Losing the equine partner of a lifetime can be simply too much to bear — but often it’s a second horse that gets us back on our feet again.
In March of 2012 I bought my first “real” event horse. As a recent transfer from the hunter/jumper world, I was excited to experience the thrill that was eventing and had never been more excited than the day I brought him home. Tiger was an Australian thoroughbred who stood at a towering 17.2 hands. He was as black as night with only one hind white sock and I swear watching him move was one of the most graceful and humbling experiences of my life. He was gorgeous and sweet, the exact horse I had always looked for.
We brought him from Washington to Colorado and from there we began our journey together. When I came back from a vacation, he would pretend to be offended by my leaving and then cuddle in my arms when he realized I was home for good. He charmed everyone he met and gave pony rides to the little girls around the barn. Most importantly, he was teaching me how to be the rider I had always wanted to be and took me from my first Starter event to my first Novice. But we had plans to go well beyond that.
Around a year of ownership, we got an urgent early morning call from our barn manager saying that Tiger was showing severe colic signs. We rushed down to the barn and when we arrived, we realized that he was in very serious discomfort. Tiger loaded right in the trailer and we took him up to my vet’s property. He stayed the night there, but in the morning there was no improvement in his condition. On the spot, we decided to go ahead and take him in to surgery. He was transported to another vet hospital that had an operating room and that night, he was rushed into surgery. My mother and trainer watched, with me in tears on the clinic couch, as vets cut away a huge protrusion that was blocking his intestine, a tumor of sorts.
After the surgery Tiger was placed into an ICU stall but after days and days of monitoring, his condition never improved. He was laid to rest on a Friday evening.
And that nearly became the end of my eventing career. How could I go on without my beloved partner? But my event team comforted me and I spent lots of nights telling myself that I had to keep going kept me in the game. I’m so glad I decided to continue riding.
My horse now, Nebo, has been my saving grace. He’s been more than understanding about why I sometimes just need a cuddle to know that he’s okay or why I get overly scared if he’s not eating or drinking properly. He’s showing me that it’s okay to love him and that he loves me back just as much.
Nebo and I are now getting ready to try to qualify for NAJYRC this spring.
The loss of my horse, my friend, was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, but it let me grow into the competitive athlete I am today. I’m reassured me that I am able to face anything that life decides to throw at me, even if that is the loss of my fluffy companion whose neighs I can still hear from the pasture.
Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!