This week has gone by in a fog, punctuated by grief and lingering heartbreak. Last Friday night, Prince, my dear bay gelding succumbed to Cushings disease. He did not go easy. He fought and I was there with him, following him through the mud, singing to him in the dark. He was euthanized in front of his companion, Rosie an elderly mare. We tried to get him farther up the barn, but he couldn’t move. She neighed for him as he died and I think all of our hearts broke in unison at this sound. She had already lived through the deaths of her herd mates, she was the last one alive. Prince came to live with her, as her companion in her dotage but she outlived him too. We made the hard decision to have her put down as well. When she lost her companion before him, she escaped the fence and ran wild for days in the countryside before we were able to track her down.
I will never forget her neighing for him, I will never forget trying to pull him through the mud to get him into the barn, I will never forget singing to him in the dark of night and I will never forget breathing into his nose, one last time, a last goodbye, a last I love you. For one last time, we made our connection.
Something that I used to do with Prince and another horse who I was close to, Henry was to share a breath. I would put my face up to his muzzle and puff gently into his nostril. He would tilt his head towards mine and huff back out at me. We would take turns breathing and blowing back and forth, a gentle steady rhythm for just a few moments. It was meditative, kind and we would make a connection this way.
The barn is empty now, quiet and for the first since I was seven years old, I don’t have horses in my life. My dear Prince was one of the most gorgeous horses I’ve ever known. In the summer his coat was mahogany with light dapples on his rump. His mane and tail were black as night. He was grumpy, stubborn and pushy. He was loving with the sweetest, deepest eyes and he would lick me when he wanted treats.
There is nothing like the sweet dusty warmth of a horse against your shoulder, his breath close in your ear, the smell of him like dirt tinged spice. There is nothing else in the world close to the softness of his muzzle, the look in his eye when he notices that you have a treat. He can be demanding, he can be stubborn, he can be completely oblivious to the fact that you exist. But at other times, his gaze is a light in the darkness, shining right into your heart.