Life Is In the Exhale: A Requiem for Bob

What do you do in your final moments alone with a special horse? What do you say? Joell Dunlap bids a friend farewell.

From Joell:

I wonder if you were aware of how much joy you brought to so many over your 32 years of life?  I wonder if you realized how much the people on your back needed what you generously gave them over and over, day after day, year after year?

Your patience, the way you would stand still, so quiet for fidgeting children and doting women, baffled me. They braided flowers in your tail and painted pictures on your hips. Your placid acceptance of new people, young scared horses and confusing surroundings saved my bacon time and again.

Tiny Bob, with your world-class movement and steady gaits, you brought songs to the throats of kids, smiles to their exhausted parents, peace to unquiet souls.

And for what? For twice daily meals?

Did you ever think that there was something else for you? Did you look at the moon at night, swish your thick tail and think “unfair!”

How did you pull yourself together with such grace and poise to serve the suffering humans who needed to borrow your elegance, your strength, your power, time and again?


When you needed to roam, you simply let yourself out of your stall and wandered around the barn opening doors and eating weeds.  I’d get to the barn in the morning and you would snort at me unapologetically and if I could, I wouldn’t put you back in your stall until just before people started to arrive.  I’d go about my work and you would wander.  I loved those mornings.  I’d be doing my thing and you would be doing yours.  You were not the kind of horse to seek me out and follow me around.  You didn’t crave attention or praise.  I often thought it embarrassed you.

Our last moment was later than it should have been. By the time we’d found you, your eyes were swollen shut and all the hair was missing around your ears – from the thrashing. You’d had a nightmare of a night. Colic is the beast we dread.

When I got there, I knew it was bad.  Standing silently, eyes clouded with pain but ears alert your tail eerily still you submitted to my inspection of damage.  If I didn’t know that stoic look you got,  if I didn’t know that the extra wrinkles in your muzzle indicated pain,  I would have thought you were just tired. Despite all this, I  hoped for the best. A walk, a nap, some pain drugs and day after tomorrow, you would be right as rain, ready as always to work shoulder to shoulder with me as we had for the last eight years.

I took your heart rate. It should have been 40 beats per minute. Your gallant heart was pounding away at 80. I thought about taking it again, to see if I was wrong, but I couldn’t bear to hear your pulse banging in my ears at that frantic pain crazed pace. The fight had gone out of you. You were suffering.

I kissed the white star on your forehead. It was our last intimate moment.

Death is funny. In the movies, the dying hero exhales and passes on. In reality there’s an inhale and you wait for the exhale that never comes. It stays inside and life simply leaves.


Many thanks to Joell Dunlap and The Square Peg Foundation for sharing. Go Riding.


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