“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today”
If you’ve read Richard Adams’ novel Watership Down, you will recognize this quote. It’s an expression of grief for a rabbit that has “stopped running,” a euphemism in the book for having died.
Five days ago Bars’ and my journey together came to an end. His leg was broken in a completely freak accident—this happens often with horses—and there was nothing that could be done to save him. He was euthanized in his pasture with two of his favorite people, me and his “Auntie Pam,” with him, literally holding his hoof the entire time. I was the first to know he’d gone.
Euthanasia is the final and often most important thing we as horse (or dog or cat or bird or…) owners can do for our friends. It also takes some stiffness of spine to have the courage to say goodbye, and to stay in contact to the very end.
Bars was not just my friend; he was a special horse in many ways. I know lots of people say that about their horses, but in Bars’ case it’s really true. He was always so joyful and full of life (and silliness) that he was a favorite in every barn he lived in. He’d only lived in his current place for nine months, and yet the barn owners were almost as devastated as I was to lose him. He loved people, he loved attention, and he especially loved having his picture taken, the big ham. He loved life, even when he was stressed out or scared, but he departed with as much dignity as dying can ever be. He was my partner, my friend, sometimes confidante, and so much more. He was part of the family, and we miss him terribly.
Mourning a horse is different than other companion animals or even family members because the nature of the relationship is different. Horses and their handlers have to rely on each other in ways that dogs or cats usually don’t, so the grieving process and sense of loss is different with horses, especially in cases where horses and handlers have a long standing relationship, as Bars and I have had. I know from having spent the last two years mourning his brother that the days and months to come will be difficult, but I have to move forward without him. Grief and loss is, after all, part of life, and yet another thing that horses have to teach us.
Still, my heart is broken.