Scout would march over, ears pinned, and come stand beside me.
The most obvious examples of his love break my heart the most because they are when he was hurting. The first happened in the bitter cold of February. He had colicked badly when I was away and when I went to the barn, he wasn’t there. I called and called for him and finally I heard his breathy whinny-fainter than usual. He came to me. Out of the pitch black, freezing snowy night he came to me. And he was covered in ice. From his nose to his tail he was encased in ice and had no body temperature. He was nearly dead but he got up and came to me when I called because he needed me and he loved me and he responded because of that. Through the support of my incredible family and our vet, we were able to get him through the night by bringing him warm blankets and water. Catherine and I stayed all night at the barn in the negative degree weather to be there for him if he needed it.
The last time he colicked I found out because he stood in the pasture where I could see him and whinnied at me. This time he was drenched in sweat, and even though he was in such obvious pain, he followed me up the hill to the house. I don’t want to go into his last week but I need to at least touch on it because that horse was a hero. He did absolutely everything we threw at him. He walked when we needed him to walk. He took shot after shot without flinching. He allowed us to tube his stomach and by the third time, we didn’t need to distract him from the tube up his nose. He allowed us to tape foam inserts to his hooves to try and stop the laminitis from destroying his feet. He was so brave and so steadfast though all of it. I have never been more exhausted in my life. At one point I believe I had six hours of sleep in two days, if that, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat for that horse. He had given me so much that the very least I could do was give him every chance to fight for his life and be there beside him every step of the way.
When I had to decide whether or not to end his suffering, it was the easiest and the hardest decision I have ever made. Easy because I loved him too much to keep him suffering for my own selfish wants. We gave him every opportunity we could, exhausted every option, and in the end, the Lord answered my prayers by giving me a clear sign on what to do. He wasn’t getting better and the right thing to do was to end his hurting. It was hard because I don’t know how to do this life without him in it. He was my constant companion for sixteen years. He was the keeper of my hopes and dreams and fears and prayers. He made me a better person. He gave me self confidence and friendship and loyalty. When I lost him, something inside of me broke. I feel different. My heart is not whole anymore. I miss him every single day. The days when I would have gone to ride him are the worst. When the sun is shining and I’m happy or when I’ve had a terrible day and want to lie on his back while he eats are so cruel. A part of me was taken and I am still learning how to do life now. One person has said, “My horse is my right wing. Without my horse I fly in circles,” and that resonated with me so deeply. Since Scout went to heaven my life has felt very much like a tailspin, especially in the beginning. So for people who wonder at why this healing time has been slow, look at what I am trying to recover from. In the most non-morbid, non-worrisome way, I can’t wait to get to heaven and hug his neck and kiss his nose again. I ache for that. I ache for my best friend.
So in the meantime, I surround myself with what makes me happy, and continue to thank God for giving me Scout in the first place. Because as awful as this has been, it’s worth it to have had a horse like him in my life. And while he isn’t physically here anymore, I will carry him in my heart forever and always.