Monday started out just like any other day. I was awakened early by a cooing baby, then Brown-Eyed Boy came in asking for chocolate milk. I put Baby Blue Eyes in the stroller and went out to feed the horses.
I knew something was wrong when I heard Sultan whinnying, but he didn't come into his pen to eat. I walked back behind the barn and found him standing there, his right hind leg cocked like he was afraid to stand on it. He ducked his head and shifted his weight forward as if he desperately wanted to come to me, but he wouldn't budge from his spot.
I put his halter on and, with a little encouragement, I got him to move. Hopping on three legs, he followed me into his pen.
I immediately called the vet. Her diagnosis: his leg was broken, just above the hoof.
I knew what was coming after that before she even said anything.
This day was inevitable. Sultan was almost 29 years old. I knew he wouldn't live forever. But somehow I had always pushed that to the back of my mind. I thought that since he was so old, since he had lived a full life, it wouldn't be so hard when I finally had to let go.
No. It was still hard.
I couldn't say goodbye long enough. Memories flooded through my mind, and for a moment I was thirteen years old, back in my moonlit front yard, watching as my dad unloaded my very own horse--my Sultan--from the trailer. For a moment Sultan was young and strong again, that spirited horse who would run away with me and try to buck me off. For a moment we were racing together again through a farmer's field, going so fast the wind sang in our ears. For a moment those long years, which had passed so quickly, had never passed at all.
When the vet was ready, I kissed Sultan's velvety nose one last time, then slipped away. I wanted my last memories of Sultan to be of him with light still in his eyes. So I went into the house and cried like a baby.
Sultan is in a better place. He is no longer old, no longer suffering. But our pasture sure looks lonely without him. And my heart sure hurts when I step outside and think, for a second, that I hear him whinnying at me.
Grateful for the sixteen years we had together,
The Brown-Eyed Girl