Your Turn: Allie’s ashes

Kat O’Riley never intended to lug the cremated remains of her beloved mare around for seven years after her passing. It’s just that she still can’t quite decide how to say goodbye.

Top: Allie admires the trophy SHE won at a competitive trail ride–I’m just thrilled to have survived!

From Kat:

Tonight, I’m writing by candlelight; judging by the squint I’m already developing, my hard won title of Ponybutler will be replaced by the much more appropriate Mrs. Magoo(!?) before you can spell o-p-t-h-a-m-o-l-o-g-i-s-t. But sometimes, practicality has to take a back seat to sentiment. The white candle I’m burning may not be doing my eyesight any favours, but it’s casting just the right glow on a photograph of my better horsehalf for over 20 years — Allegra, or ‘Allie.’


I’d rather have a good horse than a pretty one–luckily Allie was both. (This pic makes me think of Sophia Loren?!)

As I study her face, I’m reminded of those long eyelashes that would be the envy of My Little Pony, and the elongated snip on her nose that always reminded me of an inverted map of Italy (minus Sicily, I think… let’s just say National Geographic has never invited me on a mapping expedition). Allie is gazing into the camera with an air of quizzical interest that also clearly proclaims, “I’ll give you 10 more seconds to produce something edible, starting NOW.”


Fillies with forelocks: Allie is 4ish, and I’m barely ‘legal.’

Our alliance was a delicate balance of give and take: I gave her the finest equine lifestyle I could afford, and she graciously agreed to allow me to balance on her back, always in that tiny grey area separating ‘[wildly] out of control,’ and ‘[barely] in control.’ Once in a while — say, as we galloped merrily sideways — I was tempted to trade in my Energizer Bunny for a more boring tortoise, but Allie always kept to the No Total Bolt! clause in our agreement.

Perhaps it’s only fitting after those two decades of hauling my pointy butt hither and yon down roads and trails, that over the seven years (to the day) since her death, I have in turn lugged Allie’s Ashes around to an extent that was never planned. After my gallant grey mare was cremated in the waning days of a cold northern autumn, I received back a 50 pound sealed plastic tote containing her ashes, and vaguely envisioned myself dealing with them the following spring.


Descending a steep hill in a national competitive trail riding event. (River crossing with whirlpool next, eek.)

However, a sort of inertia set in over the snow muffled months of that long winter, and I somehow never regained my ash-scattering momentum. I simply haven’t been able to decide on: the perfect location, the best person to help (or not help), the bury and/or scatter question, the amount of ash to save, the time/type of day, et cetera. There are so many issues to consider, and no need to rush-which is kind of ironic, since I generally have all the impulse control of your average three year old loose in the proverbial candy store.

So, what’s with the ash hoarding? The bruises and scrapes I sustained during our pulse elevating escapades healed long ago (well, maybe not that jagged scar from the infamous ‘vine camouflaged metal sign incident’), but Allie’s fierce spirit and huge heart will always be a part of me. I really don’t need a 50 pound Post-It, but then again I might not find the final scatter/bury location for a while yet. Each time I awkwardly shift the heavy plastic tote is a poignant reminder of a debt to Allie that I haven’t quite finished paying.

About Kat: I’ve heard that fortunate people have one great passion in life; aside from dark chocolate and my husband–not necessarily in that order!–mine has been “everything equine.” Beginning with lessons as a kid, I’ve been lucky enough to break a variety of bones riding a wide selection of breeds, in a number of disciplines–from TB racehorse (clavicle) to eventing Appaloosa (tibia) to endurance Arabian (ribs). It’s also been my privilege to play Ponybutler to my own hooved beasties on a succession of scarily rustic farms, over the past 20 [very] odd years. The dream continues!


Kat and her ex-hunter pony partner of 14 years (Provincial Velvet a/k/a the Amazing Velveeta a/k/a “Velvet, NO!!”).


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